Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Odds on an October Election

The YouGov poll this in this morning's Sunday Times is the latest which shows a widening lead for Gordon Brown. I detect the beginnings of a bandwagon in the media for an October election. The Sunday Times leader column is headlined GO FOR IT GORDON. It concludes...
The bounce in Mr Brown's poll ratings show he should have nothing to fear by going to the country. We shall see in the next few weeks whether he has the nerve to do so.
On the opposite page Michael Portillo has a far more chilling column for the Conservative Party. In it he recommends that Brown should pull British troops out of Basra. Although a loose timetable has already been set to pull them out next year, Portillo reckons that should be brought forward as they can now achieve nothing more. He says that the only consequence of them staying is the needless loss of more British lives. This gives the Conservatives a real dilemma. It is almost inconceivable for Liam Fox or David Cameron to repeat that line, but if and when Gordon Brown announces a quicker withdrawal timetable, the Conservatives either support what Brown does, or they will be perceived as wanting to leave British soldiers in Iraq to risk death. I can see no middle way.

There is a school of thought that Gordon Brown would use the Labour Party conference to announce a significant and early troop withdrawal from Iraq, but at the time same time to announce that our forces in Afghanistan will be beefed up.

If I were him I wouldn't do that, as it smacks of party political electioneering. If Brown is the clever political strategist we purports to be, how about a scenario in which he announces a recall of Parliament in mid September for a debate on whether troops should be withdrawn. He shows himself to be respectful of the role of Parliament and he gives the Conservative Party to speak from several different hymnsheets. If I were him, I know what I would do.

By then, I imagine the media will be in full flight and the bandwagon for an October election will well and truly be moving. There comes a point where such pressure is irresistible for a Prime Minister. The one time when a PM has resisted such pressure was when Jim Callaghan went on national TV to announce he would not, after all, be calling and election in the autumn of 1978. Most pundits agree that if he had called it the, he may well have won (I disagree with that analysis, but that's by the by). It's a decision which still haunts Labour as it heralded 18 years of Tory rule.

There are two other considerations for Brown - the state of the economy and Scotland. Brown knows better than anyone what the economic prospects for 2008 and 2009 are. The slide of the stock exchange is likely to lead to worse economic news in the medium term, although more dreaded interest rate rises might be staved off.

Scotland is the fly in the political ointment for Gordon Brown. The SNP are trumpeting the latest poll, showing them at 48% to Labour's 32%, as well they might. However, the pollsters asked the wrong question. They asked how people would vote in an election for Holyrood, rather than Westminster. If those results were relevant for Westminster elections Labour would be wiped out north of the border. So Labour's private polling in Scotland will be crucial in whether Gordon Brown does indeed decide to go for an autumn election.

On the News 24 paper review last night, David Davies (ex of the FA) reckoned that Labour might not be able to afford an election. As Bernard Ingham might have said - bunkum and balderdash. If they need the money there are plenty of people who will provide it, not least the trade unions. They could also make a positive virtue out of being spendthrift and announcing they would not be buying a billboard advertising. Again, that would put the Tories in a bit of a fix.

All in all, I reckon the odds on an autumn election have shortened a little in the last few days. Last week I reckoned there was a 30% chance of an election this year. I'd put that now at 35%. As Tom Watson would say, what say you?

34 comments:

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

The Conservatives today launched their new deregulation policy.

How has the BBC addressed this?

By giving the microphone to the labour party who then denounce the Conservative party as being more "right wing" than they were under William Hague.

No discussion about the policies of business and trade at all - just an "oh my god look how right wing the Tories are now (it will be the cattle trucks next)"
cry from the Labour party and their friends at the BBC.

This is precisely the sort of bias that the BBC is guilty of. Its a "when are you going to stop beating your wife" slur.

sbjme19 said...

Hardly surprising. On weekdays the World at One always headlines an anti-Tory story. Lord Kalms and Tom Cowie were really big headlines - I had to check they were n't in the Shadow Cabinet.

Anonymous said...

Stop blaming the Beeb - the Tories are crap at the moment.

Iain Dale said...

Excuse me? I haven't mentioned the BBC in this post!

