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Decision not taken?

Nick Robinson | 11:41 UK time, Monday, 24 September 2007

So much for the talk of Gordon Brown calling a "mandate election". On the Today programme this morning (listen to it here) he made it plain that he did not need a "personal mandate" since he was "implementing Labour's manifesto". Just to make this absolutely clear, he asked himself the question, "do I need to call an election?" before answering that "no" he didn't.

So, that's that then. Well no, not quite it isn't.

Team Brown have made clear that the PM will not call an election this week. Now, I'm told, he certainly will not call one for October 25th - which makes it unlikely he'd go to see the Queen next week. Beyond that, though, the official line is that no decision has been taken.

Before making up his mind Gordon Brown wants to be able to see how both his conference and David Cameron's have gone - and how the polls react to them. Anything like today's IPSOS/MORI poll in The Sun showing an 8% lead will increase the pressure on him to go whilst he can be sure of winning.

The Sun are, indirectly, also responsible for pressure on him for an altogether different reason. Today they give over their front page and the next six pages to a campaign to secure a referendum on the EU treaty formerly known as "the constitution". Gordon Brown is insistent that parliament will make this decision and not the people.

That parliamentary debate will reach its conclusion next Spring - in the lead-up to the next likely election date. Calling an election at a time when you're being accused of denying the people their say by some of the most powerful newspapers in the land is not a cheerful prospect. What's more, faced by an election, the House of Lords could simply refuse to put the treaty into law.

If Gordon Brown is swayed by these arguments he would go to see the Queen soon after making his Commons statement on Iraq on 8th October and Lord Darzi unveils his NHS review on the 9th. Polling day could then be on November 1st.


Ever since the first mention of an early election I have suspected that this was largely spin designed to ensure that Labour maintained its discipline and to unsettle the Tories and force them to reveal their campaign strategy. In recent days it's become clear that many senior figures have started to think seriously that Gordon should go for it.

It remains my instinct that he won't.


  • 1.
  • At 12:28 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • David Simmons wrote:

I'll vote for whoever doesn't mention the word 'green'....

  • 2.
  • At 12:44 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Ubi wrote:

This game of election bluff insults democracy. It is quite improper that it is used by a sitting government (of any hue) to gain political advantage.

If it achieves anything it lends weight to the argument that parliamentary terms should be fixed by the constitution and taken out of the hands of devious Prime Ministers.

  • 3.
  • At 12:46 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • M Fisken wrote:

The people should have decided who was PM anyway not the labour party after Tony retired

  • 4.
  • At 01:03 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • MIke wrote:

Given the media election firestorm that Brown & Co. have stoked, he has to come out today and say whether there will be an election.
If he does not he looks frankly indecisive and blatantly opportunistic. I thought the job of PM was to lead the country and not to revel in destabilising his political opponents.

  • 5.
  • At 01:21 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

Gordon Brown has been incredibly foolish by allowing speculation about an early election to run riot when he could have killed it stone dead.

It looks like he is playing childish games and being a typical 'clever-clever' politician instead of doing his duty.

  • 6.
  • At 01:27 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Winston DW wrote:

To be the PM you need to be prepared to make the bold decisions, I think Brown is too cautious and hesitant to score in the open goal, instead he'll try to string another 10 passes together by which time the Tory defence will have regrouped.
He'll win either way, but a good number of Labour MP's in marginal constituencies won't.

  • 7.
  • At 01:29 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Daniel Taylor wrote:

Why are the media seeming to go along with the 'this conference will draw a line under the Blair era' message?

Brown bankrolled the Iraq war and he has as much blood on his hands as Blair. Since he has been anointed as Prime minister without public endorsement, the coverage and association with Labour and Iraq has dwindled. He is as accountable as Blair, and I hope that the other parties and media voices do not let him forget this.

His party should pay the price for their crimes.

