02 February 2010

The election date: What will Brown do? – Part II

As we now have clear evidence that the polls have moved, it worth revisiting the pros and cons of a March election.

Let’s assume the polls continue to narrow for a couple of weeks, with Labour’s share of the vote increasing.  We then get towards ‘cut off day’ for calling an election on 25 March.  The latest date for the dissolution to happen is 4 March, but not even Brown will leave it that late.  For a start, a short campaign will not allow the TV debates to take place.

To help our dithering leader out, these are the advantages for Labour in going for the March date.

  • Labour have the initiative at present.  The Tories are on the back foot and have not got a clear strategy;
  • The tax rises don't kick in until April;
  • The markets may move on the UK’s AAA credit rating before May;
  • Brown avoids his appearance at The Iraq Inquiry, which both the opposition parties will exploit to the full;
  • The Q1 GDP figures are not released until 23 April.  A weak recovery is only good news for Brown if a double-dip recession is avoided;
  • Counters against any unknown unknowns that may crop up;
  • It will smother the adverse publicity caused by Andrew Rawnsley’s book that is published on 1 March; and
  • Historically, governments who leave it to the last possible date or just before lose.

The disadvantages to going early:

  • Brown will not be able to have a budget.  The earliest this can be held is 9 March;
  • The Labour party has no money and will have fight two elections on different dates;
  • The economy may technically improve further by May;
  • The campaign and the vote would happen before the clocks change; and
  • The Labour party may simply not be ready to have a March election, having assumed (or tipped off) it will in May.

What have we missed?  The mind of Gordon Brown for one.  We don't know what short-term tactical wheezes he may have planned for the coming weeks.

Whatever, with the polls moving and Tories in a spot of bother, it could be that the possibility of a March election has increased in the last few days.

Don't forget the best Labour can hope for is a hung parliament and by May Cameron may have recovered.

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  1. One factor you did not mention is the release on 26th February of the corrected quarterly figure: it could easily go negative again from the fragile +0.1%, as the margin for error is at least +/-0.3%. It it did, we would still be in recession - not good grounds for an earlier election.

  2. Thanks for that and it is a good point. In the past the figure has always been revised upwards. We will have to see. If it goes down it is bad news for Brown whenever the election is called.

    Until the date of the budget is announced, a March election cannot be ruled out.