Friday, 12 March 2010

The Battle is (almost) Joined

The announcement that the Budget will be March 24th makes it 90 per cent certain that the General Election date is May 6th. I would anticipate that the PM will go to the Palace and ask for a dissolution of Parliament sometime in early April, although it's likely that campaigning will all but start unofficially immediately after the Budget.

Those much closer to the thinking within New Labour than I suggest that the PM favours a long campaign, circa 6 weeks, (I can hear the groans from the electorate as I write this) to shine as lengthy a spotlight as possible on Conservative economic policies.

The unknown factor this time is the televised debates which should, in theory, favour Cameron, but I suspect won’t have a significant bearing on the campaign. The electorate already has a pretty good idea of the personalities of the main players so, barring major gaffes, I can’t see them swinging it either way. The only issue that the Tories might face is that the last debate, on the BBC which is likely to make it the most watched, is on the economy. That has to be a slight Labour advantage.

I suspect Labour will like the position they are currently in ie. the underdog. It must be remembered that Brown is a very good General Election strategist (remember he’s won three on the run as head of the New Labour campaign).

All of the character traits which are so ruthlessly exposed as opportunistic in power, in particular short term tactical maneuvers designed solely to wrongfoot the Opposition (remember inheritance tax), can often work well in an General Election campaign which is all about shafting the other guy. It was Brown, for example, who came up with the idea of withdrawing the Labour candidate from Knutsford in 1997 to allow Martin Bell to run against Neil Hamilton as an anti-sleaze candidate.

My gut feeling is that it’s all to play for which should make for a fascinating, if long, six weeks when the gun finally goes off.


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