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It is a real risk, and it is clear we need to make progress and work as hard as possible to get in a position to fight a general election any time. Many changes need to be made and much needs to be achieved, however fast we need to act, that doesnt mean we should neglect logic and consultation of the membership, everything we must do, must be true to our values, every change we need to make, needs to be consistant with our beliefs.

Yes I have heard a few commentators air this opinion and the risk of course is that all of the policy reviews will be far form finished and we won’t be able to come up with a viable and coherent manifesto. On the other hand can you really see Brown who thinks he should have been labour leader in 1994 risk the prize he has sort for so many years straight away.

The Chairman of my home association is very concerned about the freeze on candidates being selected in most constituencies. If Brown is elected in that annual autumn Labour meeting (usually a formality that rubber stamps Blair each year) then we'd be left high and dry.

I believe it is possible that that Blair will go after this May's local elections. Recent local results suggest that the outcome could be devastating for the Labour Party and that Blair will be kicked out afterwards.

If that is the case - is it possible Brown would call a snap election this year?

The Policy Forums wont be finished in time. 18 months is a very long time. "Press me and the Conservative team to work harder, to move faster, to make the changes we need". Cameron's right, we need the changes quickly but we need the right changes. This Built to Last is important and you cant just rush it through. Similarly with the policies. We cant just cobble together some policies which look nice on paper when in scrutiny they just dont work.

I can't see GB rushing to face the electorate unless the financial picture looks so dire that he can't spin things out for a few more years.

Perhaps he can get Tessa Jowell to take out a few mortgages for 'investment opportunities' in skools-n-ospitals and then forget about them and then take out some more mortgages a couple of years later and do the same all over again. After all we now know this is perfectly acceptable behaviour.

I am hoping that the 18 month policy review process is set to finish by the end of 2007 and we will not be waiting that long for policy groups to report.

Now we have Built to Last on which to base policy we should be capable of getting some good ideas together before then.

I think if the ideas are bold enough there is no chance of Labour nicking them - Bliar may want to but he seems to have pushed his backbenchers as far as they can go in terms of sensible politics and they are all seeking the comfort blanket of deranged levels of public spending and perpetual poverty for their constituents.

I don't think el Presidente will be around for much longer though as from what I saw of his Parkinson interview he's started talking about how God guided him over Iraq policy. Ignoring Al Campbell's advice to not do God shows just how deranged TB is becoming IMHO.

If in doubt, blame God. What a cheap excuse.

Perhaps God thinks He's Tony Blair!

Or perhaps TB meant "Gord"!

On the subject of moving faster, anyone have a report from the CF Conference in Redhill from last week? Everyone have a good time?

I told you lot Blair would become more messianic in his 3rd term, didnt I? Now just stop scoffing, and get behind Cameron, we have not got any time to waste.That Scottish speech should show even the most unreconstructed right winger that he knows what he is about for us, and more importantly, for the country.

If Tony went by this Autumn's Labour conference (seeming ever more likely- Education, Jowell and Parkinson might bring that about) I think Gordon would be thinking about Spring 2008 or Autumn 2008. By Autumn the press would be in full election fever mode - we'd expect a Spring 2009 election anyway. Even if Tony held on into early 2007, Gordon would be looking at 2008.

Though as Sunny Jim & John Major showed i'ts hard for an unelected PM to go early - the PM feels he ought to demonstrate his competency and step out of his predessor's shadow. But I'd plan for early 2008 as a possibility, Autumn 2008 as very likely.

If he thinks we need to rush, why on earth did he give 18months for the policy reviews? The results better be thought through and credible!

As I understood it the policy reviews aren't meant to be 'go away report back in 18 months" exercises - we are meant to get outputs throughout the reviews (so enabling kite flying, market testing, focus groups etc - or even feedback from party members).

I think we will find that by early 2007 we have ready a set of broad policies bits of which are floated this year. But key is that DC continues to underline the people/local empowerment agenda v Gordon as spider at centre of the state web. That gives right mood music before the policies are set out.

As I understand it, the point of the Policy Forums was to come up with some policies to recommend to the leader to take to the country. I think the aim was something more specific than outposts. I thought the aim was for them to come up with some policies rather than some generalities which Our Leader seems to be coming up with by himself.

I'm pleased to see that Osborne in his speech really goes in for Gordon and uses Scotland as an example of where GB would take the rest of Britain. I particularly liked
"Gordon Brown can change his shirts, he can change his ties, he can even change his teeth – but what he really needs to change is the economic policies that are taking Scotland and the rest of Britain in the wrong direction.

We won’t get any change of direction from Brown’s friend and neighbour the Liberal Democrat leader. He may be new but his ideas are old. And you know what happens when Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberals get together. Because you see it in Holyrood. An ever expanding state. Unreformed public services. Slower economic growth. Policies of the past that cannot meet the challenges of the future."

What was good was DC mostly leading on the upbeat stuff, with some attacks, but mostly about what we can do for Britain leaving the attacks to his shadow cabinet colleagues.

One question - is Gordon having his teeth done? Must be a private dentist.....

