I believe however there is a deeper purpose to Brown’s referral to the possibility of early elections and that is the effect is it hoped to have on the opposition parties. This cat-and-mouse of "will he, won't he" call a general election reminds me of the techniques employed by police negotiators in a siege situation: step up the drama to near crisis peak, relax it and then create another drama. Continue the cycle until the besieged are exhausted, then break down the door. Gordon Brown is attempting to stress his political opponents by using exactly the same mind game. He hopes by the time an election is really called, their activists will be in no shape to fight one. Brown has calculated that most of the British public are apathetic enough to be unaffected by this process.
Last night I listened to The Westminster Hour, read Nick Robinson's blog on the BBC site and heard Brown being interviewed this morning on the Today Programme. The game is still being played. To be frank, it has to be with collusion of the media because nobody raise the obvious point: neither Labour nor the Tories can afford to go to the country at this time. As of July 2007, Labour was in debt to the sum of £27million and the Conservatives owed £18million. The Liberal Democrats were looking pretty good in comparison, owing only £300,000. The recent scandals about payments for peerages and off-book "loans" means that New Labour and the Conservatives cannot employ the usual fund-raising routes to the wealthy elites, at least in the near future.
What would I do in Brown's position? I would go for an early election. The opposition are weak and it would head off the risk of disunity in the Labour movement - especially a factor in the unions at this time. Can New Labour afford to hold an election right now?
Not a chance.
Illustration credit: Gordon Brown after Newton by William Blake. Dave Brown