Anonymous said...

Of course Brown is going to go, he always was. Brown wants and needs his own mandate, to be free of Blair. Will he get it, of course he will, Trevor Kavanagh is already going round saying, 'Brown will win and win big' so thats Murdoch's support sorted. As for the economy, well so it goes sour, so what, the last person your going to put in charge of a sick economy is George Osborne. So the Tories will lose, lose big then they can get rid of Caeron and his crowd and create a new right wing party, that people can feel confident voting for: you know it makes sense!

John Leonard said...

Iain:

The Yougov Poll gives Scottish figures as:

Labour 36%
Other (SNP?) 36%
Con: 17%
Lib: 11%

This perhaps gives some indication of how the Scottish voters will switch (even if it is a small canvas)

strapworld said...

Brown will not go 'for it' he will talk and talk and talk and the initiative, if there is such a thing, will be lost.

Cameron should call for an IMMEDIATE withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. You can bet your bottom dollar the Lib Dems will SO GRAB the agenda and shout and shout that they have no wish to see good British Soldiers die for a lost cause! Portillo is right on this one!

Another thing and something I believe in is that Cameron should call his party together for a special Two Day Conference where he can announce all his policies from his study groups. Grabbing the headlines for Three or Four days which will turn the tide of those unbelievable polls. He should also start shouting the line that BROWN is BLAIR and have a backdrop where Brown becomes Blair becomes Brown etc!

Lastly Cameron should counter the youth of Brown's team by bringing back those older politicians who do have the respect of the people and who would wipe the floor with the Darlings and Millibands! Clarke taking on Darling would be wonderful and Anne Widdecombe (who IS highly respected throughout the country outside the Westinster Village) taking on Benn would bring back many supporters.

Recall Hesiltine grabbing the mace when they were in opposition! Fight Fight Fight never let them up for breath.

Come on Cameron show the Country you can fight, bring back some of the old guard under the banner a party of all the talents! old and young.

canvas said...

would like nothing better than to see DC topple Gordon Brown and New Labour at the next general election. I want CHANGE! However, Brown hasn't done too bad so far - albeit in a very short time frame.

David Cameron is making some very 'old style Tory' mistakes. He must be open minded enough to recognise this.

The moralising aspect of Tory policies regarding family and marriage is a real turn-off. People do not want to be preached to - they want action and they want fairness.

Why is David Cameron promoting someone like Sayweeda Warsi? It sends out a signal that the Tories haven't progressed. Warsi openly denounces homosexuals - she supports section 28, she is against the equal age of consent and she is against all sex education is schools. And she refuses to apologise for it. I''m sorry - but those attitudes belong in the past.

Tory 'policies' on poverty indicate that those 'not married' will be penalised and subjected to direct discrimination. David Cameron should be redressing the balance and promoting NEUTRAL policies.

Forward thinking is what I want from Cameron. I want the Tories to come up with REAL ideas about how to help the most vulnerable in our society.

Please, David Cameron - don't get lost in Tory 'back to basics - family values'. It won't win you the next general election! It really won't.

TORY COMMENTATOR said...

I reckon on a General Election smack in the midst of the Tory Conference. WHY? Brown is no lover of convention whether it is Black Ties or Brown Leather Jackets, never mind Party Conferences.
The Budget review is brought forward to an earlier date. Nice juicy handouts to be announced including the delayed income tax drop from last years budget. A high key Fund Raiser has been appointed. The instruction is out to Associations to chose their PPCs by mid September. The impact of Fire,Flood and Pestilence has had a positive AND lucky affect on the Leadership prowess of Brown. He has not pushed for Parliament to sanction the Boundary Commission Report which is worth 30 Labour MPs just by holding back. Someone please correct me here if I am wrong because I have missed something.
Yes a Military announcement is likely.
The visit to Washington was effective though is slightly shaded by the French Presidents visit.
Get Ready as Brown could win.

The Huntsman said...

The Scottish situation is surely one which will have a significant impact on GB’s decision.

