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Gordon Brown will not worry about being seen as a coward if he backs down. His only worry is about winning in a way that gives him a mandate. If he can't do that, he won't cut and run. IMHO he can't guarantee it - so he won't run.

I suppose its all about the polls now.

A lot of Labour MPs in marginals are pushing for Brown to go early. Here is a recent story about Ruth Kelly's disintergrating popularity.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to hit drivers across Greater Manchester with congestion charges could see Transport secretary Ruth Kelly lose her Bolton West seat, a new survey suggests.

A poll of voters in her Bolton West constituency revealed that 76 per cent of people said they were "very" or "quite" unlikely to vote for Ms Kelly in a general election if road charging was introduced.

She will defend a majority of 2,064 at the next election, facing Trafford council leader Susan Williams, who will be the Conservative candidate and an as yet unnamed Liberal Democrat.

Ms Williams' council has already voted against submitting a £3bn bid to the government's Transport Innovation Fund - which would trigger a local congestion charge of up to £5 a day at peak hours.

However, the bid still went in because of the votes of a majority of councils in Greater Manchester.

Aspect Market Research carried out the telephone poll of 300 people, half in Bolton West and half in other parts of Bolton.

A total of 77 per cent said they did not agree that improved public transport should be funded by congestion charging.

And 61 per cent of people who voted for Ms Kelly at the last election in 2005 said they were 'very' or 'quite' unlikely to vote for her again.

The poll was commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses.

The new poll came as Ms Kelly told the Labour conference that a pay-as-you-drive road network was ultimately 'inevitable'. She said the economic cost of congestion would eventually force the government's hand.

"Ultimately some form of road pricing is inevitable," she said.

It still comes down to the fact that Gordon Brown won't call an election that he is not 100% he'll win - and he'll want a decent majority to give his government some power. A small majority will not be enough to tempt him into calling an autumn election.

Ben Brogan has concluded that there will NOT be an autumn election.

Tony, she's actually got a bigger majority now because of boundary changes.

Ive said for a long time (the only person in my area) that Brown will not call an election this year. He wont care about being indecisive.

A retreat now will be an amazing loss of face and removes a lot of stories and circulation from the newspapers. They will not be happy if he chickens out.

After boundary changes Labour's majority is down to 48 - so he needs to win seats in order to match Blair's 2005 majority
So many things are different from 2005 that I don't know that there is much point making a comparison. Effects of boundary changes and new seats are very difficult to predict statistically - most of the data used for predicting notional results is from Local Elections which is not comparing like with like. I have no doubt that with new leaders of not just the 3 main parties, but also UKIP and a substantial clearout of old candidates by many parties that voting patterns will be likely to be significantly different from 2005. This might mean that with the same percentage votes as in 2005 that the result could be anything from a Hung Parliament to a larger Labour majority - the Liberal Democrats might retain all their seats despite a sizeable fall in their vote. Most of the media people who talk about these things just like to waffle and know very little about it and many people in the general public seem to fall for this, I am sure many actually believe somehow that there is actually some kind of real adjustment to the numbers of MPs beforehand based on notional data.

Gordon Brown will have a bit of flak whatever he announces, if he calls a General Election now he will be cutting & running, if he doesn't then the question will be why he didn't say earlier that he saw no reason for a General Election this Autumn, in the case of the latter though the effects will die down over a bit of time.

As I see it his best options are between either having a Super Thursday on Local Election\London Mayoral Election day in 2008 or an even bigger Super Thursday on 11 June 2009, any time in 2008 other than on the same day as nationwide elections happening on the same day and people will be more annoyed on the grounds that they are being called out unnecessarily.

Point No 4 should be the situation in Scotland which is not mentioned .

- not good for Brown .

With the mountain we have to climb, we would not win a November GE unless, there was an extraordinary swing to the Conservatives.
At the moment we would have to concentrate on taking a big leap up that mountain.
No one expects us to win, but Brown cannot risk losing even a small part of that majority achieved by Blair in 2005. He has tried to destabilise the opposition parties with his threats of going early whilst riding high in the polls.
The greater risk for Brown is not just a defeat, but also a much reduced majority destabilising his own government. Sometimes winning a small majority isn't always the best outcome for a party, ask the Tories after 92'!

