What should Gordon do – go now, or hold on?

by Stephen Tall on November 19, 2008

Imagine you’re the Prime Minister. In your first three months you were hailed as a Colossus. Then you flunked your first really big decision: whether to call a general election. Since when your poll ratings dropped so low your government was in open revolt. But then the world economy imploded, and you grabbed, belatedly, your final opportunity to make good. Since when your poll ratings have recovered, a little.

So now what do you do if you are Gordon Brown? Prepare to call a general election in early 2009?

Easy enough to imagine the statement: “These are difficult times for the British people. I have the experience and proven judgment to lead our nation through them etc.” The advantages are clear. Now might be as good as it gets for Mr Brown – we’re all alert to the current economic downturn, but few of us are suffering from it, yet. Give it any longer, and recession reality will bite at the same time as memories fade of Gordon’s role in the recovery.

Trouble is, even the best polls for Labour (and by no means all of them are that good) suggest the Tories will emerge as at least the largest single party in a hung Parliament. It’s almost impossible to imagine how Gordon Brown could continue as Prime Minister in such circumstances; even if he did, all his energies would be devoted to managing his majority, none to his legislative programme.

And anyway there’s a strong possibility that the British people will see an early election as a ‘cut and run’ exercise, that Gordon Brown is once again elevating party advantage over national concern; which, after all, is what many thought the Prime Minister was considering in autumn 2007.

It’s not an easy choice:
>> Go now, and face accusations of playing politics with the recession, and probably lose your majority; or
>> Hold on, and hope the voters remember fondly your role in the bank bail-out while forgetting your role in the ‘credit crunch’.

Odds-on Gordon will choose to hold-on and hope; it’s his default position. But what would you do, if you were Gordon?