There are lots of “non-election day” posts being written today, some said we would be waking up to a Tory government tomorrow, some saying Brown made the right choice as the polls have shown he would be in trouble. If Labour had gone to polls today and the recent ICM or ComRes polls were repeated then Labour would indeed be in trouble and very possibly have lost its majority entirely. But that would be ignoring the fact that the reason the polls say what they do today are because Brown did not call THAT election. The polls would not necessarily be the same if he had taken a different path. Let me take you back a few weeks...
There were three paths that could have been taken that would have got us to today. Two of them would have seen no election, the other would have seen us (bar a few Labour voters who apparently don’t vote if the clocks go back) going to our polling booths.
Path one is the path I think Brown should have taken in the first place. He should have announced on the eve of the Labour party conference he wasn’t interested in cheap point scoring and cashing in on his massive double figure lead in the polls because he is above all that. He wants to get on with doing what is best for the country. If that had been the case, the Tory revival would not have happened – and it may well never have happened. The polls today would give Labour a comfortable lead and the worse Brown would have had to take would be a few of his allies moaning that they might have missed the chance for an easy election win. Brown would have known that, however, he is charge, Cameron is on his last legs, Ming is finished altogether and the Blairites will have to keep schtum. Roll on May 2008 election and easy win.
Path two was the path he decided to take – though not the path he took. That is to say, he was persuaded to go for the election but for some reason just let the issue run and run without saying anything. Brown, of course, denies that he was ever going to call election even if he was going to win with 100 seats. No one believes him of course – if that were the case why did the cash strapped party spend millions on an election that was never going to happen?! Had he just gone with it anyway I am sure he would have won. Given a campaign Labour would have recovered some of their lost ground – enough to at least get a majority even be it a reduced one. The electorate, whilst enchanted with Cameron’s revival, would not have seen Brown as a bottler and there would not have been enough time for him to really convince voters that it was safe to change to him. Of course, Ming would have been stayed too and given an election and the exposure the Lib Dems are entitled to, it would have seen their vote improve (in-spite of Ming, of course). Much of the Tory bounce came from Lib Dem voters, remember. Brown would have won, he would have come out of it a little scathed, but he would have won.
Path three is the path he took and by all accounts it may well be prove to be the biggest political botch up since the poll tax. By bottling it, Brown looked weak, indecisive, manipulating, scheming and rather stupid too. He also transformed Cameron from a man dead on his legs to a very strong opponent. It has ruled out any hopes he may have had of going to the polls next year and it has damaged his reputation almost irreparably. So while he would now be in a commanding position or at very worse have won an election on a reduced majority the reality is he has brought the Tories single handedly back in the game and who now can say for sure what will happen in an election come 2009/10? Rather like the England football team, the future is no longer in his hands.