25 January 2010

The date of the election

Mike Smithson has a good post up on the date of the election following Bob Ainsworth’s slip of the tongue on Sky.  It is worth making a few points.

1. Darling has already stated that there is likely to be a Budget.  Under the present law this can’t happen before the 9th March making the following day, a Wednesday, the first likely date.  This rules out an election on 25th March.

2. An April election could follow, but because Easter falls at the beginning of the month the vote can’t take place before the middle of the month.  This would, of course, be very close to when the local elections have to place on 6th May.  April is therefore ruled out.

3. The election could be delayed until 3rd June, the last possible date.  This would mean the cash strapped Labour party fighting two elections within 4 weeks.  There is no legitimate reason to delay the local elections as there was in 2001 when we had the foot and mouth outbreak.  Moreover, it is bad politics to leave the election to the last possible date.  Even Brown will take that point.

Therefore 6th May has to be the most likely date.  Brown will want the set-piece occasion of a Budget to create his final dividing lines in the hope of wrong footing the Tories.  Also, he may have a bit of cash to play with due to the fall in unemployment and the revenue generated from the bank bonuses.

Brown, thanks to Ainsworth, is likely to questioned about the election date at his press conference later this morning.  He could rule out 25th March to counter the accusations of dithering, but he may not know what the 2009 Q4 figures that are published tomorrow will say, and there wouldn't have been time for a proper analysis.

The reality is that Brown has probably not made up his mind between late March and early May.  In fairness, there is no reason why he should have at this stage.  But, if he doesn't rule out a March date soon or announce the Budget date, the accusations of dithering with continue.  That, or course, due to what happened in October 2007 is entirely his own vault.

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