Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

October's the Best Bet, but Gordon Is Probably Too Cautious to Gamble

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

October's the Best Bet, but Gordon Is Probably Too Cautious to Gamble

Article excerpt


A YEAR AGO I was in No 10 advising Tony Blair as he faced an attempt byhis own MPs to remove him from office. In the wake of that terrible week forthe Labour Party, how many people would have predicted that 12 months laterthere would be a serious case for Prime Minister Brown to call a snap generalelection? But case there issimply because the last year has seen so many Labour fears confounded andConservative hopes dashed.

There appeared to be three political certainties as we approached last year'sconference season. First, that the Blair Brown transition would be ugly.

Second, that David Cameron would avoid the miserable fate of his threepredecessors as opposition leader. And, third, that middle England's swingvoters would find it hard, if not impossible, to take to Gordon Brown.

Yet not only did Labour's leadership transition go better than anyone expected,but the sense the Tories had taken Brown's unpopularity for granted has beenjust one of the factors leading to a loss of confidence in Cameron'sleadership.

It doesn't take much bad news for the Tory Party to start turning on itself.That's why Gordon Brown's summer poll leads have ranged between five and 12 percent and why the last few weeks have seen more people making the case for anearly election. So my advice would be to call an election in October or earlyNovember.

I would cite the summer polls of coursebut I might put more emphasis on those now showing that Labour's lead isnarrowing.

The Conservatives' recent summer offensive has landed some blows. Just whenCameron needed an agenda he could exploit, crime and the European Union havemoved into the spotlight.

Meanwhile the flurry of reports from Conservative policy groupstwo more this weekare helping deal with the allegation that the new Tories are all positioningand no substance.

The Brown bounce will not last long after the summer break. None of thischanges the fact he is still favourite to win an election next year or in 2009but it does strengthen the case for going earlier.

Cameron may be doing better but the big question marks about his judgment andpolicies will not be removed in the next few weeks. …

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