01 August 2007

Even talk of an early election could damage Labour.

Murdoch has spoken - through his mouthpieces The Sun and The Times.
"Listen here Brown - don't get clever with me and try and pull a fast one by having the election this October before I can stop this damn European constitution thingy"
Well not quite, but that is pretty much the hidden message from Britain's most powerful man. Murdoch has laid down the gauntlet, Brown takes him on at his peril - personally this would tempt me to call Murdoch's bluff. But I would imagine that Brown will try to negate the Murdoch threat as much as possible before an election and maybe he would be correct to do that but one rule is always true - Murdoch's papers will never be pro-Left, no matter how much they nominally back Labour winners in elections...

When to call elections is always a dangerous business with the opinion polls as close as they are.

I have never understood how the polls can move so fast in the space of a few weeks - but whether it is latent Labour voters returning to the fold, Lib Dem-Labour switchers or Tory switchers, the polls have moved significantly from a 5%ish Tory lead to a 5%ish Labour lead since Brown took the reins.

However a more negative Murdoch press could dent this. Should Brown be brave?

Well if the poll leads continue to grow, the temptation would be pretty strong. How confident can anyone (even Brown), be about the economic conditions next year or in 2009. Interest rates could come down or a global credit crunch could bring recession. Would October look too eager? Would it look too much like Brown had something to hide?

Whatever the pros and cons, all this talk of elections could bring dangers if Brown delays and the polls change direction. Brown has got to keep the polls growing and this will need more radical policies and announcements. If Brown does play the long game, he has got to keep setting the agenda or the momentum will be lost. Whatever happens - we should always remember the Tories have plenty of money to spend (far more than Labour) and we shouldn't underestimate the depths they will go - so far the public have saw little change in Tory policies despite the rhetoric. If Cameron keeps acting Right, his talking Left will fool few people.

Personally, if the polls show a healthy 7-10% lead in September, I would go for it. The problem for Brown is that if he waits and the polls change it will be virtually impossible to bring them back and comparisons with Callaghan would be irresistible.

In all reality however, there is pretty much no chance of October being realistic (no party readiness organisatonally or financially). At the end of the day, Brown has got to keep the polls favourable until the spring. Cameron still has a chance but thankfully he doesn't have the policies to pull it off.


  1. Neil, I think that's a very astute summary. Of course Murdoch papers don't support a left wing agenda, but then neither has this government, none of the Thatcherite policy agenda has been set aside.

    If Gordon sees 7-10% lead in September he'd be crazy not to call an election, but to get that kind of lead would take some major event like the Falklands - not exactly likely.

    I agree with you about Cameron's lack of policies - he really needs to be a bit better than "Blair lite" to make substantial progress, but as you allude to, he's got trouble among the dissenters in his own party to worry about too.

  2. The Polls show Labour 4-6% ahead at the moment, so far 7-10% is not far away.

    I know you disagree, but I do think New Labour have been left of centre, just not as left as some would like. This is the usual situation when we have a Labour government, it is always to the right of its membership. The establishment would not allow anything else. Wilson was nearly brought down by a US backed/ MI6 coup. Even the Queen admits 'there are forces we do not know about'. There are a lot more pressures on a Labour PM than a Tory PM. Blair did a fantastic job - poverty has been reduced (it was increasing rapidly in 1997 nd that takes time to turn around) and globalisation sadly makes it difficult to tax the super rich too much - much as we would want to.

  3. hmm I don't think a career as a sephologist beckons for me - 10% this weekend apparently!

  4. I think the latest 'rogue' yougov poll showing a 10% lead (yougov have been generous to Labour lately) just confirms that the Labour lead is stabilising around 5% (my own theory is that Labour voters previously sitting on their hands have now returned to 'give Brown a chance'). This is a healthy enough lead to ensure a majority if maintained in an election but not healthy enough to ensure it is not eroded during an election campaign.

    I think we will need numurous polls of Labour double digit leads right into September to persuade Brown it might be a good idea to call early. If the polls show the Labour lead in decline - Brown will have a tough choice - either to wait till May next year (with hopefully interest rates dropping)or more likely 2009. If he calls early (before May 2009) people will be suspicious he is cutting and running before a recession - but with the Tories also demanding an early election - I think that would be ridable - especially if a recession IS really around the corner, which the current share collapse is hinting at (generally a sustained significant drop in share prices causes economic recession about two years later i.e 2009 - this might push Brown to go early).