Thursday, 18 February 2010

A 25th March general election?

News today that Gordon Brown will be announcing Labour's four big themes for the upcoming election has me wondering if he might be on the verge of calling it for 25th March.

There is evidence out there to suggest such a snap poll may be in the offing...

1. If Brown was ever going to call the election for a date before 6th May, it was always going to be 25th March. 1st April and 8th April are out because of Easter. Other April dates would overlap with the timetable for the already scheduled local elections. With this week being half-term, an 18th March date would have either necessitated recalling Parliament this week to wind up its business, or doing that last week and having the first week of campaigning this week, again an awkward clash with half-term.

2. Last weekend we had Brown's interview with Piers Morgan, today he's held a cabinet meeting in Durham, this weekend we have him announcing those themes for Labour's campaign (accompanied by some cabinet heavyweights). It feels like an orchestrated effort toward something.

3. We still don't have a date for the budget. Bear in mind that the 22nd April 2009 budget date was announced on 12th February. Any budget Labour put forward now is bound to damage their poll rating, but if they wait until 6th May for the election they'll have no choice but to do a budget. They can escape this and other potentially negative economic news if they go for 25th March.

4. Similarly, by going now Brown avoids another potential bear trap, having to give evidence to the Chilcot enquiry, until after the election.

5. The Tory poll lead has been trending downwards for a few months now and they're looking distinctly wobbly on various policy issues. Brown may calculate that March is the best opportunity he's going to get.

6. Brown looks more confident if he goes for the earlier option. If he waits until May he risks looking like someone desperately clinging on, something the voters might punish.

7. Labour has no money. Can they afford six or seven more weeks of a phoney-campaign then a realcampaign after that?

8. Guido Fawkes tweeted this week that all Tory parliamentary candidates have been ordered to keep their Blackberries switched on throughout weekend. This doesn't suggest the Tories have some inside knowledge, but if Brown is to seek a dissolution next week then it will become clear this weekend, so clearly the Tories also consider the 25th a possibility.

On balance though, 6th May still looks the more likely date, but I don't think it's as certain as commentators have been predicting in recent months. One thing's for sure, we'll get to know either way over the course of this weekend.

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