Only an excuse
Just a thought, but if Gordon Brown now wants a way out of an early election, he could do worse than use the postal strike as justification (Translation: excuse).
Why might he want a way out?
Look at today’s published polls, each suggesting that Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has been pegged back, if not eliminated - perhaps because of the Tory conference, perhaps because of the Tories’ tax pledges targeted on middle-income households.
To repeat, an autumn election is constitutionally unnecessary.
Mr Brown has a substantial Commons majority. He has a clear mandate, derived from his party’s manifesto which was placed before the voters. There is no great, over-arching controversy which demands a popular test.
The only reason for calling an early election is partisan: for Labour to take advantage of apparent difficulties faced by the Conservative leadership.
That does not mean that an early contest is intrinsically wrong. Voters might welcome the chance to make a choice between the pair now at the peak of British politics. I suspect a fair few would find an election a nuisance - but others would probably like a say.
However, the underlying partisan motivation for an early ballot means that it could be rather tricky to sound statespersonlike in calling a halt to such a contest.
If you were only saying yes because you think your party would gain, then how, credibly, do you say no? What reason do you give?
Try this for size: “We did quite fancy an election when it looked like we might win. Now it looks as if we could lose, we’ve changed our minds. What are we like, eh?”
See what I mean? Lacks gravitas.
You need a pitch that stresses the public interest. The postal strike could fit the bill.
Election officers are already warning that an autumn poll would be held on an out-of-date register - and that they’re not ready.
Encouraged by political parties, thousands in each constituency already choose to vote by post. Many more might consider that option in gloomy November.
In May, at the Holyrood elections, many postal votes failed to get through to be counted. It was, frankly, a mess.
Now there’s a postal strike under way which is certain to create a backlog of mail and add extra burdens to an already stretched service.
So the statespersonlike response could be to say that the election talk was always just wicked media speculation (“We were getting on with the job"). Further, Britain’s postal service doesn’t need any more grief.
As I say, only a thought.