I can't see Brown going for an autumn election, if only because an election at that time of year would likely hit the turnout of Labour voters in marginals...

Personally I thought William Hague's Scottish Conference speech was more impressive and showed that he has a grasp of foreign affairs beyond the EPP (boo, hiss etc) and Iraq.

DVA - DC, Osborne, Hague thought all looked very good on website (didn't see the delivery)
Rifkind's poor - not sure we need to overtly defend against the Blair comparison.
Goldies interesting for the overt tax message at end - could play well in Scotland where Lab/Lib Dem failures of tax & spend are more open to reform/lower tax than I think England is ready for. If Scots Tories do well in Scots elections with a low tax pledge it could put pressure on DC/Osborne in 2008/9/10

There was talk that Trimble might put himself up for a seat in the UK as a Conservative should he lose in NI… any word as to that happening?

I would have thought there would be seats in Scotland that could suite him very well… any thoughts?

I think it is very unlikely that there'll be an early election. Historically early elections have rarely been called, save for when the government has a tiny/no majority, and usually they are not rewarded for it anyway - Ted Heath anyone? Also if, as is likely, Labour will be trailing in the opinion polls, why on earth would Brown want to risk losing power by calling an early election? I'm sticking to 2009/10 personally.

"Why on earth would Brown want to risk losing power by calling an early election?"

Two words for you: honeymoon period.

Oh, and another three: economic time bomb.

I think the public would see through an early election, and they wouldn't reward Labour for it. That said, we've got to be prepared for all eventualities.

If there was no possibility of a 2008 election, then why did Jim Lumb from Treasureres reckon new leader for nulab feb 2008,( I figured end of 2007), and General Election summer of 2008?? Said he had a hunch. Chickens will be coming home to roost for Labour. I have the notes I made at Harrogate Feb 18th by me.I had the random thought that he had a passing affinity with the ancient art, which of course I instantly dismissed. But I did have a little chuckle to myself.

Why all this needless speculation? Surely Annabel can read it in the stars for us?

Touche, William, Touche


I think it is very unlikely that there'll be an early election. Historically early elections have rarely been called, save for when the government has a tiny/no majority, and usually they are not rewarded for it anyway - Ted Heath anyone?

I would counter with Jim Callaghan. He could have called an early election in September 1978. Although we will never know for sure, many think that he so done, he may well have won. He didn't, he hung on. Thankfully for Britain, this meant the election of Lady Thatcher and the saving of this nation. Look also at John Major, who hung on, and on, until the last possible moment, and lead his party to the most crushing defeat ever.

If I was Brown, I would go early. As has been pointed out above - honeymoon period, and avoiding the devastation of the economic time bomb that will surely soon follow his elevation. I think he will go sooner rather than later. We must be prepared.

"Look also at John Major, who hung on, and on, until the last possible moment, and lead his party to the most crushing defeat ever."

Citing John Major as a case for early elections won't really wash here I'm afraid - if he'd called the election earlier, the result would have been the same or probably even worse. Right, that's my counterfactualist history done with for the day.

Daniel, forgive my asking a potentially stupid question, but how could it have been worse?! There was no way, after the death of John Smith, that the Tories would ever have been returned whenever the election was held: That I do agree with. But I don't think that anyone comtemplated the magnitude of the catstrophe of 1997 before it happened. Not even Bliar. Had he done so, he would never have given the manifesto committment to a referendum on the Euro, nor would he have so actively courted Paddy Ashdown's support. He thought he might need it.

It's dangerous to play 'what if' with history. But, with the wonderful 20-20 vision of hindsight, Major could not have done worse whenever he went to the country.

My only point is that I think if we dismiss Brown going early (and I think he will - time will tell) then we risk being unprepared. Fail to plan, plan to fail.

I doubt he'll call a General Election before 2009 - I rather think that it is likely he will hold it on the same day as the next European Elections and that the Council Elections that year will be moved forward to that date.

Elections earlier than 4 years have a very poor success rate, when Harold Wilson called a General Election in 1966 he was in a situation in which he had started with a majority of only 5 and the government had lost it's majority and in October 1974 again he could claim the need for a mandate - otherwise when he tried an early General Election in 1970 he lost unexpectedly and so did Edward Heath in February 1974, if Gordon Brown calls a General Election in 2008 or earlier then I would think it would be virtually certain that Labour would lose it's majority.

>>>>Citing John Major as a case for early elections won't really wash here I'm afraid - if he'd called the election earlier, the result would have been the same or probably even worse.<<<<
The election occurring while he was in a European Conference probably just highlighted divisions in the Conservative Party and his having to take time out to campaign and debate positions regarding what he should do in that conference made things far worse, if the General Election had been in the Autumn of the previous year at a time when he wasn't in conference I think it wouldn't have been nearly as bad as it eventually turned out to be, other than that if Neil Hamilton had been bound and gagged and stuck somewhere out of site of the media maybe it would have been quite a close election between Labour and the Conservative Party more like the 1964 General Election, especially without John Smith as Labour Leader - in many ways John Smith was a far greater threat than Tony Blair ever was because he was a brilliant strategist and inspired Labour supporters to turnout in strength.

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