Well, at least Dave Cameron will keep his job for another couple of years. He should be raising a glass or two to Gordon. Press speculation has been the prime mover of this story for weeks, but Gordon and team are guilty of errors too. I always thought it was an outside chance that there would be an election called; even Littlejohn predicted that he wouldn't take the risk. There were arguments to be had for going early but they were outweighed by the following:
- The cautious Brown has waited 10 years for his destiny. Why jeopardise this by seeking an early mandate?
- The constant calls for an election by opponents on the basis of his unopposed accession and coronation were historically dishonest. Major did not go to the nation after Thatcher was unceremoniously stabbed in the back; Callaghan clung on from 1976 until his Commons majority vanished.
- Furthermore, our system (rightly or wrongly) is not a Presidential one. We elect individual MPs from parties that in turn select a leader. Subject to the Queen's (largely formal) prerogative, the leader of the party with the greatest number of seats is (usually) asked to form a Government.
- Although nobody knows what is round the country (some economic problems seem likely) an extension gives GB the chance to show his political acumen in running the country, in the same way as he was instrumental in running the economy during the Blair tenure. Cameron looks weak here. His lack of experience (he doesn't show sign of ever having shaved!) should count against him.
- It may be apocryphal but Labour does not like to fight winter elections. It was always felt that the core vote would not get out. Now that party allegiances have broken down somewhat this may be less of a problem. However, perception is important. Party activists do not like to canvass on dark nights as fewer people answer the door. in our hi-tec world, tub thumping and door stepping may be less crucial, but perception is again the key here.
- After the Brown Bounce we had the baffling Cameron Comeback in the polls. This will not last. Brown is an experienced campaigner. He may lack the pulpit prose of his predecessor but he outdoes DC in terms of conviction. Just what does DC stand for? It changes with the wind. Quite how the Inheritance Tax issue has become important is a mystery. Johann Hari quite rightly pointed out on BBC News 24 today that it affects only 6% of the population. How has the other 94% suddenly become the great dispossessed. Labour's failure here has been to go onto the back foot instead of turning the argument on its head.