1. Alex Salmond is playing a very canny game at the moment. He himself has scarcely put a foot wrong and none of his ministers has thus far fouled up. His administration has the benefit of being a breath of fresh air after fifty years of often turgid and monolithic rule by Labour and he has clearly picked up lots of support from the Tories and the LibDems, the former perhaps because they see a stick with which to beat Labour. Scotland seems quite taken with what they have done and is content for the moment to savour the whole idea of the new kid on the block showing off his new skates. He is going to have a long honeymoon, particularly if the Scots voters are generous enough to make allowances for this being their first time at the wicket.
2. The SNP is enjoying really good polls at the present moment: if Electoral Calculus is right this might translate into 49 seats for the SNP and 10 for Labour with a wipeout for the Tories and the LibDems. That would be meltdown for Labour, meltdown for the LibDems; and bad for the Tories in Scotland..
3. The consequences of that score would be that Gordon Brown would see his Scots political powerbase obliterated. Electoral Calculus posits that Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander and Adam Ingram might be defeated and many others who are Brownites or owe their preferment to GB would also be swept away. They will not exactly be pleased.
4. At the same time he might not do as well in England and Wales as he hopes. Poll leads can evaporate under the stress of events. The LibDems, trying to peddle an elderly Scots gent as their would-be PM may find England as hard going as Scotland and they might be squeezed here and end up with single figures. The loss of Scottish seats might deprive GB of a majority without any LibDems to help him make up the shortfall. The Tories may benefit from the squeeze and end up in the high 200s of seats.
5. The loss of his Scottish powerbase would weaken him enormously, especially as it would push into sharper relief than before his position in terms of the West Lothian Question. A Scottish MP of a party decisively defeated at the polls, no longer able to call on a phalanx of lobby fodder to ram through his policies in England, he would be every bit as weak as Callaghan was in 76-79. Labour in England and Wales would be highly unimpressed at the man who lost Scotland.
6. The other nightmare would be the 49 SNP MPs who could now begin to claim a mandate for Independence or at the least for a Referendum. They would be sitting there as a major block with all the power that the Irish Nationalists had at the end of the 19th. C. If GB had ended up with a minority government or a very small majority this would leave him permanently having to turn to the SNP for support. How would that look? Weak.
7. In addition it looks as though Labour are about to have a new leader in Scotland who will take some time to settle in. He or she (probably Wendy Alexander, sister of Douglas, another Brown Crony) is not going to want to be faced with supporting a Westminster election whilst still getting their hands on the levers of power within Scottish Labour, particularly whilst Labour remains demoralized after their showing in May.

I feel strongly that he cannot risk it whilst the Scottish situation remains as it is. He risks a nightmare situation of having to fight an Independence brush war on his northern flank whilst trying to run a minority government or government with a precarious majority in London. Whilst the money can be got, he still has to pay off a debt of +/- £20 million and then raise, say. £15 million to fight an election. That is a lot of money, even for his Union Cronies, to stump up.

So, watch the money and watch Scotland.

Victor, NW Kent said...

I would have assumed that deregulation was automatic Conservative policy and it should have needed two years to come up with the idea.

We need something bolder - the soft touch will not bring in low income votes as Labour is the only party of the unemployed.

Strike now - if the right thing to do is to bring our troops back then let us campaign for it. It is no good trying to base our policies on what Brown will advocate. Whether we were stupid enough to support Blair in these military adventures is years ago - circumstances are different.

Do we have any real economic policies? Even if we don't there are plenty of skeletons hiding in the Brown closet that could be revealed, day by day.

What has been the cost of Brown propping up the US Dollar?

Why must a 108-year old woman be told she must wait two years for an appropriate hearing aid?

Why are 40% of out 11-year old children illiterate?

Why do we want to have back "UK residents" with clear terrorism links?

Why will Brown not honour the promise of a referendum on the new European "treaty".

I could list a 100 such matters and others could make it up to a round thousand Labour foul-ups.

Come on, there is enough ammunition there to keep firing 10 hours a day for the next year. While we are at it perhaps we can campaign for the word "privatisation" to become classified as obscene.

If our MPs cannot muster the energy for the fight then we will lose the next general election with a whimper.

