Monday, July 30, 2007

Early election...

So, the Labour Party are basking in massive opinion poll leads; the main press stories are either about how wonderful Brown is or how desperate the Tories are; there are mutterings among the lemming tendency of the Conservative Party; and serious people are talking up the chances of an early General Election - maybe as early as October. The received wisdom goes as follows:
The honeymoon granted a new leader is never very long. John Major, Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan managed to call, and win, an election quickly enough to catch the wave; James Callaghan did not, and lost. Sir Alec Douglas-Home who might seem to be the counter to this, in that he called an election soon after ascending to the Premiership but lost it, is actually further evidence in favour in that he did far better than predicted and only just lost to Wilson. Brown, therefore, should go ahead and call an election as soon as possible while the electoral climate is as favourable as possible.
I'm not convinced that it will happen, though it certainly looks more likely than it did a month ago. The Labour Party, lets not forget, are broke: they're deeply in debt, attracting donations at a sixth of the rate of the Tories, have embarrassing outstanding loans to donors like Sir Christopher Evans that must be paid back, and are in no financial position to fight a General Election. Further, the Labour Party machine is much diminished in large areas of the country - in the local elections they were unable even to contest a large nuber of seats. With neither funds nor councillors, Labour does not look able to move fast enough to fight an autumn election.
Quite apart from the practicalities, one of the main reasons for Brown's sustained bounce has been the saturation coverage, much of it apporaching the hagiographic, from the media. In election time this one-sided coverage will diminish. It has been noted before that the Tories and Cameron's ratings improve whenever they receive prolonged coverage - regardless of whether that coverage is positive or negative. Once the oxygen of publicity flows through to the Tories, expect the polls to recover.
Lastly, the redistricting is expected to give the Tories some 20 extra seats on an identical result. This, plus any sort of recovery from the Tories, will be enough to deprive Brown of his majority even if it leaves him as leader of the largest party. Brown spent enough time watching a Goverment with a vanishingly small majority tear itself apart to want to put that moment off for as long as possible. Remember those by-elections? The Labour Party lost 8-10% of its vote, while the Tories held steady and the Lib Dems moved up. Brown may well find it preferable to head a Government with a majority of 66 and three years to run, rather than a minority administration.

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