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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Will he or won't he?

All the signs are that Gordon Brown will go to the Palace next week and ask for a General Election on 1st November, but will he? Michael White in the Guardian thinks not, and he quotes Brown's moral purpose and sense of honour in support of his argument:

In practical terms, it is surprising how few Labour insiders answer yes to the simple question, "Do you expect to emerge with a larger majority?'' It's currently 65-plus, but new boundaries will cost a dozen seats before they start. So the lame answer is usually, ''No, but ...''

MPs and ministers remain deeply divided; activists, too. One MP who has been quoted as supporting an election in public says he is privately aghast. ''The clocks go back on October 28. Our people don't like canvassing in the dark, and voters don't like being canvassed. The weather could be awful, not only in Scotland and the north,'' he explains.

The case for is that it will give Mr Brown his own post-Blair mandate for five years, and - much quoted - there will never be a better time for Labour: look how strong the polls are. But wise old head don't trust the polls; nor do I.

"I worked on recent byelections, and the Tories are certainly divided and hostile to Cameron. They're sitting on their hands. But an election is very tribal - they'll vote all right,'' one MP warned me at the seaside.

Dead right, they will think: we have lured Brown out of his citadel into open battle on the plain.

A problem with delay is that it could make it impossible to exercise the election option in 2008. That means one in 2009, after the conventional four-year interval, although Mr Brown could hang on until mid-2010.

A win on November 1 or 8 2007 would allow him to stay in power until December 2012 - in theory, though no election has been held in December since the budget crisis of 1910.

That's not much of an accumulated bet when set against the risk of having either a smaller majority than Iraq-damaged Blair or the shortest premiership since the Tory George Canning's 119 days in 1827. At least Canning had an excuse for going early: he died.

To be fair I get the impression that Mr. White is rehearsing arguments, the efficacy of which he is not entirely convinced of. We will have to wait and see.
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