Wednesday, September 26, 2007

 

Brown Struggling to Make the Right Call

Returning to Blighty after some days away in Germany, I find something like a febrile pre-election atmosphere. After Channel Four's 11 point Labour lead yesterday and the Mail's 11 point lead today, many Labour activists are saying, 'Go Gordon Go!'. In yesterday's FT,Philip Stephens agreed the arguments for going now were 'quite strong'. And this is quite a turn up:

A dour Scot replacing the most accomplished of political communicators would struggle mightily, the polls predicted, against Mr Cameron’s rebranded Tories. Now the same polls predict he would be returned to Downing Street with a majority significantly higher than the 60-plus inherited from Mr Blair. Mr Brown has reclaimed for the government that most precious of commodities, the benefit of the doubt.

After considering the options however the advice is that, having worked wonders with his political positioning, Gordon should wait for spring next year. But this is not the advice given by the Business editor of The Times, James Harding, who warns
that it might be 'riskier' to not call that snap election. His case is that economic growth is slowing to 2% in 2008, mortgage payers will face higher charges; and the declining housing market will strangle the 'feel-good' factor. Given the chance of public sector strikes and still higher oil prices. He concludes:

But, the longer Mr Brown waits, the more likely he is to put that reputation for sound economic stewardship at risk. The cautious man would roll the dice now.

So what should he do? According to Ed Balls, his closest adviser he is agonising over his dilemma. The call is so close he seems not to be able to decide. My gut feeling is that Gordon's caution will win in the end. He must be scared, above all else, that he might go down in history not as the great PM he'd like to be, but the shortest ever since Bonar-Law's October till May sojourn back in 1924-5.

The pendulum which swung so benignly in his favour after June and then back to Cameron in August, before hurtling back to him in September, is perhaps a bit too volatile right now to risk his all on that throw of that dice. The other danger, of course, is that, like Jim Callaghan, he might pass up a golden moment to go to the country, as in autumn 1978 to suffer defeat in the following February and 18 years in the wilderness.

Comments:
Callaghan's big problem was altogether different. By not going in '78 meant he had to go right up to the wire in '79. Brown isn't in that position. If he doesn't go now and things go wrong over the Winter, he has still got two years to get it back.
 
I'm beginning to worry about you. First describing the well known headbanger Ruth Lea as a 'respected economist' and now relying on the Daily Mail for political analysis.

Some questions for next week: is Cameron a credible threat? Can he unite and redefine his party in a way that is attractive to voters? Is the Tory party in fighting over?
 
Stephen
1. Ruth Leais a respected economist as a glance at her published works would reveal to you.
2. I drew on fact from Mail, not comment or opinion.
 
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