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Only an excuse

Brian Taylor | 10:19 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2007

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Election officers are already warning that an autumn poll would be held on an out-of-date register - and that they’re not ready.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.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 11:18 AM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Graeme wrote:

You want to be careful with thoughts like these Brian. You might find yourself being offered a job as a labour strategist!

  • 2.
  • At 11:19 AM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Scamp wrote:

The polls suggesting that Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has been severely cut back could also be due to the fact that people have finally twigged that Brown has all but wrecked the UK economy.

Only a thought Brian, but a clever thought and a possible Godsend for PM Brown. That's you back on his Christmas list.

  • 4.
  • At 12:02 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • ayrshireman wrote:

The point that Brian makes that the election is not necessary is the factor which may come to haunt Labour. The electorate don't thank those who make them go the polls without reason - remember it will be the second time in a year in Scotland. That is one theory why the Tories lost in February 1974 in their "Who Governs?" campaign against the miners. The electorate judged that if the Tories had to ask the question they were not fit to govern. Now, it appears a too blatant attempt at cut and run, especially in view of the fact that the government, by its own admission, can't deliver the economic growth it forecast last year.

  • 5.
  • At 12:12 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Realty check please, who is talking up the possibility of an early elections?

1) The Conservative cabinet and Conservatives at large who wish to appear bullish, nevertheless acting fully in the knowledge that they currently have as much chance as the proverbial snowball.
Conservative are running round like excited schoolboys even they know that with the best polls of today the Conservatives would again be ‘also ran’s; once the reality of the fiscally challenged bribes are unravelled and the euphoria of David Cameron’s stage performance diminish we may well see an election called.

2) The media; ‘newspapers’ in order that they can sell increased advertising; television in order that their continually looped news items can be replaced with ever changing stories (not to discount advertising on the commercial networks.

Who is exacerbating the situation by permitting the media and the Conservative Party to fly their kites?
1) Gordon Brown and the Cabinet

What would be the main reason employed for not calling a General Election?
The likeliest reason given would be could well be the claim that postal voters may well be disenfranchised by the postal worker’s industrial action; ironic that a Labour Leader could use industrial action to his advantage, especially when history shows clearly that labour have only suffered detrimentally because of previous industrial actions.

No official rubbishing yet of the Conservatives ‘policy’ statements, keeping their powder dry, General Election to be called on the 9th of October?

  • 6.
  • At 01:49 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Chasa wrote:

Whatever he does now he will be tarnished. What now for the "great clunking fist".

  • 7.
  • At 02:16 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

I don't believe there will be an election or it was ever on the cards. Sorry Brian, I do think the media has cranked this up and because the other parties are living with uncertainty, they too have done the same as they are uncomfortable.

  • 8.
  • At 03:22 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

This has been the media at it's worst speculation, rumour, no facts. They have cranked up the non story whilst the opposition parties discomfort with the uncertainty the media have caused, jump on the spinning frenzy whilst we all succumb to the manipulation.

  • 9.
  • At 03:25 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • CM, Brussels wrote:

Brian

GB need not worry; he has already shown his colours. A confident leader would have either:

A: gone to the country on taking over office, or

B: Seen out the full term in the knowledge that the party's manifesto had already been put the country.

GB did neither, because he can't do anything without 'fixing' it first, and because he doesn't have the confidence that he will get the public backing. He tried to manipulate himself into an opportunistic situation of popularity. This now seems to have failed, so he will not call an election.

Which means he will be known as a choker. It will be the albatross round his neck, and give the opposition the ammunition they need from now until the end of his term.

Fly wi' the craws, you'll get shot wi' the craws...

  • 10.
  • At 03:31 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Harry Shanks wrote:

Ayrshireman - I wish "the electorate" was as bright and insightful as you give them credit for!

Let's not forget that only in May of this year, well over 100,000 of "the electorate" couldn't even manage to fill in a ballot paper, which an average 10yo could have understood.

  • 11.
  • At 03:37 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

If Gordon Brown makes excuses and says no election it will reflect badly on Labour. However, far worse I feel will be the situation for GB if we go to the polls. Herin Scotland, as has been stated, we've already had an election this year at it was a farce. If an election in announced for Nov 1st or 8th it seems that the adminstration of it just won't be ready. It'll be a total mess.
I hope that GB says there won't be an election, takes the ensuing embarrassment and gets on with the job.

