Would it be held at the same time as a referendum on PR?
This is a completely wild guess but could the Prime Minister tell us the election date in his statement today on proposed voting reform? My thinking is that coming up with a date now would take away some of the pressure that he’s under within the party and also blunt the edge of all the Tory calls for an immediate general election.
Brown will be only too aware that Tony Blair came up with a similar device on September 30th 2004 when he was under overwhelming pressure to stand aside. On that evening, the night of the Hartlepool by election, Blair pre-announced that he planned to step down during the following parliament. The affect was to kick into touch all the talk about his leadership. It bought him time.
Brown might be calculating that the same could happen now if he could find a way of pre-announcing a 2010 general election day just as he is at his weakest. In the normal course of events PMs don’t tell the world when parliament is going to be dissolved until they’ve spoken to the Queen. At the end of the day it is HER decision after all.
But today’s electoral reform statement and the likely suggestion of a PR referendum might give him the peg for such an announcement. For it would be entirely logical to suggest that the PR vote takes place at the same time.
Brown might also be calculating that a concurrent referendum campaign with the general election might make the latter less of a referendum on him – something that, surely, would happen otherwise. He would also be seen as the reformer.