Monday, March 20, 2006

An autumn election?

In today's The Times William Rees-Mogg makes a case for an autumn election.[Source]

Commenting on the widely held view that Tony Blair sold peerages for cash - and also the projected losses for Labour in the upcoming local elections - he wonders whether the Prime Minister might simply resign and so pave the way for the Gordon Brown succession. If this happens, the question then for Mr Brown is when to hold an election:

Mr Brown would then have to decide whether to establish his own mandate by holding an early election. There would be a strong case for him to do so. Like all parties that have been in office for a long time, Labour’s underlying support is falling; even at the past election their vote fell by 1.2 million. By 2010, the last year for the next general election, they are likely to have become even more unpopular. The last year in which Labour could win an overall majority could well be 2006.

Mr Rees-Mogg also points out another consideration for Labour to bear in mind, namely, that the current, favourable (to Labour) boundary conditions are set to change early in 2007:

At present, Labour has a majority of 64, which means it holds 32 more seats than the other parties combined. On the present timetable about half that majority will be removed by redistribution of the constituencies. That, however, will probably not take place until January 1, 2007. Any election held in 2006 would be fought on the existing boundaries.

For all sorts of reasons an autumn election - with all three parties led by new leaders and none of them in the post long enough to have created a solid set of policies to offer the public - could be simultaneously exciting and quite unpleasant. With Labour leading the polls - just - but facing widespread disillusion in the electorate I predict panic all round. Prepare for wholesale flip-flopping and lots of Punch and Judy.

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