Brown's purpose in flirting with the probability of an election was to force Cameron to show his hand at Blackpool. The Tories had been offering very little of substance to attack or to plan to attack other than the personality and background of David Cameron. Brown had also anticipated that by making the Tories believe that the moment of judgement was imminent that the party would implode into recriminations as the realisation dawned that the cause was hopeless.

In the former he has, to some extent, succeeded with the pledge on IHT, for example, but in the latter he has spectacularly misjudged the fighting spirit of the Conservative party.

The polls this weekend will show parity and in combination with the refreshed threat from Cameron the conclusion would seem that an immediate election is unlikely. However, Brown knows that a major recession is looming in 2008-9 and that the currently sympathetic media and complacent public will be on him like a pack of veloceraptors when the house price bubble bursts.

He will call an election for November 1st.

And I am sorry Scotty but we will win the GE if we play the English card. Not anti-Scot but pro justice for England.

The problem with this formula is that £10 million can't be spent in the target seats if an election happens on November 1st. The rules limiting election expenditure prevent it.

The Tories CANNOT win, because elections are now, to call a spade a spade, rigged against them. Not necessarily against any conservative party. Not necessarily against any "free" market "libertarian" party (which would just lose, fair and square). But against the Tories. This is just the fact of the matter.

But the Tory bogeyman is the only thing keeping the Labour Party in existence. If such members as there still are (mostly retired, almost all over 50, in safe seats normally in receipt of councillors' allowances or married to people who are, practically unheard of anywhere else) ever cottoned on that no such bogeyman existed anymore, then that would be the end of the Labour Party. It has never had any concept of itself apart from as a weapon against the Tories. But no such weapon is now necessary.

And they will cotton on, sooner rather than later. Labour is as doomed as the Tories, precisely because, without the Tories, there can be a social democratic party, or a left-wing party, or a trade union-based party, or whatever, but there cannot, and there very soon will not, be the Labour Party.

I have a suspicion that Brown has undertaken this exercise to smoke out policies from the Tory.

Witness the appalling set from Labour's own conference, a couple of them are illegal, one needs a repeal of their own legislation.

In short, Electoral suicide.

As for an election, not yet, I still think Spring '08.

Brown, the conviction politician would have called one before Cameron's first fightback when we had no formal policy.

Like I say, Gordon's been sizing us up to see how formidable we are.

I wouldn't like to be in his shoes today, he realises that the 'enemy' isn't on its last knees, it's armed, dangerous and ready for a fight to the death.

I like to think Churchill would be smiling down at us today.

I think this has been a complete con, designed to terrify us into ripping lumps out of each other to save Labour the effort. It failed like so many other New Labour schemes. That it will have been seen to fail by everyone when election announcement comes there none is just an enormous added bonus.

When it becomes clear that he has backed away from an election, our approach should be to point out how unedifying and un-Prime Ministerial it is to play party politics with democracy. He only ever wanted an election to harm his opponents, we want an election to stop him harming our country.

Interesting points by David Lindsay .

1 Elections rigged against the Tories . Yes this is so - whole area where there has been a longterm neglect - particularly in those incredibly important politically quiet periods -to fight the committee battles to shape the constituency map more fairly .

2. Labour's raison d'etre. Never forget that Labour is the belated product of Britishness . As the United Kingdom alters( ends?)the underpinnings of Labour are falling away . They are already in the process of being replaced in Scotland . The same might well be true of England .

The "natural" parties of England are the Tories and the Liberals . Labour is and always been , an interloper .

In broad personal terms Brown's three big selling points are Strength, Trust and Reliability. He has been doing a very good job of dismantling each of these perceptions in recent weeks. If he doesn't call an election now he will be well on the way to finishing himself off. I'm amazed to read that 'he does't care' about how it will look if he backs down. Crediblity is everything - people vote for leaders they believe in and if they don't all the policies in the world won't save them. Dave on the other hand has with a single daring stroke transformed perceptions of him from weak to courageous. If people pick up nothing else, they will know it was an act of exceptional nerve to do that speech without autocue or script. He's earnt his political stripes - come of age - with yesterday's speech. The leadership speech left him saddled with a perception he was all about PR - a man of no genuine qualities. Now he's earned respect. The momentum has shifted and this is the really important factor - not so much the exact date of the election. The readiness is all.