  • 8.
  • At 01:30 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Paul Owen wrote:

Surely if Brown is worried about the Euro referendum issue an early election would be an ideal solution? If he wins an election and manages to get through the campaign without promising a referendum then he has dealt with the fact that it was contained in a previous manifesto. The promise will effectively have been superseded by a lack of a promise. I'm sure this isn't at the forefront of his mind, he has other priorities, but it must be part of the calculation. Of course he might not get through a campaign without being forced into making the promise. This seems quite likely given the strength of feeling about it. Europe continues to be a fly in prime minister's ointment wherever they are on the political spectrum.

  • 9.
  • At 01:34 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • jonathan wrote:

Who is stirring up all this poll froth?, its not the general public!

For the sake of even handiness, I'll not vote for anyone with a surname of Brown, Black, Yellow or Red!

He will not go for it. He is going to hold the next GE on the same day as the next Euro elections - June 2009.

His thinking will be that people can kick the Government in the Euro's and give them another try in the Generals.

The whole early election stuff is just spin to keep the Conservatives unsettled and let Labour dictate the agenda.

  • 11.
  • At 01:43 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Andy Charman wrote:

...and I'll vote for whoever GENUINELY puts the word 'green' at the top of their agenda.

If Gordon Brown was to call an election things would change during the run up to the big vote.
I have noticed gaffs and other mistakes costing or winning an election and no one, not even yourself can know what they may be till they happen.
I do not think he has to call an election anyway as a change of leader doesn't change all the people who elected their own MP and that MP is maybe halfway through his work in that area only to be taken away for another parade of kisses and handshakes. If we elected a party we want to give them their time to do what we elected them to do and that time is 4-5 years. We all knew about Brown too and that is an extra reason we voted for Labour.
I think this is more media driven then anything because the journalists yearn for an election to get overtime payment and enjoy themselves!

  • 13.
  • At 01:49 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

I agree that GB is waiting to see the results of the Tory Conference. But the longer GB waits, the greater the danger. It appears that the UK economy is starting to descend, regardless of seasonal trends. All it takes is one major hiccup, or a major incident in Iraq/Afghanistan to unsettle everything. GB knows that the SNP are going to make inroads in Scotland regardless.

The EU referndum is a major issue, and the Tories would be wise to capitalise on this.

  • 14.
  • At 02:05 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Albert wrote:

Nick, is it not a matter that the media want an election to have something to say, and report?
The election fever started by Cameron by saying that Brown had no mandate and that he should go to the polls immediately. Then again, Cameron wanted an election when he thought that the Tories were way ahead in the polls. These last couple of weeks, you do not hear anything from Cameron.
There is no fever in the air Nick, and if the media do not have anything to say about politics, it should start giving us some news about other Europeon countries. Like the performance of their economies for example. Incidentaly Nick, did you suggest for that koala to be named after you? Enjoy your day in Bournmouth Nick.

  • 15.
  • At 02:06 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Nigel Wheatcroft wrote:

If he calls an election all that Cameron has to do is say that if elected he will definitely have a referendum on the European Treaty(Constitution) and Brown will also have to say he would do the same or not.It is not an issue he can duck.If GB then wins an election and does not have one he is a liar,if he has one and loses he is in deep trouble.H would be in a no win situation.

  • 16.
  • At 02:11 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Moira wrote:

Seems that the main pressure for an election is coming from the media. I don't think there are many countries where the government in power goes for election inside of four years when they have a working majority. Just because there has been a change of prime minister doesn't mean that we should have an election. Even where the head of state is directly elected, as in the US, this doesn't happen.
An election now would be great for political pundits and Oz newspaper owners but would do nothing for the rest of us.
I can't see the Tories & Liberals being too overjoyed at the idea whatever they say in public.

  • 17.
  • At 02:24 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Herod wrote:

Gordon Brown is right to keep people guessing. He should at all costs avoid Tony Blair's mistake of coming out and saying he was going to retire.

  • 18.
  • At 02:26 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Robert Cromwell wrote:

Gordon won’t jump yet, he needs to reclaim more trad Tory values before Labour is ready for the punters.

The dead cow in Ipswich is not the only wee Highland beastie with blue tongue disease.


If Brown, a PM with a workable majority and over half a parliament still to run, calls an election he does so only for his benefit and that of the Labour Party.

Isn't that an abuse of power?

