I think the answer to that one must be a Big Yes:
An ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper indicates the gap has narrowed to just one per cent compared to seven per cent a month ago.
It follows two other surveys which suggest Labour’s lead has dropped to four and three percentage points.
The word hubris springs to mind. What I don’t understand is why people put so much faith into opinion polls. Before Brown took over, all the signs were that he wasn’t going to do Labour any good at all. Labour got all excited and read way too much into the subsequent rallying in their poll figures and started plotting an election campaign. Now, with that gap narrowed, going into a General Election looks like lunacy. But having hyped it up to an unbearable degree for the best part of a month, can they afford not to go?
On balance, and I’m willing to be proven wrong here, I still think they will err on the side of caution. Although walking away from a snap election will make Labour look very silly indeed, there are simply too many known unknowns out there for them to want to risk it. The IGC could get out of control, at least a million people will be disenfranchised (and that’s assuming everything else runs smoothly), the Tories are rallying, in any case Tory supporters are more likely to turn out at a time of year where the weather is likely to be poor and the sun will be setting before most people get home from work and the “big mo” argument is now out of the window.
What all this does hail however is the end of Brown’s honeymoon period. It won’t be so easy for him from now on and the media do not forgive vanity (for that is what going for an early poll was) lightly. The irony is, if Labour had played down speculation about an early poll, the Brown Bounce could possibly have continued long into the winter.
So if he doesn’t now go for an early election, he’ll come out of it looking damaged. If he does go for an early election, he’ll come out at least as damaged and possible worse.
Can we return to normal politics again? First item on the agenda: fixed term parliaments.