One of the best outcomes from the conference has been the unity on show. As Englandism says above, this was absolutely not what Brown was expecting or hoping for.

Everyone seems to be coming back behind Cameron after he has successfully rebalanced his message.

I am sure Brown would lose his majority, or at least see it reduced to below 10, if he had an election this year. He need to wait until the spring and hope for a lift in his fortunes.

I for one am in better heart than I was a week ago. Having done hundreds of Jury speeches over the years and watched as many others, I thought DC's effort was very good and his calculation of looking for a sense of freshness and spontaneity paid off.

Brown's effort by contrast had all the hallmarks of a thousand man-hours of sculpting. And a curious whiff of the 1960s about it all.

From our conference I had a strong sense, too, of people having got a grip of themselves and remembered why they are in the business of politics, which is to oppose the Government and win power from it.

One's gut feeling: enough to wobble GB back from the brink, but who knows.

My longer take is, for what it is worth, here

My hunch is the decision is all on the polls and I would say the thresholds for Brown are -

Average Labour poll lead over the next few days >7% = Election

Average Labour poll lead over the next few days <4% = No Election

If it's between those ranges, Brown will have to look at their private polling and go with his instinct.

I think that the unity and passion displayed by us in Blackpool will scare Brown off a November election.

The anti-Cameron brigade thankfully kept their opinions private and finally realised that winning the election is more likely through unity than what has been described previously as 'gnawing at our own limbs'

I still suspect he will go.Not only because Andrew Lillico will owe me £20 if he does but more because the economic indicators moving forward are so poor and the fact that media will turn against him if he doesn't take the plunge.
Conference was for me a very uplifting experience.There are some seriously bright,decent and very hardworking people within the Conservative party who it was a priviledge and a pleasure to meet.

I agree with Michael Hewlett.
I found it odd the way some quickly launched vicious attacks as soon as a poll showed a Labour lead, and two hopeless seats were talked up in by-elections.

What I found encouraging this week is the detailed and very genuine interest in domestic policy shown by a wide range of people in the team. We really do have better answers.

No I'm not a Cameroon as such - supported DD in 2005 - but he has focused on the domestic aganda and unity is our best hope.

Do you have the attendance figures? Tim suggested it felt down on last year, contrary to cchq info.

I'm just wondering if the party really was being united or whether those who do not support Cameron just decided to stay away, leaving just loyalists in the hall.

In the last 24 hours everything changed. Before yesterdays speech Mr Brown may expect to lose some Scottish seats to the SNP and make up the losses by taking some of our seats in England. Now he will lose seats to both and the question is how many? The Critical factor is Scotland and how many will be lose to the SNP who are on a roll. (We stand to lose very little in scotland.) Every one he losses makes is government weaker and will bring a hung parliament closer. Then we have the second question, can he buy off the nationalists, so he can govern with their tacit support. That will require a vote on independence and I do not see him giving in to that. The odds on an election have got longer.

I'm just wondering if the party really was being united or whether those who do not support Cameron just decided to stay away, leaving just loyalists in the hall.

It wasn't just the hall that was full, Chad - I didn't make it to my usual post leaning up the back wall, and was on the back row of a very full Arena down below, watching the speech on a big screen.

As for the attendance figures, I don't have any hard data - just the experience of trying to get some lunch in the Wintergardens, or a drink at the bar in the Imperial. Birmingham, you'd better be prepared...

Having been abroad for the last two weeks, I have missed all the political action but got back in time to see Cameron's excellent speech, which, backed up by some policies on the thus far unmentionable issues, makes for a much more tangible manifesto that will have wide appeal.
He has left it very late but the mere threat of an Autumn election seems to have galvanised the Party, so that it should be in good shape whenever a GE is called.
I personally think that Brown might just get back in November but with a vastly reduced majority which would probably be preferable to Cameron just scraping in and needing to do a deal with the Libs.
If the tories shape their policies for the first term largely in favour of the disadvantaged in our society (those further up the scale will always prosper), they should be unbeatable.
They would be even better if Frank Field were enticed over to help IDS and others to mend our broken society.

