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?

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He should do neither…he should call an election early next year, spring/summer when we are all feeling a bit good about life because the sun is out and yes the economy is shot but hey we can still wear shorts and not get frostbite…

Seriously, if I was in his position the last thing I would do is hold out until there could be 3m unemployed. The reverse argument to what you write here Stephen is once bitten, twice shy and I think Labour’s poll ratings will be in the right place and his self-confidence will be enough for him to call a poll early next year…

by Darrell on November 19, 2008 at 3:00 pm. Reply #

Things that are going to get better.

– Inflation is falling fast

– peoples on tracker mortgages will start to see falls in repayments from next month.

– Petrol is comming down

– it looks like we are going to get the mother of all fiscal stimuli

Things that are going to get worse.

– basically all the “lagging indicators”. Unemployment, Repossesions, debt defaults.

If I were a Labour strategist I’d have a graph with two lines on plotting how quickly the first is kicking in before the second really gets grim.

I’d also factor in the psyhcology of the solar cycle. Any election before the spring equinox/clocks going forward will just feel grim.

by David Morton on November 19, 2008 at 3:16 pm. Reply #

It is simple. Gordan Brown will only call a general election if he thinks he can win. The alternative is the Major scenario, hoping something will turn up and waiting invain before it is too late.
Currently Labour is closing the gap, but does not deserve to because it signed up to the free market fundamentalism that has got us into this trouble we are in today.
However it appears none of the political parties are capturing the public imagination, largely I suspect as they seem so similar to each other.

by Geoffrey Payne on November 19, 2008 at 3:19 pm. Reply #

“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.”

That’s not actually true. The two most recent polls (from YouGov and Ipsos Mori) would give Labour more seats than the Tories on a uniform swing projection.

And if the Lib Dems retained more seats than indicated on a uniform swing projection, that would be mainly to the detriment of the Tories.

It’s also interesting to note that – according to Mike Smithson – if Ipsos Mori hadn’t rejigged their weightings as a reaction to the London mayoral result, their most recent ratings would have been Con 39 Lab 39 Lib Dem 12, which on a uniform swing projection would give Labour a majority of 30 seats in the Commons.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on November 19, 2008 at 4:49 pm. Reply #

He will wait until the last minute and call a poll then. By that time Dave will have shot his bolt completely and may even have been replaced by ever-panicky Tories.

We’re focusing on the wrong ‘lame duck’ leader.

by wit and wisdom on November 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm. Reply #

I think he should “go now”, but I’m not referring to an election.

by Richard Huzzey on November 19, 2008 at 6:54 pm. Reply #

Bottler Brown does not have the balls to call an early election. He is weak and indecisive.

by evil g on November 19, 2008 at 11:10 pm. Reply #

Gordon rulled out an election this year and even if he hadn’t callig one just before Christmas would probably not be that well received. I think ‘go now’ really means go in the spring. It is certainly worth preparing for that probability.

by Simon on November 19, 2008 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

Oh, PLEASE let him hang on.

It’s a joy to watch :oD

by Tom Papworth on November 20, 2008 at 12:49 am. Reply #

First Thursday in May 2009, when Lib Dems and some Tories are defending their County council seats rather than travelling to target Parliamentary seats to campaign.

by Terry Gilbert on November 20, 2008 at 11:14 pm. Reply #

Terry – most of us will be campaigning for County, unitary and European seats on the first Thursday in June next year.

I think Brown could benefit from going early. As a previous poster has suggested there are some good indicators coming in the short term. By 2010 there is a good chance of things being a lot worse. A March / April 2009 date seems a possible option.

by Ann-Marie on November 20, 2008 at 11:28 pm. Reply #

Gordon Brown should realise that he is not suited to the job of PM and therefore resign as leader of the Labour Party giving a fresh face the chance to gain credibility before a 2010 election. Gordon could then join the IMF?

by Paul Quinton on November 21, 2008 at 7:00 pm. Reply #

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