What about a General Election date market?

What about a General Election date market?

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    Will Labour’s new leader seek an early mandate?

For all the excitement we might have on PBC the bookies have been most reluctant to open any decent markets on the biggest change in the UK political landscape for more than a decade. None of the spread companies, for instance, has got into the Labour leadership – a sharp contrast with what they did during last year’s Tory contest.

I suppose that their view is that it is a foregone conclusion but in spite of everything the Brown price has not tightened beyond the 0.38/1 of last week.

A good betting issue is one where there are genuine differences of opinion with strong arguments on each side. So what about a market on when the next General Election will be held?

What I consider the best blog for Labour matters, Paul Linford’s, had an interesting piece yesterday in which he argued that Brown might go to the country very quickly. The rationale being that Brown could maximise the impact of any honeymoon and also to free himself of the Tony Blair heritage. It would be far easier for the Chancellor to pursue his agenda if there had been a General Election.

    I get the sense that the Brownites think that Cameron is an easier target than he actually is and this perception might encourage them.

The prospect of an immediate contest resulting in a Labour victory might be very tempting. It would keep the Tories out for a further five years and might even provoke splits in the party. The downside, of course, is that Labour could lose and Brown, who has a great sense of the movement’s history, knows that the party would never forgive him.

A big consideration might be the cost. Labour’s finances are in a parlous state with a huge overdraft. How could they fight a campaign and make some inroads into their debts? That does not look good. They would be up against a Tory machine that is raising much more money because donors tend to be attracted by potential winners.

    Brown has been ever so cautious about everything in his political career that would he risk losing the prize that he has sought after for so long?

Whatever I cannot see Gordon moving forward without getting some new rules in place on campaign spending. Without them Labour would be out-spent by a considerable degree.

There’s also the question of the polls. Is Labour’s decline just the result of disillusionment with Blair or does it go deeper than that? Given it is barely a year and a half since the last election why should the Queen agree to such a request and if she did how popular would an election be with the public?

So on balance I think that the election will be in 2009 or 2010. It would be nice to have the opportunity to bet on it.

Mike Smithson

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