  • 12.
  • At 03:49 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • CM, Brussels wrote:

Brian

GB need not worry; he has already shown his colours, and we know where he stands. A confident leader would have either:
A: gone to the country on taking over office, or
B: Seen out the full term in the knowledge that the party's manifesto had already been put the country.
GB did neither, because he can't do anything without 'fixing' it first, and because he doesn't have the confidence that he will get the public backing. He tried to manipulate himself into an opportunistic situation of popularity. This now seems to have failed, so he will not call an election.
The Conservatives have called his bluff, and however he dresses it up, he will be sseing as having started something he has not got the bottle to finish. This means he will be known as a choker from now on. It will become the albatross round his neck, and give the opposition the ammunition they need from now until the end of his term.
Fly wi' the craws, you'll get shot wi' the craws...

  • 13.
  • At 06:41 PM on 05 Oct 2007,
  • Craig wrote:

"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 manifesto pledged a referendum on the EU constitutional treaty. That pledge has been cynically broken by the government. That is a great controversy which demands a popular test in my view.

  • 14.
  • At 11:03 AM on 06 Oct 2007,
  • kirsty wrote:

He can't back out of an election now, it's too late. If he backed out, it would only damage his image and the Conservatives etc would crow.

  • 15.
  • At 03:16 PM on 06 Oct 2007,
  • mairi macleod wrote:

hi brian,
its my guess that GB. is already regretting "teasing torries.. and
has gone to ground somwhere in
britain, but he cant hide forever,
i do however think he's danmed if he does and...
its all falling apart right now,he's running out of excuses on all things that he's predicted,as well as boasting about the ecconomy
and running scared of AS.AND DC.
BESIDES THEY ARE BOTH BETTER LOOKING.

  • 16.
  • At 06:19 PM on 06 Oct 2007,
  • Stephen wrote:

Of course uncle Gordon wont want an election now, he'd lose Scottish seats.

At a time when the Scottish labour leader cant manage a credible opposition because as the labour party said "Labour leader post is 'under funded'"
Well the Nats managed ok and didnt want any more of our tax payers monies for eight years. Get aff yer bahookie and get stuck in is what they need tae dae.

Scotland lands 70% of the fish in Britain and yet this is the only time that the Fisheries ministers From Uk Ireland and wales have ever met in Scotland to discuss this important industry. What were the Labour party doing in scotland for eight years??
( I reckon sleeping)

Weve got a whole council of economic advisors to help with the scottish economy which has in the past steadily underperformed. Dos'nt seem like rocket science, why o why didnt Labour think of this 8 years ago(again sleepin).

Most effective government parties want more powers. Now it looks like we might get them. What did Labour want?? To limit our economic growth by keeping limitating powers that (the then chancelor) gordon brown was completely free of. Again they may have turned up at Holyrood but most arrived with their pyjammas Coco and slippers.

The labour party still has the majority of sleepy halfwits that were in positions to help scotland 8 years ago, around their front benches now, LABOUR= Nothin new, nothin positive, nothin for Scotland.

  • 17.
  • At 06:19 PM on 06 Oct 2007,
  • Bryce Miller wrote:

So Gordon has backed out of holding the election to work on his showing his vision for Britain. Well, I don't think that quite washes. If we are to believe the argument that we vote for a party and their manifesto, not for a leader, then how can Gordon Brown change the direction of his party? Essentially, he's changing the manifesto without a mandate from either the voting public or the party-at-large.

  • 18.
  • At 12:16 AM on 07 Oct 2007,
  • louise wrote:

14 Kirsty

I feel like I am now watching an episode of htichcocks the birds due to gordon brown being a big feartie and all the parties are now crowing not just the conservatives. The biggest bird of them all however is one Gordon "chicken" Brown.

Well..."we ken noo!" I really thought there was such a head of steam that an election was well nigh inevitable. Was it Osborne's Inheritance Tax wot did it, some wobbly marginals, or is sandymac (No7) correct in accusing the media of ratcheting up election rumours to create a self- fulfilling prophesy?
Perhaps the result, had it been held in Novemeber, would have been as nailbitingly close and surprising as the two antipodean quarter-final results today.....

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