Does he still feel he’s in the shadow of his predecessor?
If Labour is retaining poll leads from 3% to 9% after the summer it’s hard to make a case that Brown would not come out with a majority in an October election. Even assuming that the pollsters are still overstating Labour the margins from all five regular UK pollsters together with Britain’s electoral demographics should be enough to see Brown home.
But dare he go to the country for an unnecessary election if there’s any risk at all that Labour would end up in a worse position than which Blair achieved in 2005?
This is not just about securing his own mandate – if that was thought critical he would have asked the Queen for a dissolution when he went to the Palace on June 27th.
With the new boundaries in England that probably knock 20 off the existing margin doing better than Blair in 2005 looks a tall order and any outcome that did not meet the target could be portrayed as failure. Gordon, in my view, is not going to risk the comparison with Tony.
Also what reason would he give for an early poll? Labour was elected in 2005 with a perfectly reasonable majority and has been having no problems putting its agenda through parliament – why’s he going early? It could be dressed up as securing backing for the EU treaty but that would be handing a populist issue to the Tories on a plate.
You can envisage the campaign – What does Brown know that everybody else doesn’t that makes him want to hold the election now? Every minute economic indicator during the campaign would be scrutinised to the nth degree to see if there were signs of problems ahead.
A final reason why I believe an early poll is unlikely is David Cameron. Whatever his current troubles the Tory leader has not shifted his policy direction and is as determined as ever to fight the next election on the centre ground. It’s not going to be as easy for Labour to demonise the opposition in the way it did successfully with Major, Hague and Howard in 1997, 2001 and 2005.
A key part of Brown’s plan is to force Cameron from the centre by creating as much trouble as he can with the Tory right wing. That has not happened yet.
My current election timing bet – a buy of 82 weeks on Spreadfair taking this to February 2009 – remains. The range of general election bets is here.