Is an '08 general election on the cards?

by Stephen Tall on June 25, 2007

‘Election set for 2008’ is how The Times today reports the handover of the Labour leadership from Blair & Prescott to Brown & Harman.

Even more authoritatively, bookmakers William Hill have slashed the odds on a general election being held in 2008 from 10/1 to 5/1, according to readaBet.com. (Though 2009 remains the punters’ favourite.)

Even if our soon-to-be-PM does go to the country in ’08, it will be a year too late according to Lib Dem leader, Ming Campbell:

“This has been the longest coronation in history. Neither Labour members nor the British public have chosen the new Prime Minister. He should seek a mandate immediately.”

His call has been echoed by Ming’s deputy, Vince Cable:

“The Liberal Democrats believe that such is the power of a modern prime minister that we have in effect a presidential system, and Gordon Brown should be willing to submit himself to an early general election to establish basic political legitimacy.”

While Vince is right that we do have a de facto presidential system, I’m not as convinced as he seems to be that Lib Dems should seek to re-inforce the notion. As Lib Dem MP Steve Webb commented last week, in the wake of the leaking of Mr Brown’s overtures to the Lib Dems:

“It’s true to say that Labour got nothing like a majority of the popular vote last time, but our electoral system did [give] them a mandate to govern, and they should get on with it.”

I think our party can find a few ways to put the time to good use.