Nervous Gordon Election in Hospital Spin Row; Pressing On: David Cameron Leaves Home with the Papers Today Tight-Lipped: Gordon Brown Opens Basildon Hospital's Cardiothoracic Unit Today. However, the Conservatives Claim the Centre Had Already Been Officially Opened in July

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

GORDON BROWN wore a distinctly nervous grin today when asked about aNovember election.

Amid heated speculation that the Prime Minister is backing away from a snappoll, he kept his lips shut during a hospital visit.

With three polls being rushed out overnight, early unofficial indications arethat Mr Brown's 11-point lead has been slashed to just four or five points.

That is based on fieldwork carried out before Mr Cameron's keynote speech -which means the lead could be even lower in weekend surveys.

One senior Labour source said there was evidence of "a big Cameron bounce"after the Tory conference. But the same insider pointed out that oustedConservative leader Iain Duncan Smith enjoyed a seven-point boost after one ofhis speeches.

Meanwhile, there were signals in Whitehall that there will be no decks-clearing"Super- Monday" of statements on Iraq, the Chancellor's three-yearly spendingreview and Pre-Budget Report. This might imply a delay.

Decision day is set to be Sunday when Mr Brown holds a council of war withadvisers.

But the impression around Westminster was of enthusiasm cooling for the 1November or 8 November options.

Mr Brown was giving nothing away. When a reporter called out "Smile, if it's aNovember election!", the Premier replied with a grin. But did it reflect theconfidence of a man ready to gamble everything? Or perhaps a near-grimace as heponders the favourable reaction to David Cameron's speech? Mr Brown was notshort of advice - with London Mayor Ken Livingstone protesting that an autumnelection was a "dreadful" idea. "I think you need an election as the sun'sbursting out at the beginning of summer," the Mayor told BBC radio.

Mr Livingstone has his own motives for wanting a delay. As revealed in lastweek's Standard, he fears "voter fatigue" if Londoners are asked to come outboth in November and in the mayoral election next May, putting his own hopes ofre-election in danger. The first public verdict on the party conference seasonis due at 7pm tonight with a snap survey of marginal seats for Channel 4 News.

ICM is then polling for the Guardian, Populus is conducting a survey for theTimes and

The first is due at 7pm tonight when a snap poll of marginal seats for Channel4 News will reveal whether Mr Cameron achieved a bounce in Blackpool. …

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