Firstly… today’s polls, including a DEAD-HEAT
ComRes in the Independent has Lab 36, Con 36, LD 15
YouGov for GMTV has Lab 38, Con 35, LD 15
Obviously the CR poll showing the parties tied will make the biggest news, but even the YouGov poll shows that Labour’s lead is now small. Is that it for Gordon’s honeymoon, has the “Brown Bounce” run out of steam – and can we say goodbye to the prospect of an autumn election? Further polls out soon should help to make the picture clearer, but right now it looks very much as though the Conservatives are back in the game.
Also today, in an echo of the 1997 election, George Osborne has stated that the Conservatives will match Labour’s spending plans over the next three years.
A look ahead to the rest of the year
One of Britainâ€™s wettest ever summers is almost at an end, and after the August lull, â€œfull serviceâ€ is set to resume in politics as September begins. These are a few of the key issues and events to keep an eye on over the next few months.
In the UK, the biggest story is whether or not Gordon will call the countryâ€™s first autumn General Election for 33 years. We should know by early October whether all the rumours have had any substance behind them, but I agree with the view set out in the Telegraph, that frankly, this could well be his best chance. The Conservatives seem more sure-footed now after a period when they seemed to be on the ropes, following their offensives on health and law & order. The bookies think that a 2007 election is less likely than 2008 or 2009 â€“ prices are available here. I remain to be convinced that Labourâ€™s popularity could get any better over the coming months and years under Brown, and summer 2007 may turn out to be his high-water mark.
The conference season is now almost upon us, and assuming there is no election, the TUC will be at Brighton from 10-13 September, the Lib Dems also there from 15-20th, while Bournemouth will host Labour from 23-27 September, and the Conservatives will be in Blackpool from 30 September to 3rd October. The TUC looks set to be awkward for Brown as resolutions have been tabled calling for a referendum (and indeed a â€œNoâ€ vote) on the EU Treaty, while the Lib Dem conference will be carefully watched for signs of any serious mutterings about Campbellâ€™s leadership and possible jockeying for the succession. Meanwhile Brown will have his first conference as party leader, and the Conservatives will be looking to continue their recent momentum with a good conference at Blackpool, although it has been mischeviously suggested that Gordon might visit the Palace for a dissolution on the afternoon of Cameronâ€™s speech.
Abroad, the biggest event looks set to be the Australian election, which is thought likely to be held in late October or November. John Howard is seeking a fifth term, but the ALP under Kevin Rudd has had substantial poll leads for months now, which donâ€™t seem to have been dented by the revelations of his visit to a New York stripclub. A significant amount has already been traded on Betfair â€“ best betting prices are here. Markets are also available on individual seats, including the PMâ€™s own constituency of Bennelong.
In the United States, Fred Thompson looks set to finally enter the race for the Republican nomination on 6th September, and it will be interesting to see whether he has left it too late or not. Will his campaign catch fire or instead be a damp squib? Latest prices are here, and for me the man with the current momentum, and leads in the key early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, is Mitt Romney. Hillary is odds-on for the Democratic nomination, and it will be the earliest ever start to a nominating season, with the New Hampshire primary maybe as early as 8th January, and suggestions that the Iowa caucuses might even be pushed into 2007.
Elsewhere, a fire-ravaged Greece holds a snap election on 16th September, with recent polls suggesting that Karamanlisâ€™ New Democracy is only just ahead of Papandreouâ€™s PASOK, although on the markets, the former is heavily favoured to win. Switzerland, one of the few countries where turnout is lower than the UK for national elections, votes on 21st October, followed by Argentina a week later, which looks set to elect a woman president, while Belgium, which voted back in June, has already failed in the first attempt to form a government. Finally, both Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel are enjoying very high levels of popularity, with Sarkozy reportedly the most popular President since De Gaulle, and Merkelâ€™s approval rating up into the 70s.
Paul Maggs “Double Carpet”
Mike Smithson returns on 17th September
Paul Maggs runs The Election Game – click on the logo to email for more information.