Chad I was told the numbers who had paid to go to conference was more than 20% up on last year.However in view of the fact that there may well be an election called next week some people (including my PPC and her agent)chose to remain in their constituencies for obvious reasons. It was still pretty crowded I can tell you.
You are right though,the party did seem extremely united.Most people are intelligent enough to realise that what divides us is far less important than fighting the common enemy.

One of the factors Brown will have to take into consideration is the likelihood of Scottish Tories voting SNP to help boot out Labour. I'm English, so I have no idea if this is likely or unthinkable. Anyone have any view?
As for Chad's question, I believe 8500 passes were issued which is the highest for something like five years.

Thanks guys, that sounds encouraging.

This was the first Conference I have missed since 2001. That doesn't mean I have stopped supporting Cameron or Party it was that age old thing "money". In my experience it has always been almost impossable to get a drink at the Imperial in Blackpool, or the Highcliffe in Bournemouth. I don't like the idea of having a conference in a city, but hopefully I will make it next year. I have missed it badly more than I thought I would, although not the drinking until four in the morning and the hangovers!!!

Anyone tell me why there were polls begining and mid conference for Labour but we have to wait til end of the week?

However in view of the fact that there may well be an election called next week some people (including my PPC and her agent)chose to remain in their constituencies for obvious reasons.

I can agree with that - there were a number of campaign directors and agents that I normally see at Conference that I didn't run in to this time! This did lead to a slight guilty feeling that perhaps the time would have been better spent "in the office", but I hope I'm making up for it now (blogs aside)...

In my experience it has always been almost impossable to get a drink at the Imperial in Blackpool, or the Highcliffe in Bournemouth.

I must just be getting more intolerant in my "old age", then!

Jake, the days are long gone when the Tories were the natural party of anywhere. Great swathes of England are now tribally averse to them in ways that never previously applied; they now come a distant third even where they always used to come a respectable second. And two generations of voters would now simply never consider voting for them.

There is much attention given from time to time to the fact that they have no councillors in Liverpool, Manchester or Newcastle. But it is also some years since they had one in Oxford. And have they any in Cambridge, either?

Someone will no doubt mention the last local elections but they were victories for Tories who are not like David Cameron, and who do not like David Cameron. Indeed, they are far more like Gordon Brown: that bit older, impeccably middle-class but not posh, socially conservative, and all in favour of lavish public spending so long as it is on their own or their client-voters' pet projects.

David Lindsay, the facts do not support your contention. Of course there are areas where the Tories are no longer represented, but the situation is twice as bad for Labour.

The situation post 06 local elections, and this info is from May and doesn't include results since then, was...

54 councils with no LD
35 councils with no CON
73 councils with no LAB

... and just as a matter of interest, do you consider Trafford to be part of Manchester, or not?

Interesting that Brown, usually so savvy (we are led to believe) has made his first major tatical blunder as PM. By allowing early election feaver to run prior to our conference he has galvinised the Conservative Party at a critical moment. He will take a huge risk going early to the polls, as I said yesterday, even a thin majority is a disaster for him. If he leaves it longer however, the Tories can take comfort in the knowlege that this conference, thanks to Brown, has been the rocket up the leadership's bum they needed. Self-made disasters aside, the Conservtives can only build on the platform that has been laid down publicly in the last week. We must not be complacent however, the "New Labour Manual of Dirty Trick's" will be heavily thumbed over the next weeks and/or months and we must be ready to defend ourselves.

ps... Have I got this right? The Labour Party have put the Unions on alert for a general election, and told to make their call centres available . Are these the same call-centres that were paid for by the £10million "Union Modernisation Fund", arranged by Brown using taxpayers money?

Has anyone actually considered the possibility that after all these polls, all the posturing, all the media build-up and all the conference tension, Brown could call an election and the result would be no different to that than in 2005?

Labour win with a majority of 50-60, the Tories have 200-odd MPs and the Liberals do better than expected and hold on to most of their seats. All 'as you were'.

Just a thought.

David Lindsay - The Tories are extinct in some areas, but it's the same for Labour.

Great swathes of the Home Counties, East Anglia and the south are Labourless.

The country is becoming more polarised. Maybe, like Belgium, we should consider splitting in half so that us in the South get the government we actually vote for.

