20 February 2010

Election fever Part VI: Back to the election date

A few general points.  The speculation about the election date, like so much, is all Brown’s fault.  It it wasn't for Brown’s reputation for dithering and his pathetic performance in October 2007, the debate wouldn't have reached fever pitch.

He could have have ruled out a March or April date by previously announcing the date for the Budget.  But, because Brown, Darling, Balls and Mandelson are not at one over the strategy to tackle the deficit, he has been unable to do this.

We have discussed in a number of posts the different dates that are available and the pros and cons of each one. 

Yesterday, Paul Waugh suggested that Brown could go for 22 April, one day before Q1 GDP figures are released, which may see a return to negative growth.  That would be a very cynical date to choose.

Today, PoliticalBetting suggests 8 April, the Thursday after Easter when many people are away.  Remember, Labour needs a high turnout to stop the Tories winning outright.

Now, we come to the two points that John Rentoul posted last night:

1. The Prime Minister is giving evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, probably in the first week of March. That would be the first week of the general election campaign if there were a 25 March election.

Indeed, but this easily dealt with.  If Brown does call an election for 25 March, he doesn't appear in front of Chilcot.  Iraq is not an issue that he wants revisited during the campaign.

2. What reason does the Prime Minister give when he explains to the nation that he wants an election six weeks earlier than expected, and therefore requires most of the country to go to the polls again six weeks later to vote in local elections?

If Brown goes earlier than May, he simply says it is time the country made its choice and he wants a mandate.  This becomes less plausible in April, but he will get away with it in March.

What can’t be denied is that there is something going on.  First, we had the Piers Morgan interview and now, the campaign launch today.  This is not some last minute panic measure to deflect attention from Rawnsley’s book.

Then there was this simple Tweet indicating that Mandelson and Bradshaw had pulled out of an awards ceremony this Sunday.

Brown could shut down all the speculation by stating today that a budget will be held, with the date to be announced next week.  He could also add (he doesn't need to see the Queen to say this) that he has no intention of going to the country before May, which leaves open 3 June.

If he does neither, and because of the reasons stated above, the speculation will go on.

For that, he has nobody to blame but himself.


PS. Assuming it is a Thursday, there is a useful guide here (pdf) giving the timetables for the dates when the election could be held.

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