13 January 2011

May 2011 election? Total insanity

I very much enjoyed reading Tom Watson's piece arguing that Dave Cameron is a few months away from calling a snap election to dump the burnt-out Lib Dems and secure a mandate for a majority Tory government.

That doesn't mean I agree with the article of course: Like much of Labour Uncut, it's preposterous.

Most obviously because as far as I know, no PM has ever called an early election with his or her party behind in the polls. Even in the case of the famous misjudgements of Harold Wilson in 1970 and Ted Heath in February 1974, their respective parties were well ahead in the polls at the start of the campaign, and the mood only turned against them later. The Labour government of 1974-9 didn't run a full term but that was because it was defeated on a motion of no confidence, not because Jim Callaghan wanted an early election.

OK, so on some polls Labour is only a couple of points in front but why the hell would Cameron take the risk? Even if he thinks the polls are going to get much worse for the Tories very soon (and they will), this Tory-led govt still has 4 years to run.

But what about if the coalition collapses? Would that trigger an election? A look at the arithmetic suggests probably not. There are probably at least a dozen 'Orange Booker' Lib Dems who would support Cameron come what may. The Tories have 307 seats. Add together the Orange Bookers and a few Northern Irish Unionists and then they have a majority, even if a painfully thin one.

Watson does the best he can with the thesis but it's still a non-starter in my opinion.

And in a way I'm relieved. Obviously the ConDems are a crapshower and we would be better off without them, but anyone who thinks Ed Miliband is anywhere near ready to lead a government yet is a certified lunatic (and to be fair, Watson recognises this). It will take time for Labour to work up an alternative strategy, and I think they are planning on the basis that this Parliament will run its full course to 2015. In the circumstances I think that's sensible - although if the coalition does fragment, if not collapse, it makes it much harder to them to win key parliamentary votes and the opposition tends to prosper in such a situation (as in 1974-9 and 1992-7). So Ed will probably bide his time and wait for these guys to screw up. Which they are doing, big time.

No comments: