Thursday, October 04, 2007

 

Has Gordon Blown it?

I'm sorry if my picture is even more literal than usual but the political situation really is so fascinatingly poised at the moment. I've just read all the quality papers' reaction to Cameron's speech and the rough consensus seems to be that that, despite Dave's bravura no-notes-no autocue speech-the columnists were really impressed it seems- the election arithmetic has not changed, according to John Rentoul. Offering a different angle or two, Simon Jenkins says something similar.

Writing from his vantage point as the UK's top election number cruncher, John Curtice suggests Labour are by no means assured of achieving their goal of achieving a 'Tory rout'. Brown's bounce has proved 'solid and potentially durable' and the average lead for Labour over the conference season has been 8%. To equal Blair's 66 majority in 2005, Brown needs a 4% lead, so is he sitting pretty? Not really:

i) Boundary Commission changes have shaved at least 18 seats off Labour's expected haul.
ii)Voters in November might have to vote in the dark; though, as Curtice points out, they returned Labour in 1964 and 1974 on the last two occasions we had autumn elections.
iii) the polls predicted a 5% lead for Labour in 2005 yet it turned out to be only 3% on the night. What if the polls are over reporting Labour?
iv) In each of the 47 marginal seats which Labour lost at the last election new MPs have been bedding themselves in and nurturing local support. It will be no push-over ejecting them, meaning that exceeding that 66 number might prove very difficult.
v) Anything can happen during an election campaign, as Curtice points out:

Mr Brown's bounce may look durable but no party leader can be sure his party will not slip a couple of points during the course of even a short election campaign.

So, it's no shoo-in for Gordon and for a famously cautious man, it might look too risky. But maybe he's held back from quelling the speculation for so long that he cannot escape a damning accusation of cowardice, of 'choking it', if he calls a halt next week instead of firing the starting pistol as most people still expect. Either way, few can deny, let alone Labour supporters like me, that this last week has been an excellent one for David Cameron's Conservatives.

Gordon hoped election talk would rattle the Tories and further open up divisions; instead the party is more united than at any time since autumn 2005. And I'm sure the next set of polls will show a substantial narrowing of the gap with Labour. Gordon may have blown it.

Comments:
You're right - what must have seemed like a clever gambit is now turning into a bit of an albatross round GB's neck (genuinely sorry about mixed metaphors!). Tonight's polls really don't offer any comfort to Gordon Brown, but, Tory though I be, I remain dubious about the long-term impact of the Conservative Conference, and am conscious that, despite your point no. (i), the electoral system still, I think, favours Labour. I imagine the local factors you mention in those 47 seats could be more crucial with both parties fairly well balanced; and, of course, the key issue remains - is there a good reason yet for people to vote Gordon Brown out? A week is indeed a long time in politics, but an election is considerably longer!
 
I am sick of hearing about this election. I hope Brown doesn’t call it, as I don’t think I could stand another three or four weeks of this entire media speculation and nonsense.

Why should Brown call an election anyway? There are still three years left on this Parliament. The only good thing that has come out of this frenzy is at least the Tories have now had their uncosted and unworkable policies ‘smoked out’. Three years should be plenty of time to pick them apart.
 
Hi, how about something really bold and different - what I think Brown should say -

There has been much speculation about a snap call for an election in November. Labour was voted in May 2005 on a manifesto to serve 5 years. This received a significant endorsement from the electorate. It has become clear over the past fortnight that an election is assumed to be exploited for political expediency. We have a mandate to fulfill the mandate we presented and intend to do just that. When the electorate voted they did so for a party and a manifesto, they did not vote for the leader and a change of leader is no reason for an election. Furthermore to prevent future manipulation and exploitation of the current rules I intend to introduce legislation to ensure parliament is voted for a fixed term with the exception that there is a successful vote of no confidence. This will reinforce the new politics and abolish the cut and run opportunism that other parties prefer. I can therefore now announce that the date of the next election will be May 2010.

You never know this may just start to help restore faith in politicians and perhaps show him as a statesman rather than a politician - I know it won't happen but what do you think?
 
Andy
I agree entirely this would be splendid but as likely as Mohamed al Fayed declaring Prince Philip should be canonised.
 
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actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.
 
Magnific!
 
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Give me ambiguity or give me something else.
 
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A lot of people mistake a short memory for a clear conscience.
 
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