Friday, 3 August 2007

Election murmurs

There has been massive speculation recently as to whether Gordon Brown should be capitalising on the "Brown Bounce" and calling a general election in October. I thought I'd add my pennies worth in to the debate as a result...

First and foremost, whether Brown calls an election now or next year or even 2009, I believe he will win. The electoral system is so heavily balanced in his favour at the moment the Tories would need to win at least 5-6% more at the polls just to be the largest party. If they were to win with an overall majority they would need something like 10% or more. Grossly unfair, but the way it is. Considering the mid-term polls at the very best have struggled to show this sort of lead even at a time when everyone wanted Blair to go with scandal after scandal and Iraq criticism was raining down on the party it is unlikely that Cameron will turn this round any time soon. So, if this is the case the true aim of an election for Labour should be increasing their majority as much as possible. There would be little point going to the electorate if the result was less seats in the Commons.

The obvious thing to do, therefore, would be to go to the polls ASAP. Cameron's Conservatives (as they are now known, aren't they?) are sinking in the polls and the Brown bounce is well and truly bouncing. Yet I do not think now is the right time to go and I also do not think Brown will go to the polls now either. Here's why:

Firstly - the boundary changes are going to favour the Tories and right now increasing on that 66 majority would still be pretty tough to do. I think Labour will also have to expect that they will lose some seats in the South regardless of the Brown bounce and Cameron's current ratings.

Secondly - Labour are in pretty serious financial troubles. While I do not think that this is enough to stop them going to the polls as money will be found if needed, Brown still has time to woo some donors and prepare for a more effective campaign at a later date.

Thirdly - As Paul Linford pointed out, it would appear cowardly to the electorate if Brown went now. Far to opportunistic. Brown is a man of principle not of cheap opportunity grabbing. Any early election will be perceived as a lack of belief in the Brown bounce that it can last. Holding his nerve will show true confidence in his ability as leader.

Fourthly - October is a bad time for elections. Less people will come out to vote, the darker evenings and colder weather will put people off. Brown wants a real mandate and wants Labour supporters out en masse.

Prior to Brown taking over I felt that he might as well hold out as long as possible - why bother going to the polls three years early? Given the rumblings and rumours, I feel that he will now go early - but not too early. June next year is a whisper I had from a prominent Labour MP's researcher (though whispers are hardly fact, I admit!). Spring or early summer 2008 would make sense to me and that is where I will be putting my money.

Cue October election and egg on my face!


Richard said...

And Brown will go to the country in the middle of the ratification process for the EU treaty?

The ECA amendment Bill will not have completed all its stages through both Houses, in which case it will fall. That will leave the Treaty ratification hanging and thus elevating "Europe" to a prime issue in the election. That would be delivering an electoral gift to the Conservatives who would stand on a platform of promising a referendum and romp home to victory.

If that is what passes for political acumen in prominent Labour researchers, the Party needs to look for new staff.

Garbo said...

I completely agree Richard - a very important point that I over looked in this post.

The one thing that does concern me about it all though, is that the British electorate are historically apathetic to the European issue and I'm not sure how much damage would be inflicted. Enough damage to warrant not going to the polls, I'm sure. I doubt very much it would be enough to give the Tories a majority though. It may even not make much of a difference to the 66 seats Labour already have.