I suspect that Cameron does not really want to be PM right now as it is years of work to undo the harm done by Blair and Brown and earlier by Major. For one we need to have some serious and credible policies to stop any more PFI and PPP projects - the country cannot afford them.

strapworld said...

The Huntsman articulates my belief in that Brown cannot afford to go in the short term.

Victor NW Kent is again correct but is emphasising what I want from Cameron..F I G H T. Take the fight to Brown he has so many skeletons to be unearthed. BUT get some real heavyweight political punchers alongside. Being nice does not get you anywhere.

Wake up Davey Boy the time for action is upon you!

Prodicus said...

So Brown needs £35 million? As someone said on the radio this morning, 'the Indians' will solve his problem any time he asks. £35m is peanuts to the Hindujas, if the Unions can't find the money - which they can.

October. It always was. Scotland makes no difference whatsoever. The Scots will vote Labour when the chips are down. And don't go by your old political calendar because Brown won't.

tapestry said...

If the 17% Conservative share in Scotland voted tactically to back the SNP in seats where they don't have much chance, then the SNP might get their 40 MPs at Westminster.

Beyond that what would the next step be? Would the SNP do deals with opposition parties to form an anti-Labour coalition, to stop the Constitution which otherwise would bind Scotland as surely as England?

leon said...

I would lay good money on an October election, in fact I think I will lay a bet this week.

Bob Piper said...

"If Brown is the clever political strategist we purports to be..."

A typo, Iain, or did this originally read... "as we all know him to be"?

As for Strapworld... I love him! Call for an immediate withdrawal now to try to steal the lib dems ground. What utter drivel. The lib dems can at least claim consistency, when the others swallowed Blair's WMD hook line and sinker. If Cameron now turned round and said he was wrong all along, I reckon that would consign him to the political dustbin even more rapidly than he is doing now. Bring it on!

I'm no opportunist October man, but if that is the scenario.... well, gift horses and mouths come to mind.

simon said...

More like 50 or 60 per cent, I'd say. Donors, like newspapers, like to back winners and, now Brown is starting to look like one, the money will start flowing in from the City and business.

As far as Scotland goes, Brown will be asking himself if the situation is going to get better than it is now in the foreseeable future. The answer is probably no, whereas the economic situation could well get worse. So better to go to the country sooner rather than later, especially with the troop withdrawal card to play.

mitch said...

The BBC have a news channel!! im stunned.surely a violation of trading standards, its the brown bollox corp surely,I stopped watching it ages ago even Paxo is losing his teeth.

Anonymous said...

Parliament will definitely be recalled during week 18th September no doubt about that. Gordon will want the announcement on Iraq to be an "occasion" and also to highlight the difference between his administration and Blair's by making a statement to Parliament instead of to "The Sun" or Sky first ! Its politically unsustainable to wait nearly a month after David Petraeus' report to US Congress

Secondly I have absolutely no doubt that an election will be held October or early November. Gordon knows that if he doesn't go now he will be unable to do so before March 2008 at the earliest and the economy could be in meltdown and Cameron could have recovered in the polls. Thereafter it could be too close to call and events would start to move against Labour. Cash to fight an election won't prove a problem and that is just the Conservatives wishful thinking. When it comes to it the money will be put up as previously stated here.

Remember only tradition stops a dissolution whilst Parliament is in recess and Gordon was never one for tradition at the best of times. It also is a fairly dramatic "coup de theatre" following closely on the heels of his statement and will completely wrong foot the Opposition. It depends on the bounce expected in the polls subsequent to his statement if they're showing anything around 12 - 15% lead he'll go otherwise I suspect he'll wait for the bounce to build and seek a dissolution the first week of Parliament's return 8 October with an election early November

Scotland is interesting but it remains to be seen whether the polls translate into Westminster seats.

In the final analysis it's whether Gordon has the "bottle" and is willing to chance being the shortest serving PM in recent times or go down as pulling off the biggest political coup of his career. On balance I think he may just go for the latter

Travis Bickle said...

What a shocking indictment of our system of democracy that any prime minister has the ability to dissolve parliament and go to the country completely based on the opinion polls, especially when there was absolutely no appetite for an election when he took over from Blair.

