There is increasing speculation in Westminster that Gordon Brown will decide this weekend whether or not to call an early General Election. While he is not expected to make an announcement on the same day, he would have to tell the public he is dissolving Parliament by Tuesday if a ballot is to be held on October 25, the last Thursday before the clocks go back. However, some are suggesting he will wait and see how David Cameron performs next week.
Regional Labour Party organisers were called together for a meeting yesterday evening, and public shows of loyalty from former Blairites Alan Milburn, Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson will have served to embolden the naturally timid Brown. The mood of the party is also buoyant, with serious policy debates seemingly taking a back seat to speculation over the timing of a general election announcement. It has also been reported by Recess Monkey that Labour have begun recruiting key staff to work on an election campaign. The people approached are currently self-employed or work for lobbyists, organisations sympathetic to Labour or in other political posts from which they can be released immediately. Their jobs range from campaign logistics to voter liaison and press relations with the media for a general election campaign which could be launched in the next fortnight.
As Conservative blogger and A-List candidate Iain Dale has pointed out, if Brown decides not to call the election for this Autumn, there is an eight-month window between now and the next likely election date of May 2008, which he will be all to aware is time enough for the Tories to recover, particularly he is faced with accusations of a loss of nerve (which would be SO untypical of Brown…). However, any further signs of disunity or criticism levelled at the Conservative leadership arising in Blackpool, then I would guess that this would be the final push needed to persuade a jubilant Brown to take advantage of his lead in the polls and call an Autumn election – which given current standings, would be likely to be a disaster for Conservatives.
With the feel-good factor of Boris Johnson’s endorsement as our mayoral candidate, in addition to our taking a potentially Council by-election in Sunderland (plus swings toward us in Kent, Portsmouth and Northampton), there is plenty of positives for us to discuss how to maximise. And if we need something to be negative about, how about the fact that the health “reforms” proposed by Brown have been described by medical professionals (who still haven’t ruled out striking over the insult of a pay deal offered earlier in the year) as akin to placing a sticking plaster over a cyst?
With Brown’s economic record as Chancellor beginning to unravel, these are the points which Conservatives MUST get across over the coming week, namely: as Chancellor, Brown has decimated pension funds, funded the most disastrous military campaign in recent memory, and under his tenure the UK economy has lost its position as fourth strongest in the world. As PM, he has already begun to force further (unwanted and unnecessary) centralising changes upon an NHS buckling under centrally imposed targets and riddled with Nu-Labour interference.
This is Brown’s legacy – lets make sure voters don’t forget it.