Could we be within 15 months of a General Election?

Could we be within 15 months of a General Election?

    Would Brown’s first move to be to seek a fresh mandate?

With John Prescott suggesting yesterday that there’ll be an announcement “very shortly” on the Labour transition there continues to be speculation that the first act of an incoming Gordon Brown government would be to ask the Queen to dissolve parliament so there could be an immediate General Election.

Brown would then be able to go to the country to get his own mandate and secure a full term of up to five years in charge at Number 10.

    If the change-over time-table follows the widely canvassed date of September 2007 then a General Election could take place at the end of October 2007 – barely fifteen months away.

Brown’s election platform could be on the issues that would differentiate him from what has gone on before – a new approach on Blair’s reform agenda that goes more with the grain of the party, firm action on sleaze and political funding and most of all, a distancing of the UK from the Bush White House.

One of the proponents of an immediate General Election, Ken Livingstone has said:“The media is so negative and so destructive that there would be about a 48-hour honeymoon, then it would be an unrelenting ‘Tony wouldn’t have done this, Tony would have done this differently, you haven’t got a mandate for that’.”

Would Brown do it? As we saw during his first few days as Chancellor in 1997 Gordon is almost certainly planning some dramatic initial initiatives to make his mark on the job. I remain to be convinced, however, that one of these could be calling a General Election. The Labour government would not even be half way through a full term and you can hear the Tories accusing him of “cutting and running”.

There’s another factor – the personality of Gordon himself. For the great watchword of his whole political career has been one of caution and he’s always seemed to be reluctant to take moves which would appear to be in his best interests.

    In 1992 he ignored the strong pressure from Tony Blair to run against John Smith and there were many times during 2004 when the leadership would probably have been his if he had been prepared to take a risk.

A lot would clearly depend on how Labour was doing in the main polls when he took over. Gordon would like the comfort of a clear margin because an election result that made Labour’s position worse, even though retaining an overall majority, would be seen as a major blow right from the start

Another factor, surely, would be money. Labour has huge debts and might like a longer period under the new leader to get the finances into a better state. The Tories, by all reports, seem to have gone through a period of successful fundraising and would probably be much more able to fight a 2007 campaign.

In the Labour leadership betting Brown is at 0.42/1 while Blair holding on until the end of next year has become the favourite again in the change-over timing markets.

Mike Smithson

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