Edison. There are lots of 'possibilites' we would rather not consider. Brown's target however will be to better Blair's majority of 66(?), reduced to 48 due to boundary changes. 48 is okay, but 28 is much more dangerous for him. There are a lot of leftie MP's waiting for the day when their vote can upset the apple cart.

Oh, and I see Tony Benn wants to come out of retirement and run for MP again. Brown must be delighted. Just you wait (wag wag), Brown is going to get his very own version of the second Major term in office. We should use this as a tactic you know. The public would have to wake up to the possibility of loonie lefties having leverage in Govt. - but then again would it mean voting more for Labour than less? I'm rambling. Sorry.

Right I'm off to the Intl. Airport for my flight back to London from Port or Spain. Pre-flight BA champers and tasty nibbles on the tarmac for lucky ol me shortly. See you soon.

Anyone tell me why there were polls begining and mid conference for Labour but we have to wait til end of the week?

The main conference poll last week was the C4/YOUGOV one taken on the evening of Brown's speech, which he made on the Monday I think.

I believe we are expecting a C4/YOUGOV poll taken yesterday to be on tonight's C4 news, so although it is later in the week it was also held on the evening of the leaders speech. There are more polls due in the next couple of days as well.

No, Trafford is not part of Manchester, simply as a matter of fact. And you haven't answered my points about Oxford, Cambridge, or the fact that the Tories who win local elections are characteristically most unlike David Cameron (though actually quite like Gordon Brown).

Whereas, for Parliament, Cameron has turned super-safe seats into knife-edge marginals and respectable second places into distant thirds, on one memorable occasion only slightly ahead of the BNP.

And General Elections are won and lost in Scotland, Wales, the North, the Midlands and the West Country. If the South East really were where it was all at, then there would now be a Tory Government with an enormous majority.

In fact, when the Tories hold on in Scotland and Wales, beat Labour in the Midlands and much of the North, and beat the Lib Dems in the West Country, then they win. When they don't, then they don't. Simple as that. Which is why it is such a mistake that there are apparently to be no more Party Conferences in Blackpool, no doubt to be followed by Brighton.

But I don't deny that the situation for Labour is just as bad. Wake up, Tories: your party is over. And wake up, Labourites: so is yours, because the Tory bogeyman against which it defines itself no longer exists.

Dale's Diary showing 3% Tory lead in the Guardian's poll and 3% Labour lead for Channel 4/You Gov.
Both surely a massive boost to DC considering our position only a week ago.
Hung Parliament??

Baskerville :

I bet Brown has not considered that at all. It would not take many to vote tactically to reduce the government to a minority situation, In a lot of Scottish seats the Labour majority is small. It would put the SNP in control unless the Liberals pitched in. In both cases Brown will not last long as his own people would knife him. (Because the cost of buying the support of the minority parties would ensure that a Labour government was never elected again). It would mean a second election in under a year, with the public seeing the constitutional mess made by Labour over devolution and that one we should win.

Blown would depend on the Tory Loyalty not to vote tactically and ensure that Labour kept there seats, In Scotland this is one case were tactical voting should be done.

I agree that it seems a mountain too high for the Tories the next election, whenever it held. Depriving Brown of his majority will flush out the duplicitous Lib Dems. Will they sustain him in power? Or could the Scot Nats, who will do rather well,make an alliance with the Conservatives?
I stayed in Blackpool Wednesday night. The own is a mess, but the two constituencies are marginal. "The and and womanon the late night Blackpool tram" may not be typical, may be visitors, but they liked DC's speech. Well done

If anyone doubts that Conservatives are serious about their priorities for forming a government, I gather from this story that we are seeking talks on policy with senior Whitehall officials.

Brown's response to this should be educational to say the least.

Interesting piece in the Standard by Andrew Gilligan on Tory liberalism versus Labour authoritarianism. Well worth a read.

Felixstowe fiddler 16:54
"..Or could the Scot Nats, who will do rather well,make an alliance with the Conservatives?.."

Some posters on 'The Scotsman' site seem to be hoping that Tories win, on the basis that it would generate an enhanced yearning for Scottish independence. Therefore not beyond the bounds of possibility that SNP MPs (presuming an increased number) would support an English Tory administration -- at a price, of course!

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