  • 20.
  • At 02:34 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • NickD wrote:

Quite honestly Browns refusal to end speculation over a snap general election completely flys in the face of his promise to put an end to spin.

This is a disgusting state of affairs and an insult to the electorate. I sincerely hope his plan backfires spectacularly.

  • 21.
  • At 02:42 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Dr Michael John Parkinson wrote:

Brown must give us a clear answer to the "Sue Lawley" question.If you think this should not be relevant ask the Church of England !!

  • 22.
  • At 03:02 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Tony R wrote:

If an election is announced, all David Cameron has to do is to promise a referendum on the EU Treaty if the Conservatives form the next government. This will sway many wavering Conservative voters, and will make it very difficult for newspapers such as the Sun to support Labour.

Gordon Brown can, of course, do a massive U turn and say he will also have a referendum if Labour win. This will face him with the difficulty of having been forced to change his position by his opponents, and also the likelihood of an early defeat in the EU Treaty referendum.

It's ironic that Labour which exploited dissent about the EU amongst the Conservatives during the Major years, may be denied this golden opportunity by the "Europe" problems.

  • 23.
  • At 03:17 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • alec ralph wrote:

If Gordon Brown is working to the 2005 manifesto - then he must carry out a referendum on the EU constitution, as this was included I believe.

  • 24.
  • At 03:43 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

Why do people keep demanding an referendum and a 'mandate election'? Neither of these have been common in the British constutition for hundreds of years. Parliament is sovereign, live with it or move to Switzerland where you can have a referendum every weekend.

  • 25.
  • At 03:44 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Ken Jones wrote:

Despite the oft-quoted precedent of Jim Callaghan "leaving us at the church", Gordon Brown would be a fool to risk three years in power against the possibility, however remote it may seem at this moment, of being the shortest serving PM of all time.

  • 26.
  • At 03:47 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • iain smith wrote:

While I was willing to believe the prospect of an october election ,perhaps called at the end of this week following a successful conference,the idea of labour voters going to the polls in early november ,after the clocks go back, can probably be ruled out-if parliament resumes on october 8 it means no election till next may.G brown is using election talk to keep discopline at his conference and dampen talk of a EU referendum.Neil Kinnock was the only senior politician willing to tell the truth yesterday when he said the idea of an autumn election was ludicrous-I assume he had talked to Gordon before he said it.

  • 27.
  • At 03:48 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

I had my doubts about a snap election from the beginning, and a few people have put forward some very good comment on why they think it's unlikely, so it looks like there's some support for your position, Nick. David Miliband's comments on going for another ten years and avoiding complacency, Gordon Brown's character, and the general look and feel of reality on the ground tend to add support to this point of view.

Personally, I'm not that interested in what the opposition parties or the media have to say on this. It's such a non-issue it's not funny. It's like watching a room full of kids play with their bricks. I'm sure Gordon's enjoying the attention and mystery but there's plenty of routine government work requiring attention. I imagine him sitting at his desk and getting on with it, not bothered by the thumps and shrieks from outside.

So, the question is why are the opposition parties clenching their jaws, and why is the media dancing like a mad thing? The Zen Buddhist view suggests they're getting a little carried away with the phantoms of their own mind. This is not reality. Indeed, one sits back with raised eyebrows and feels relieved that this disease isn't catching. Assorted grasshoppers might try calming down and piping up when they have something useful to say.

Sunny day outside. That's nice.

  • 28.
  • At 03:55 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • John O'Donnell wrote:

I was really disappointed by the BBC's coverage of Brown's speech. Brown didn't want to talk about Iraq, the Tories don't want to talk about Iraq so the BBC didn't talk about it either, who cares what the people want.

As a guardian of democracy the BBC is a non starter.

  • 29.
  • At 03:59 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Robin wrote:

Gordon will never take the decision because he knows he's left it too late already.

He will go down in history as the Northern Rock of British politics; with a great growth record driven by mountainous levels of personal and government debt and self delusion.

Look how quickly Bush's legacy to the American people is unwinding; a collapsing housing market and a mountainous level of personal an government debt.

