Wednesday 17 December 2008

No election update (move along please)

Let's try to keep this brief - and sorry to be boring. But I don't want to have to shoot myself.

Another not too bad poll for Labour (ICM in The Guardian) confirms the trend in public opinion back towards the government. That does capture the initial public response to the political debate over the economic crisis. But I doubt the polls - good or bad - will tell us too much about future voting intentions for some months yet.

So stand by for a few pre-Christmas days of February election speculation - with silly season written all over it.

Why? Three things.

1. The commentariat's job is to speculate, especially with all this blog space to fill too. (Anthony Wells points out that both Martin Kettle and Julian Glover write about the poll by assessing the impact on election timing. That makes the claim that the Guardian poll will stoke a debate a self-fulfilling prophecy - yet neither gives any sense they think it likely.

2. The Conservatives are genuinely jumpy about how the polls have closed, because of anxiety about their approach to the economy. It won't help morale that the current ConservativeHome poll of polls now projects Labour as the largest party in the Commons. This is driving a panicky clash between strategy and tactics. Fear at being pinned with the "do nothing" label is leading to a somewhat contradictory hyperactivity.

3. But, slightly more craftily, even if the Conservatives do work out that it isn't going to happen, it is in their interests to try and stoke another non-election drama. So do expect the Iain Dale rumour mill to be in overdrive for the rest of the week. Just don't bet the bank on the rumours standing up, as Ben Brogan notes.

Unlike Autumn 2007, almost all of the noise about this is coming from the right, and it is based on absolutely nothing substantive. Meanwhile, Paul Linford's perfectly sensible, sceptical column reminds me that I have not read nor heard a single thing from anybody with a decent claim to know much about Labour who thinks this is serious.

So don't believe the hype. We will all have forgotten about February by Christmas. The June 2009 speculation may then begin on New Year's Day but I still think the crystal balls will be clearer after the Spring, and pointing to 2010.

Which reminds me of what I thought about this in the Autumn of 2007: fixed election dates, please.

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