This insane hyperbole (“humiliating retreat”? “cling to office”? “extraordinary indecision and extraordinary weakness”? You what?) shows just how worried the Tories still are. Yes, Cameron made a storming speech at the conference the other day, and yes they’ve had a big boost in the polls over the last week or so.
But the one question the advocates of an autumn general election have singularly failed to answer is: “why?”
There are two reasons to have a general election: 1) The government is coming to the end of its legally-limited five year term in office, and 2) The government no longer has a sufficient majority to see legislation through the House of Commons. That’s it.
Brown has a large Commons majority and a good two and a half years left before he legally has to call an election. So why the hell should he? Because the party leader, and therefore Prime Minister, has changed mid-term? So why no elections in 1990, 1976, 1963, 1957, 1955, 1940, etc. etc. etc.? It’s a nonsense.
Yes, Brown could have called an election to get a re-affirmed mandate for his government. But the time to do that was the moment he took over from Blair. Calling one three months later – after riding high in the polls all summer following a series of moderately well-handled crises and a succession of Tory cock-ups – would smack of dangerous opportunism. For what’s to stop any government from repeatedly calling snap elections when they’re temporarily doing well once that precedent’s set?
Brown should have said more forcefully on taking over that he was going to serve the full term (but you can understand why he didn’t – after all, Labour were elected on the promise that Blair was soon to be going). That he didn’t is most likely because he didn’t think the Tories were so desperate as to keep up the election calls all summer, because – excluding the last two weeks of Tory bounceback – an election at any point in the last four months would have seen yet another Labour landslide.
And as for the electorate? Less than two-thirds bothered to show for the election two years ago – what makes anyone think they could be bothered now?
It’s too soon after Brown’s takeover to see just how similar or different he is from Blair, and I doubt if anyone could tell you what David Cameron stands for. (Hell, I’m more than averagely politically aware, and I genuinely haven’t got a clue about either of them… In fact, I’m not even sure where my constituency’s boundary lies any more, since the re-jig a year or so back…) We all need at least another year of Brown in charge to see the real him, preferably two. And Cameron, lest we forget, is still so new that Brown had already been Chancellor for four years by the time young Dave entered parliament…
A snap, three week election campaign would merely ensure that the public is even more uncertain about which of these two slightly mysterious, little-known figures would be best to lead the country. And uncertainty in politics breeds both apathy and resentment far more than does a Prime Minister deciding not to bow to pressure from the opposition and launch an expensive and unnecessary mid-term election.