Saturday 12 December 2009

Why we'll have a May 6th election

I expect the General Election to take place on May 6th next year.

The Sunday Times has a report stoking up the idea of a March 25th election, suggesting this is fuelled by the paper's YouGov poll showing Labour with a nine point deficit (though not acknowledging the 17 point ComRes deficit in the Independent on Sunday, which might be the sort of thing to give a little pause for thought).

At one level, the story is a statement of the bleeding obvious: the Labour Party has said it will be ready to fight an election whenever the Prime Minister calls one. But it also contains on the record quotes from MPs who declare themselves up for it.

Bluff? Double bluff? Triple bluff? All or none of the above?

Whichever, it might not take the most brilliant of political strategists to note that speculating about election dates has not proved the most brilliant of ideas during this Parliament. It is unlikely to become so now. That is why this blog once made the modest proposal that anybody starting this up again might usefully be taken out and shot. (It is, however, in the interests of the commentariat and opposition to generate as many rounds of this speculation as they can, as I noted in a post on the latest flurry of speculation exactly 12 months ago).

One important, if pretty obvious, reason why May 6th is the natural choice was set out by Luke Akehurst last month: a much higher turnout in the local elections would result. That would be good for democracy and, as it happens, for Labour too.

This might particularly matter to a good chunk of the activist base which the party will want to motivate to fight the General Election campaign as if their lives depended upon it. Moreover, were Labour to unluckily lose a March election, the history suggests the party would after May find itself with a much, much weaker local government base from which to rebuild.

Some compelling reason why the party would expect to do enormously better if the election were held six weeks earlier might just trump that. Nothing credible has been suggested. If there is a brilliant, secret reason, it will be as well to make sure that it is well communicated to the party's footsoldiers.

In the absence of such a reason, it might well be in everybody's interest to shut up.

1 comment:

Vincenzo Rampulla said...

There seems at least one reason for an earlier election and that is to fight an election prior to a painful Budget statment.

Although the PBR incited a media uproar, it seems (from recent polls) that the public haven't been particularly moved by any of it.

So which does Brown fear more: next year's budget or a low local gov turnout (although Labour seems to be doing well in by elections at the moment!)