This is the reason we are following the Amercian model and throwing cash at the problems but the result will be the same. The pound is heading south and inflation is heading up. The one thing he managed to avoid as chancellor - a sterling devaluation - now looks inevitable.

  • 30.
  • At 04:15 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • andy williams wrote:

IF Gordon Brown were to call a snap election, he will do it sooner rather than later. In fact he will do it in October or he won't do it at all.

He is a bit boxed in by the EU treaty. If he calls a snap election now, he runs (the almost certain) risk that the tories - for lack of any other crdeible policy - will turn it into a single issue campaign over the EU treaty.

If he waits for the spring then by then the EU dirty deed will have been done, so he will have to face the wrath of a largely 'EU-hostile' electorate who would perceive they have been lied to.

Therefore, it's October and risk the tories and a single issue (EU), or it's hack it out for the full term and hope the EU treaty will have been forgotten about.

But by then there's the possibility of recession....................

PS - Why didn't Sue Lawley ask the glaringly obvious question - Why are modern day MPs on the whole such an emotionless, party-aparatchik, cowardly bunch of money-grabbing wasters?

  • 31.
  • At 04:24 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Daniel Taylor made a comment about the blood of Iraqis on GB's hands. the alternative are the Tories who also supported the Iraqi invasion. Mr Taylor has also ignored that GB has a markedly different policy to Blair on Iraq.

As for GB's mandate, we elect MP's, they have the say over who is in government. It is called parliamentary democracy, IMHO much better than a US style presidency.

As Peter Oborne mentions in the Mail today the two big issues that will foul up any election are, in this order, Scotland & Europe.

Because of these, he won't go.

  • 33.
  • At 04:43 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Robert Cheer wrote:

Ghastly, ghastly people - the political class.
You can't get a fag-paper between any of them nowadays. They've slowly and slyly been destroying our way of life since 1945.
(I've switched to UKIP more out of hope than expectation)
Come after us with guns and we'll beat you. Come after us with laws and we'll join you.
Wake up and switch on!
But it's Catch-22; when people finally realise where we're heading, who can they vote for to save us?

  • 34.
  • At 04:49 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • geoff wrote:

if he was bold enough he would go for it now. This will be a test of how tough he is. He is playing with the public on this and he may get caught

  • 35.
  • At 05:12 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

Jack Straw inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he let slip the words 'we need time to shape our public'.

That is a rare insight for the plebs into what the political elite really think.

Yes, you lumpen proles, especially the easily manipulated English, only need to be 'worked on' for a period of time (about one month for a General Election), to get the result that the political elite desire.

That is what 'elections' are all about.

Great fun for the political elite, not so funny for the essentially unrepresented English.

  • 36.
  • At 05:31 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

The reason he hesitates has nothing, nothing to do with the EU treaty nor the NHS review or any other report for that matter. What Brown fears most is that he may loss his Scottish seat at a general election given that the latest polls show the SNP to have increased their lead over Labour. Time I think Nick that you took a more global perspective on things both North and South of the border.

  • 37.
  • At 05:33 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Keith Mackman wrote:

Why would Brown allow we the electorate a chance to register an opinion on something as trivial as his mandate to govern?

Children, children, cease and desist from this idle and ultimately fruitless speculation because Brown could care less what any of you think.

To parody an older cynicism, the voting class can kiss his ass, he's got the PM job at last. Incidentally, Brown is far more concerned with what happens north of the border where his party is in genuine danger of losing hugely.

  • 38.
  • At 05:40 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Phillip wrote:

Reinforces my opinion that we should have fixed term parliaments in the UK.

  • 39.
  • At 05:57 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Nicolas Berkowitz Werner wrote:

He's too cautios a personality to call a snap election. Besides, he will be accused of opportunism. Personally, however, I wpuld like him to go for it, and keep the Tories out for even longer.

  • 40.
  • At 06:10 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • sally wrote:

I have just completed a visa application form to go to New Zealand. I can't stand any more destruction of my own country. I'm leaving.

