Two up ... one down
They're still out there you know, the rumours that Gordon Brown may favour an early election. They were certainly to be heard loud and clear last week amongst those who spend their time around Westminster and those in Cardiff Bay who listen closely to what's said by those in Westminster.
Plump for March 25th, goes the argument and you'll make the most of improved GDP figures expected for this quarter and you'll get the election out of the way before people work out the implications of tax changes that'll hit them in April. No element of surprise any more and plenty of pressure on those who ought to be ahead of the game with their election planning but ... maybe.
The Conservatives are doing their bit to get the rumours heard. On Friday at the IWA's "Life under the Tories" conference*, more than one prominent Tory raised the possiblity over coffee and biscuits of a March election. They didn't think it likely, May 6th still feels far more likely but ... what did I think? You can't blame them. Talk of an early election, even if it goes nowhere, all helps to get their troops out and ready for the off.
No surprises then that new Welsh prospective parliamentary candidates are being selected left, right and ... well centre I suppose.
My colleague Vaughan Roderick has already made the point that both feel like 'softening up' campaigns - in other words no victories likely this time round but no harm done either come the time Labour gets round to drawing up the list candidates for the 2011 Assembly elections.
The Secretary of State's take on it? "Both Alan Pugh and Christine Gwyther ... bring great experience to the job and they show the quality of the candidates Welsh Labour can offer people right across Wales". (Someone had better whisper in Mr Hain's ear that 'Alan' is in fact an 'Alun' if he's get anywhere in a constituency like Arfon.)
The voter's choice as Mr Hain sees it? "A vote for Labour and a route out of the recession, or a wasted vote on Plaid Cymru and other minority parties that can only open the back door to Number 10 for David Cameron and the Tories".
That's the message. Get used it.
But here's some news of a Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate who's decided to exit by the back door, rather than help Mr Cameron into Number 10. Trefor Jones, who was selected some time ago to stand for the Tories in Ynys Mon, has decided to withdraw his candidacy. He's a teacher and cites pressure of work. The look on the face of the party worker who passed on the news - no more than 6 months before the election - betrayed his disappointment.
Trefor Jones was a strong candidate for the Tories and he will, no doubt, be back. Ok, so he had a fight on his hands in Ynys Mon and he would have needed a great deal of support on the ground, along with the money to make sure that support got him somewhere. But now? The fight will be all the tougher. In a constituency where some Conservatives, tempted in the past to vote for the independent Peter Rogers might have come back into the fold to help Mr Cameron home, there was fighting talk locally of Mr Jones polling well and doing what football fans seem to like calling 'coming up through the middle'.
Let's see who takes on the fight now.
Back to *"Life under the Tories" just for a second. Nick Bourne would, he said, have much preferred if the conference organisers had plumped for "Working with the Conservatives" as a title for the day's discussions.
But "Life under Tories?" "Come to think about it, I think I'll take it!" he said.