Monday, September 24, 2007

10 reasons why Brown will call an election next week

Stand by for a snap general election. That is the key message from the Labour conference. Brown could have killed off the speculation with a few words saying there will be no election. He has chosen not to, knowing the consequences will be that the Labour conference will be dominated by the pending election. In other words, the conference is a huge, week long election rally that dominates the headlines to the exclusion of coverage of any other party.

I was previously doubtful about there being an autumn poll but over the weekend, I have looked again at the situation and have come to a different judgement.

I conclude there are 10 reasons why Brown will go for an October poll. Here goes:

1. There is something of a Brown bounce that has put Labour ahead of the Conservatives over the summer in the opinion polls for the first time since Cameron became leader of the Tories. There is no guarantee however that this will last. That brings me to the 2nd point below.

2. The chances are things are more likely to get worse than better for Brown. It's harder to go up in the polls when his support in the polls is relatively strong, but it is easy for the support to slip. No election this autumn and any small loss of support will be viewed as a large swing away from Labour and the talk will be instead of a Brown under pressure who missed his best chance of holding on. The autumn talk will be about his being James Callahan Mark II.

3. Meanwhile, the perception of the Tories is that they are in a mess and Cameron is seen increasingly as a liability who will say anything to get into power (a genuine perception of the truth!) Yet Cameron could, with time mount a recovery. Why would Brown want to give him that chance?

4. Indeed, why give your opponents the chance to build up a bandwagon? One clear lesson Labour have learnt is that a snap poll benefits them. They learnt that the hard way with the Brent East by-election. They put their lesson into practice with Sedgefield and Ealing - another week's campaigning and the results could have been different.

5. A linked point is that there is no cap on what a party can spend in a constituency outside an election. We know the Tories have bags of money being poured into target seats. How better to put a stop to that by holding a poll now, with all the spending limits in constituencies that involves.

6. Which brings me onto donations to Labour. They have the money they need from their super rich backers and the trade union barons who love to spend their members' money. But those donations can't be sustained. Best spend it now.

7. Back to Labour's conference. If this is the first week of the election campaign, by not announcing the election until Monday next week, Labour's conference can hog the headlines without the problem of the Representation of the People's Act (RPA) kicking in (as required once the election is called) which shares out the tv and radio coverage more fairly.

8. And a related point. Brown calls the election next Monday and it immediately cuts the coverage the Tories can get for their conference as the RPA kicks in. No week of headlines dominated by the Tories. All those Tory activists will turn up at Blackpool, be stuck there at a conference that is no longer the focus of media attention. Meanwhile their opponents are back in their constituencies fighting the ground war.

9. Talking of ground wars, Labour have performed well in council by-elections since Brown became Labour leader. The Conservatives have done poorly and Lib Dems reasonable (though last week was poor - that's what happens when your activists are at conference and not in the ground war). What the results show is that Labour support has lifted since Blair resigned. But this may not continue as the "newness" of Brown erodes with time.

10. Brown wants what he reagrds as his own mandate.

We are told Brown is a cautious person. He doesn't want to take a risk with his premiership. I can quite believe it. Given the circumstances, cautious Brown is not likely to want to risk loss by holding out for a later poll. So be ready for a snap election. It's coming your way and should arrive on your doorstep next week.

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