Speculation is mounting that there will be a General Election in October. The above clip is from tomorrow night's TALKING WITH TATCHELL (18 Doughty Street, 8.30pm), in which Tribune editor Chris McLaughlin pours cold water on the whole idea of an autumn election. He says...
“I’m told…that he [Gordon Brown] hasn’t generally made his mind up. My instinct, which has not been countered by any of the people I’ve been speaking to is that he would like to go next Spring rather than in 2009…. Definitely not in Autumn this year… because for the reason that it may not happen in Spring. Because if Gordon Brown is going to display his notorious caution in one respect, it’s going to be to make sure that the Labour party is in a condition to fight. It’s got no money, it’s still in debt…. It’s got half the staff it had a year ago”.
I reckon this is a smokescreen, and that the argument about having no money is a spurious one. We all know that there are enough donors and trade unions out there who would bankroll an election if called upon. I've just done an interview with the Associated Press on this subject and as I was speaking I realised that I really couldn't think of many arguments for Brown not to hold an autumn election.
If the polls hold up for him and he believes he will win, why on earth wouldn't he seek his own mandate? He would pre-empt the Tories' manifesto group, possibly catch the LibDems caught up in leadership machinations and be able to call an election before the Tory target seats campaign had properly got underway. In addition, if the economy looks as if it is heading south in the next 18 months, why wait to have an election until there are more interest rate rises. People have absorbed the rises so far, but if rates go up by another half a per cent, many people will find that they are paying more than £200 a month more in mortgage payments than they were a year ago.
So keep October 4, 11, 18 and 25 free in your diaries. I reckon there's a 30% chance of an election on one of those days.