The resulting spring in the heals of Brown won't tempt him to go for an election this year. Whilst these may be famous last words, Brown knows that recovery and a feeling that the economy has turned a corner and things are improving are what Labour needs to stand any chance of winning an election. With the Chancellor already claiming that there will be no recovery this year, Labour's window of opportunity is now just a very narrow slit in an imposing wall.
So come the next election, what are the possible outcomes? Polls currently suggest a Conservative victory with a comfortable majority. Polls mid term however tend to do just that: show a lead for the opposition. I am not convinced however that the Conservatives have what it takes to win a majority next time round. To scrape in with a minimal majority, they need to gain 130 seats. That means there is virtually no room for any individal constituency cock ups. Every single seat on their hit list has to be won. The evidence suggests that that is going to be extremely difficult to achieve.
And look again at what the polls are showing. Look at the Conservative share of the vote. It is, with a small number of exceptions, in the low 40s. That compares poorly with the Labour performance under Blair in opposition in the 1990s (and Kinnock's Labour Party often had much higher ratings in 1991, only to lose the election a year later). The reality is that whilst Labour are unpopular, the Conservatives have not yet reached the critical mass of public support that will be strong enough to propel them into government in one leap. There is no public burning appetite for them like there was for Labour when Blair led them through the final years of the Major government.
Whilst it is fair to say that Cameron has successfully decontaminated the Conservative brand, there is as yet a failure to present an alternative vision other than "We are not Labour." That is not enough to ensure a groundswell of support sufficient to win an election.
As for Labour, the difference between winning comfortably, and losing a reasonably large number of seats is quite narrow. Labour's grip on power is precarious. Their share of the vote at the last election was 36%, the same as they got in 1979 when they lost the election badly to Thatcher. In 2005 Labour were saved by a voting system that looked on them favourably but which can equally give them an absolute pasting and keep them out of power, which it did in the 80s and early 90s.
Labour has three significant systemic weaknesses at the moment: their national organisation is in a mess with massive debts; their constituency organisation is shot to bits; their great selling point - that they are strong on the economy, abolished boom and bust and delivered prosperity - has gone up in smoke. All three of these are needed if they are to win a general election outright.
So predictions on the outcome, whenever the election is called? Sorry, no can do! The next election is probably going to be the most unpredictable for decades. What is predictable though is that the real battles will be fought out in individual constituencies, far more so than across the airwaves. And that could see seats going in all directions.
My advice however is that no one in politics should rely on their opponets to deliver election success for them. That is your job to do that for yourself.
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