What Guido won’t tell you about Britain’s Chancellors

George Osborne is the most popular Conservative Chancellor ever. But he has not reached the heights of either Labour's Denis Healey or Gordon Brown.

A couple of days ago, Guido Fawkes revealed the shock poll that George Osborne is the “most popular Tory Chancellor ever”. What he failed to tell his readers is that Osborne is some way behind the popularity reached by two of Labour’s three most recent Chancellors: Gordon Brown in Labour’s first and second terms or Denis Healey in the late-1970s.

Although carefully avoiding any mention of Labour’s Chancellors, the picture used by Guido liberally used photoshop to remove the Labour data points. Left Foot Forward has gone through Ipsos-MORI’s fascinating slide pack on the Coalition’s first 100 days to dig out the full chart.

Gordon Brown’s popularity dipped into unsatisfied territory on only two occasions – once around the time of the fuel protests in 2000 and again as prepared to become Prime Minister – but he never hit the depths reached by Norman Lamont or Ken Clarke. The surprise finding is that Denis Healey was so popular despite presiding over the Winter of Discontent.

Some will argue that Healey’s popularity bodes well for George Osborne since he also undertook a period of fiscal consolidation. The difference, of course, is that the cuts in the 1970s were demanded by the IMF shielding Healey from some of the blame. And while Healey reduced the level of public expenditure from 49.7 per cent of GDP to 45.1 per cent, George Osborne is attempting to go twice as far by reducing the public sector from 48.1 per cent of GDP to below 40 per cent.

The eyebrows and piano playing helped too.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

19 Responses to “What Guido won’t tell you about Britain’s Chancellors”

  1. Rick Muir

    RT @leftfootfwd: What @guidofawkes won't tell you: Labour's Chancellors are more popular than Osborne http://bit.ly/bKvy08

  2. Ben Farress

    RT @leftfootfwd: What @guidofawkes won't tell you: Labour's Chancellors are more popular than Osborne http://bit.ly/bKvy08

  3. Shamik Das

    What @guidofawkes won't tell you: Labour's Chancellors are more popular than Osborne http://bit.ly/bKvy08 by @wdjstraw @leftfootfwd

  4. Carl Hunter

    RT @leftfootfwd: What @guidofawkes won't tell you: Labour's Chancellors are more popular than Osborne http://bit.ly/bKvy08

  5. Javeriah

    I'm no Labourite but this is interesting RT @leftfootfwd What @guidofawkes won't tell you.. http://bit.ly/bKvy08

  6. Guido Fawkes

    Brown was popular whilst he stuck to Tory spending plans. Darling was never popular.

    It isn’t much of a headline to say “Osborne As Popular on Average As Healey and Brown”…

  7. Lady Muck

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's Chancellors are more popular than Osborne http://bit.ly/bKvy08 >> I agree altho the eyebrows bit may be debatable!

  8. David Morris

    That post on Guido’s blog was only meant as an analysis of Tory Chancellors. It’s wasn’t about Chancellor’s in general. There was no reason to include the approval ratings for Labour Chancellors.

  9. william

    all the evidence points to gordon brown’s economic mishandling as having cost us the election,as did healey’s grotesque taxation policies, which left us 20 years in the wilderness.the fact is that after the brilliant jenkins we were back in power in 4 years.i am predicting many years in the wilderness for us with these two economically illiterate brothers

  10. OMC

    Interesting about Guido’s ommission, though stepping back popularity doesn’t seem a particularly prudent way to evaluate a chancellor, not least because chancellors who spend lots (particularly on job security) are likely to be popular. I’m wary of any attempt to discuss the wisdom of cuts in the same breath as popular approval. This is not to say that Osborne isn’t cutting too fast, but rather that popularity seems hostage to chancellors of the left, or chancellors exhibiting political expediency viz. securing votes. (The point at which the former collapses into the latter is an interesting one)

    One reason to think that Brown was popular was that for several years after 2000 Brown was able to increase public sector spending by a significant amount without people fearing the resurgence of a (problematic) deficit. He was able to invest (1997-2001 were 4 years of deep under-investment, not least because a Labour 1997 manifesto commitment was to maintain Tory fiscal pledges for 2 years). Problems with structural deficits looked far off – people were happy to see public services receiving the cash they badly needed. Pity it all happened too fast and was financed by debt rather than balanced revenue streams – pity Brown abandoned his own sustainability rules.

    As for Healey – there so much economic experimentation in the 70s by successive Conservative and Labour chancellors in a short-space of time that there is really no way of assigning responsibility, not least because the then policy makers lacked the up-to-date economic data to inform their decisions. Perhaps you think that Healey was being evaluated on the strength of his economic policies, but I think it more likely he was being evaluated on the strength of the economy at any given moment – that’s more down to luck than anything.

  11. Anon E Mouse

    Will – Guido’s poll was – “George Osborne is the most popular Tory Chancellor ever”.

    Where does he have it wrong? I do hope you’re not going to put a dunces cap on him again like the G20 thing where Shamik didn’t know if Spain was in that group or not. Be careful it doesn’t backfire!

    No one is interested in Labour chancellors – they aren’t in office and aren’t important anymore…

  12. Shamik Das

    Anon, it was Gordon – http://www.leftfootforward.org/2009/12/spain-spin-and-the-g20/ – not me who implied Spain was in the G20. Spain has attended G20 meetings but isn’t a full member.

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – I was going off your summation that week where you said:


    As for definitive evidence of whether or not Spain is in the G20, G20+ or G∞, your guess, mes amigos, is as good as ours…



  14. Shamik Das

    Sense of humour failure from Anon. Any sane person reading that line, in Look Left, would have realised what was being said. Great job though in diverting attention away from the fact your boy Gideon’s less popular than Brown! Fantastically done…

  15. Fat Bloke on Tour


    Running to catch up on the topics this week so sorry for being 2 days behind.

    In MK letter to Sniffy did he reallly make a big issue about the under-utilised capacity or output gap in the economy when putting forward his argument that inflation is nothing to be worried about?

    If yes then how does that fit in with the OBR’s work on cyclical element of the deficit? They reduced the figure down to 2.2%, with the structural deficit moving up to 8.8%. They did this by maintaining that the output gap in the economy was not the 6% put forward previously by the Treasury but was in fact 4%.

    As noted at the time this flew in the face of reality given the output numbers and the unemployment statistics and also that they had the output gap fall over a year with below trend growth.

    Consequently any thoughts on this?
    Did MK put any numbers in the letter?

  16. John Lees

    Labour Chancellors are always going to be more popular as they max out teh credit card giving out goodies. Tory ones are always going to be unpopular as they have to take away the sweeties. I wonder if Healey and Brown’s popularity would have held up once teh money ran out?

  17. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – As Prime Minister NO ONE was ever less popular than Gordon Brown, I wouldn’t really mention popularity polls and Brown in the same sentence if I were you – but thanks for giving me an excuse to mention that again.

    The Chancellor is not my boy – I didn’t vote for him but anyway why Gideon?

  18. Feneon

    Guido is reporting a poll dating from July 2nd, so there is absolutely nothing shockingly new about it. Boy is he slow on the uptake. Furthermore Guido, Tory spending plans had long been left behind by 2002. Nice try, but witless argument.

  19. New poll shows Lib Dem voters fear Coalition, but Tories are content | Left Foot Forward

    […] we should remember that a popular Tory chancellor is almost an oxymoron. As Left Foot Forward has previously pointed out, both Denis Healey and Brown were significantly more popular Labour […]

Leave a Reply