That said how funny would it be if Brown went for it and ended up losing? Not as unlikely as we might think seeing as the Conservatives finally seem to be getting around to mentioning policies that will strike a chord with a lot of hard pressed voters, who seem to have temporarily forgotten the last 10 years of pensions and tax robbery from Gordon Turpin.

Sea Shanty Irish said...

As Brother Bob points out, Gordon Brown is a masterful election strategist; so don't count on him screwing up the strategy, including timing of next GE.

As John L. pointed out, the latest YouGov give Labour 36/36 split with "Other" (SNP plus Greens, socialist left, BNP) for Westminster. Meaning GB still suffers north of the border for local SLP sins, but not as badly (or permanently) as Tories would like. Still, good argument against snap poll.

In Iraq, Brown is likely to be a STEADYING influence, against political pressures from across the turbulent US political spectrum.

GB's career and demeanor demonstrate that he is NOT a gambler, but instead a card counter.

BTW, Sarkozy got good US press, but nothing like the amount of coverage Brown got (solid but hardly a media circus).

Peter from Putney said...

"Last week I reckoned there was a 30% chance of an election this year. I'd put that now at 35%. As Tom Watson would say, what say you."

What I say Iain is that this represents odds of about 2-1 and if you are a betting man, you should rush off to Betfair where odds of 6-1 are available (in small amounts) on a 2007 General Election.
It's odd really, contributors on politicalbetting.com appear roughly evenly split on this issue, certainly the media are encouraging Brown to go for October yet the betting market, usually an accurate guide in such matters, appears unimpressed by the prospect.

Graf von Straf Hindenburg said...

I feel it's close to a certainty. The Cameronians are not really going to take the big one at this stage of the proceedings.

Votedave said...

A lot of people seem 100% confident Brown would win an October election based on opinion polls.
Of course, you could be proved wrong if history tells us anything. Labour were 12.5% ahead at one point when Harold Wilson had called the 1970 general election, but still lost to Edward Heath. In any case I doubt there will be an election in October - the public may not like it if they sense the PM is cutting and running.

Sea Shanty Irish said...

OT, but speaking of polls, here are the results of the Iowa State Republican Party Presidential Straw Poll held yesterday in Ames:

Romney 4,516 (31.58%)

Huckaby 2,587 (18.09%)

Br'back 2,192 (15.33%)

Tancredo 1,961 (13.71%)

Paul 1,305 (9.12%)

T T'pson 1,039 (7.26%)

F T'pson 203 (1.42%)

Guiliani 183 (1.28%)

Hunter 174 (1.22%)

McCain 101 (0.71%)

Cox 41 (0.29%)

TOTAL 14,302 (100%)

Reading these tea leaves:

--Romney bought 1st place, but Big Three who formally skipped the straw poll (Guiliani, McCain & Fred Thompson) clear bought a few tickets anyway, but NOT for Mitt, who has confirmed his presence in the top tier BUT who has yet to deal with his Mormonism, which is a HUGE problem for many GOP primary voters.

--Huckabee made big gain getting to 2nd, will boost his fundraising & national numbers, which is a big blow to Brownback, who is contesting with former preacher Huckabee for leaderhip of the Christian right Republican vote.

--Tancredo got his core anti-immigrant/bomb Mecca vote PLUS plenty of help from Big Three eager to keep Romney's percentage down without helping Huckabee or Brownback.

--Ron Paul is phenom, similar to Howard Dean with Democrats last time around; but Paul is totally unnominatable and his zealots (perhaps even Paul himself) are highly likely to jump ship by Nov 2008.

--Tommy Thompson is toast, thanks to his odd desire to parade his incompetance (which is NOT what voters are looking for after 7 years of Bush-Cheney!) on the campaign trail. Will be out of the race this Monday.

--Low numbers for Guiliani, McCain & Fred Thompson show the discipline of their Iowa operations. Hunter's campaign is just an ego trip, and Cox is a total nobody (former Cook County Republican Party chair!) BUT note that these are NOT jolly times for the Big Three.

Guiliani has bought his own hype to the point of actually telling the press that he spent more time at Ground Zero than the emergency workers, which even if it was true just opens Pandora's Box to fact-based criticism of his actual role in 9/ll (pre, during & post: NOT a pretty picture).

