Why Gordon Brown will wait for a May 2008 General Election (UPDATED)

I could be proven wrong here, but I’ve been coming to the conclusion that there is no way Gordon Brown will call a snap poll. What’s more, it has increasingly come to my mind that he might have a rather devious plan up his sleeve.

First of all, he won’t do it for several reasons. Labour’s skint and the unions are being finnicky at the moment. Labour is also lazy – more so than either of their main opponents. They’re activists need more signposting than the competition before they’ll get off their arses. A snap poll is tough to manage in the most ideal of circumstances, and this will not be the most ideal of circumstances.

We should also remember that British Summer Time ends on 28 October after this point, it will be getting dark in late afternoons. That makes campaigning tough and getting the vote out even tougher. Differential turnout will be key, and Tory supporters are notoriously better at coming out than the others.

He could, of course, call it for 25 October which was widely speculated on during the summer. Personally speaking that would be disastrous as it would be on my birthday, but I somehow doubt that Gordon will consider my social calendar to be a factor either way. He is however likely to be wary of calling it a week after the start of the IGC in Lisbon to finalise the EU Reform Treaty. That would mean 4-5 days in which the EU will be in the headlines and a whole weekend in which he’ll be out of circulation at a crucial time. It would be completely unpredictable – it might go well, it might end up a total disaster. It would be a total gamble, and a reckless one at that.

On the other hand, Brown has to neutralise the Treaty issue in such a way that makes it a non-issue for the voters and (preferably for him) seriously distracts the Tories.

If I was in his position, this is what I’d do. I’d come back from Lisbon proclaiming that I’d negotiated a couple more token concessions. I’d reassert that it was for Parliament to ratify the treaty but that in the interests of having a wider nationwide debate I will declare that the ratification won’t happen immediately. Instead, there’ll be a period of reflection of, say 7 months. Promise lots more citizens’ juries.

This will of course send the rightwing media into a tizzy. Cue months and months of them denouncing the treaty and calling for a referendum. This will of course bore the vast majority of the public to tears. The exception will be the hardcore UKIP/Tory supporters who will get extremely agitated. Cameron will come under sustained pressure to do a Hague, something he will resist at all costs but this will disappoint a lot of donors and activists whose support he can ill afford to lose. UKIP by contrast will be on a roll.

Then in April 2008, when most of the public are one Sun front page comparing Jose Manuel Barroso to an unfortunately shaped vegetable away from fetching the rusty razor blades and running a warm bath, Brown will call the election. He will declare at the start that he will seek a mandate to ratify the treaty but other than that will spend the entire time going on about bread and butter issues. Cameron will be torn between pissing off his core support and alienating everyone else. Another disaster for them awaits.

That’s my theory. Anyone want to tell me what I’m missing?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention another reason why I don’t expect him to declare the election this week. On the second day of his Premiership, Gordon Brown announced plans to invest the Royal Prerogative power to declare an election in Parliament. It would be absurd for him to then bypass Parliament completely. Still, on the other hand, I could just be being naive here. We’ll know in 48 hours.


  1. The Lisbon conference has always been the reason I’ve thought an October election isn’t likely – it just adds far too much risk to the situation, and I can’t imagine that Labour fancy fighting the last week of the campaign on Europe.

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