  • 41.
  • At 06:16 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Jack Moxley wrote:

Deciding when to hold an election is plainly disgusting, it makes a mockery of democracy. Essentially you know you may win this month, but in a couple of months when all your decisions actually start showing results or lack of, its too late and everyones picked you. Having an unchanging period of government seems to make mores sense, Although it may mean our lazy media have to pick on actual story of substance.

Political Editor. Pah. more like Political Blatherer.

Sorry nick but in the first day of the labour conference the bbc has given more coverage of this ridiculous story than the entirety of the two opposition conferences. I picked a bad day to be ill it seems.

  • 42.
  • At 06:45 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Colin Soames wrote:

NuLabour is like a straight-to-video movie; "Another 24 hours to save the NHS".

Who is mad enough to give Brown another go to fix his own bungles?

No wonder he's bought votes from those on benefits, public-sector employees, the flood of immigrants etc. etc. - that's everyone but the hard working (and fleeced) taxpayer!

  • 43.
  • At 07:00 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

#36 has it about right.

Brown must somehow 'engineer' the failure of Alex Salmonds Scottish Government before he can risk calling a General Election.

Why don't English people just step back and listen to the very language we use, for example 'North/South of the border', to recognise that the so-called United Kingdom is well past its sell-by date.

  • 44.
  • At 07:00 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Terry Murphy wrote:

It will go like this ...... GB calls an election ... Cameron plays the 'Europe card'. GB says no referendum because there is no constitutional change to be voted on and the danger is that the referendum can then only be on membership. The press then ask Cameron if he is in favour of pulling the UK out of europe - it is a question that he cannot answer - because if he did he would have to say yes - the tories would then descend into a fratricidal bloodbath and Labour wins again with a HUGE majority. Europe is a problem for labour but it is the third rail for the Tories - touch it and they die.

  • 45.
  • At 10:19 PM on 24 Sep 2007,
  • Anne Wotana Kaye wrote:

I am far too grown up (cynical) to believe any politician, but I concede that for the voter desperately searching for a messiah to rescue this country, Brown pressed all the right buttons. He wasn't too clever or glib like Tony, for this wily Scot knows that the English fear & dislike brilliance. He didn't look too smart, he kept that awful haircut, & if smoking wasn't a no-no he would have drawn reflectively on a pipe. He only has one eye, but in the land of the blind.......

  • 46.
  • At 03:04 AM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Matt Wright wrote:

I'm amazed that more of the media haven't pointed out that Brown has taken Labour to new heights of spin. He's replaced Blair spin with Brown super-spin.

  • 47.
  • At 05:45 AM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Vijay K Vijayaratnam wrote:

The country elected labour with Tony Blair as leader with the knowledge the Gordon Brown would one day take over the leadership either in this parliament or next.Why should the electorate be put through another election before completing atleast 4 years let alone 5 years?

  • 48.
  • At 12:47 PM on 25 Sep 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:
I am far too grown up (cynical) to believe any politician, but I concede that for the voter desperately searching for a messiah to rescue this country, Brown pressed all the right buttons. He wasn't too clever or glib like Tony, for this wily Scot knows that the English fear & dislike brilliance. He didn't look too smart, he kept that awful haircut, & if smoking wasn't a no-no he would have drawn reflectively on a pipe. He only has one eye, but in the land of the blind.......

Quality comment, Anne. I liked that. It was very perceptive and sensitive to shared realities.

  • 49.
  • At 06:38 PM on 26 Sep 2007,
  • James Murphy wrote:

It should be recognised that all local economies are subject to change. The needs of our community should be taken into account whilst also considering diverse needs amongst the community. Aims should be to break down unnecessary barriers and exclusions in order to benefit the entire community with socially inclusive and adequate levels of affordable housing including improved access to facilities of open space, sport and recreational grounds.

We need to work together by striking an acceptable balance between the local character and development needs of our community. This may require a departure from the structure plans, which is currently constraining housing development. The Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments, Practice Guidance, give us all an opportunity to shape our communities by removing constraints on development and showing the importance of a partnership approach. I expect some people may always want to keep a status quo, but as change is being brought to bear by the government there has to be some give in the way we are going to tackle the shortage in affordable housing.

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