McCain is still tramping along on his own political Death March. Return to "straight talk" much too late, plus he's chained to Iraq without getting any benefit from the GOP loyalists who are the only people in America who still support the war.

Fred Thompson appears to have made Mario Cuomo's mistake, only he's the Hamlet of the Cumberland, not the Hudson! His attraction (now that the glow of his non-candidacy has faded) is fact that he is GOP hopeful who most resembles George W. Bush. While that may help him in GOP primaries, even the most rabid Republican (in figurative sense, though actual cases are not unknown) realizes that Bush II may end up working as well for Fred T. as Blair II is working for David C.

PS - Perhaps some are asking, what about Newt Gingrich. Listen, Michael Moore's got a better chance than Newt of securing the Republican presidential nomination, this year or any year.

Barnacle Bill said...

Brown has proved to be a spoiler in the past, so don't expect him to go by tradition.
With political apathy the way it is in the electorate, and our first past the post voting system.
All he needs for five years of power is a majority. Regardless of how slim it might be over a combination of the other parties.
Plus he has the advantage over Cameron of actually being the Prime Minister.
So far nothing the Opposition parties have done has managed to connect Brown with the Blair years in the eyes of the great unwashed.
I fear that Brown is going to go to the polls before the financial crisis exposes him.
So look out for an early election.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Well done Huntsman.

As I have said elsewhere, at least the SNP are honouring their manifesto commitment to hold a referendum, whereas that arsehole Brown has clearly and dishonourably not done so as regards the EU treaty.

The Scots will not be told what to do by some liquid lunch liggers in London . Anybody who lives here knows that.

strapworld said...

Bob Piper thanks for your love. Sadly it is not reciprocated!

All the comments make Brown out to be a super politician, an ace strategist, someone to be feared. Personally I think, in the words of the great Margaret, is 'frit' and will bottle it.

As for Iraq. Nothing will be gained except more widows and bereaved parents and families, unless we pull out soon.

If Cameron says nothing he is damned if he does speak I am sure the majority of the people will support his change of heart.

But Bob Piper and the rest know so much more than me I will just sit back and, in time, tell you I told you so!

Roger Thornhill said...

Britain used to cling on during independence uprisings until they were able to deal out a big, bloody nose with the opposition on the ropes, THEN pull out/hand over, so reminding those on the ground that the troops could do their thang if they were ever allowed to politically.

I wonder if this will happen. al-Sadr, perhaps?

Johnny Norfolk said...

He will not go to the country as he is afraid of what will happen to Labour in Scotland.

Sea Shanty Irish said...

Here is a list of inducements (in addition to their own presidential qualities) that GOP hopefuls offered to attendees at this year's Iowa Republican Straw Poll:

Romney = live rock & rock climbing (plus giftbags & other 1st class freebees on the bus to & from Ames?)

Huckabee = gave away 150-pound watermelon (great idea for Borish Johnson campaign!) AND played "Free Bird" on guitar (ditto)

Brownback = air conditioning (temp. in Ames was 90-100°F) AND 30-foot slide for the kids

Tancredo = music (presumably NOT Tex-Mex)

Paul = live monkey

Tommy Thompson = baseball game on 2 flat-screen TVs (oooohhhhh!!!!)

Hunter = Elvis impersonator AND auctioned $2,000 12-gauge shotgun

Cox = raffle for luxury vacation

David Lindsay said...

Just how frequent are General Elections now going to be? Unless the Government loses a confidence motion, then four years minimum, I say. Or why want to be in government at all? To do what?

Scott said...

Rather too much has been made of the Scottish opinion polls. The poll indicates voting intentions for Holyrood and only the constituency seats. It does not take into account the AMS top up seats, nor did it reflect Westminster intentions. While interesting the poll is a snapshot of one type of Scottish vote. Further, the imminent departure of Jack McConnell in Scotland will have implications for the Scottish Labour vote - and it is better to make no assumptions in this respect.

RedEye said...

Iain's scepticism that Labour would have won an Autumn 1978 GE was shared by John Golding.