06 October 2007

SUPER MASSIVE MEGA-IMPORTANT NEWS: Something is not going to happen

All right, so we won't be going to the polls this year, give it a rest people!

Brown was not planning an Election, at least, not initially. The finances aren't yet in order and not all the necessary planning has been put into action. This was a reaction to a longer-than-expected bounce, and Tory infighting. Both have now come to an end: the Tory Conference served to counter-balance the attention that's been given to Labour recently, and the relentless election talk galvanised them into a show of unity. Brown's caution was right.

It's the young Turks who need a slapping: they do not remember Wilson going to the country in 1970, thinking victory was certain, or Heath's snap election in February 1974, called in an attempt to prove a point that backfired so badly. They do not remember election speculation getting so wildly out of control in 1978, but they do remember Callghan waiting and then having the issue decided for him, and losing. Though they forget that Callaghan himself had been PM since 1976, and election chatter began in earnest in 1978 - a two-year gap.

And so we hear talk of the 'Second Decade of New Labour', a moribund oppositon, the need for an Election now. They assume that victory is certain, and for many of them, victory is all they have known. They forgot that the voters could upset their plans, just as they did to Wilson, and again to Heath four years on. Older, wiser heads have prevailed.

However, Brown is also culpable: firstly for allowing speculation to get out of control in the first place, and secondly, for publicly ruling out a 2008 Election. If he goes back on that, the BBC will dig out the "No election this year or next" quote, and waiting till 2009 is an extra year for things to go wrong: initiative and advantage could still be with him in the early part of next year. Or at least, they could have been. Brown has nailed his trousers to the mast, and he may regret that.

Frankly, I'm relieved: this would have been the most farcical campaign in a long time, with everything thrown together at the last minute. And it's a good example of why fixed-term Parliaments are a good idea: if we already know on what date an Election will be held, we can actually think about other aspects of politics for at least a little while until that date draws closer. The other aspects, like policies about the things people care about.

So to our MPs I say this: go back to your Constituencies, and do the job you're supposed to be doing instead of panicking about getting your contract renewed!


Ted Harvey said...

The issue is not whether "Brown's caution was right". The issue is that his dithering and party-self-interested dithering was wrong - and that in the end his bad judgement and odd non-democratic instincts came to the fore (note that I do not say he has anti-democratic instincts). Alf Young in last Friday's Herald provided an excellent brief history on Brown's aversion to open electoral process going back to the late 70s in the Hamilton by-election when he wanted a no-opposition shoo-in.

Brown's base judgement was to allow the election fever to mount and this was certainly contrary to the interests of the country (good God, I found myself agreeing with Malcolm Rifkind on this!). He reneged on his Prime Ministerial role on this matter and reduced the calling of a General Election to the level of what-does-the-most-recent-poll-say-about-my-personal-mandate? and anyway... he just got it wrong.

But indeed let's nor forget the Turks. Most prominent among these is Douglas Alexander heading up the Labour General Election organisation.

He somehow escaped back to Westminster and avoided blame for his complete culpability in the Scottish election disaster that was the 2-elections-on-one-day-with-a-new-system. This again was driven purely by party self-interest and... again...he just got it all wrong. So forward to Labour's next election debacle because Douglas Alexander is still there at their election campaign organisation.

Lord Higham-Johnson said...

Yeah, super mega news, Will. Incidentally, the Word Verification is fuspuak - isn't that vaguely rude?

Will said...

I was visited by the Sarcasm Pixies last night, I think, mainly as I was struck about how excited the MSM got at the thought of an event not taking place!

To me, 'fuspuak' sounds like some sort of wild rodent, possibly a native of Borneo.

And Ted, I quite agree. Brown should have come out right away this time last month and said, 'No poll now', and Douglas Alexander has had an awful year: his abysmal performance on the Election fiasco (both the conduct of the poll and the Labour campaign), and his naivety in the last month. His sister isn't doing particularly well either. Perhaps both the Alexander siblings, hailed as the bright future of Scottish Labour, have been over-promoted.

Mountjoy said...

I expect Labour to be decimated in Scotland by SNP come the next election ... Brown would probably have done reasonably well (with a few losses) this time ... but in a few years, he will be in for a serious kicking ... as only us Celts can administer in our inimitable style :-)