Today Adam Boulton has returned from his summer break and has begun blogging again. Now that the summer recess is coming to a close and the parties prepare for their conferences, it back to business in Westminster. With that, Boulton has posed a few questions, which I will attempt to make my predictions on. So here goes:
Will there be an early snap election?
I have written my views on when the next election will be back at the poliblogs. I just do not think Brown will go for one this year. While it would appear to make sense given his lead in the polls and the scope for “events” to take the toll in the future, I just think Brown will want to really put his print on his leadership before going to the polls. I also do not think he would want to be accused of opportunism by calling an early election. My money is on May or June next year – if I had to pick one, then I’d go for June.
Can David Cameron and the Conservatives get back in the game?
It depends what you mean by back in the game. If you mean can he close down the polls or even take the lead again, almost certainly he can. We have seen over the past few months how fickle the polls can be. But if you mean can Cameron win the game, i.e. an election, then that is a far longer shot. Read my post from yesterday to see why I do not think the Tories can win (unless there is a serious economic downturn).
Will the US or UK speed up troop withdrawals from Iraq?
I’m not sure anyone knows the answer to this – even Dubya himself. I think the Brits will stay there as long as the Americans can possible convince them to without it having a serious damage on Brown’s ratings. Don’t be surprised if a troop withdrawal announcement precedes a general election however. I think the UK will be gone before the US and given the US rhetoric on Iran I think they plan on being on the region for a while yet.
Will Gordon Brown be pushed into a referendum on the EU treaty?
No. I hate to say it, but I think he will fight this because he probably thinks he can not win it. Another reason to leave any election until next year too – though it is probably an issue that will blow the Tories wide open as well. I strongly back a referendum on the
constitution treaty and I do hope I am wrong on this one.
Just how green are Cameron’s Conservatives (the Gummer/Goldsmith report is out next month)?
Green as it takes to look the greenest and they are wasting their time in my opinion. The environment will not win the next election. It will barely have an impact at all – in fact the Tories are more likely to trip over themselves if they talk too much about the environment as they will inevitably do something that the green lobby can highlight is very un-green. Unfortunately, it is all about taxation with regards to the green debate for the Tories. They are tax and spend like the Labour party but their stealth taxes will be hidden as green taxes.
Who’ll be the first ministerial casualty of the Brown government?
What a great question. There are two roles in the cabinet (now three) that have traditionally been poison chalices – the Home Office (and now also the Ministry of Justice) and Health. I think Johnson is safe for now as he is too respected a figure to go be forced out easily. He also has the luxury of being able to blame all the ills of the DH on he predecessors – particularly Hewitt who took a battering as Health Secretary. Jacqui Smith could well be up for the chop at some point and Straw isn’t unfamiliar with stepping down either. Peter Hain at the DWP would be easily pushed if (when) there was a crisis but my money is on Des Browne at Defence as the first to fall.
Crime, NHS, Schools, Defence - what are Labour’s spending priorities (the CSR is in October)?
The belated Corporate Spending Review will finally be published in a couple of months and it will be classic Brown – giving with one hand and taking even more with the other. I expect the sound bites and headlines to come for overhauls in crime and education – and still no word on crossrail…
Was August just a sneeze or has the UK Economy caught a serious chill?
I am no economist so have no idea. I suspect we are heading of a period of belt tightening, but it won’t be full blown recession… I hope!
Will it be Boris v Red Ken for London Mayor?
No question. And Ken is the hot favourite in my opinion and will win.
Is Brown the new Blair?
Brown has been desperate to get the word change in to just about every sentence and policy he as handed out since he took over, but he is as new labour as Blair and while he won’t be the showman he will be taking roughly the same route in terms of policy.
What do you think?