A cliché it may be, but a week really is a long time in politics. For a while back there it seemed a foregone conclusion that Gordon Brown would call a snap election to capitalise on Labour’s lead and that David Cameron – surely the Conservative Party’s only credible hope? – would be finished before he even began. November 1st would be Brown Day, cementing him into power for five years purely on his own mandate. He would then sit back on his big throne, rub his hands together, and bellow a long, sinister laugh, before setting off to think up some ingenious new stealth taxes to punish us all with.
But it was not to be. One good speech from Cameron and some talk about scrapping inheritance tax was enough for the Conservatives to claw back some support in the polls. All of a sudden the PM – who, until now, had been deliberately coy on the subject – categorically states that there will be no election after all. From Gordon Brown to Gordon Brown Trousers. But we mustn’t be mean. They were just toying with the idea it seems. Don’t read too much into the fact that half of the Cabinet were openly talking about it or that they’d already recruited staff to focus on electoral strategy. And, of course, those polls taken in marginal seats predicting a Tory victory had nothing at all to do with this decision.
I’ve always been a great believer in the concept of fixed term elections rather than this constitutional anomaly that allows the incumbent government to call an election whenever it suits them. If Gordon really wanted to repair some of the damage then that might be a good way to go about it: rid us of this vestige of Parliamentary privilege and set the electoral process in stone. Is there anything less appropriate than a democratic government having the power to call an election when it’s convenient?