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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Some interesting British political news

There has been a bit of a hoo-haa in the British press today about the chances of Tony Blair calling a February election. This article from the Sunday Telegraph was one of two responsible. It has been denied by Downing Street.
The short and long of it is however that under Alun Millburn, who was recently reappointed to the Cabinet and put in charge of the electioneering, there is a push going forward for a February election to exploit weakness in Michael Howard, and also assuming a relatively positive Iraqi election (thereby sidelining Lib Dem chances).

I'm moderatey skeptical, if only because one of the apparent reasons (a successful Iraqi election) is something that cannot be guaranteed (even though I personally think the elections will be mostly successsful). The other reason that I'm skeptical is that it would be held in February. It's not a month to be holding an election. Unless Tony Blair is being unusually masochistic.

So, here are three variants of what I think has happened here.

1) Downing Street (and the Labour machine) has been floating various ideas around. February was mentioned, and someone did a document on it. That has now been gotten hold of by the papers, and it may or may not have any relevance.

2) This was a purposeful leak by Downing Street to test the waters (sort of Yes Minister style).

3) This was actually a leak by a Blair opponent, fearing a bounce from successful Iraqi elections, and hoping therefore to make it impossible for Tony Blair to hold a snap February election. It's a conspiracy I tell you!

I rather like my conspiracy in number 3, and given that the Telegraph is an anti-Blair paper I think there is some possible credence. But in reality I think the first option, the most prosaic, is most likely to be closest to the true. Certainly Downing Street has denied (BBC article) it.

All in all, I think sensible bets are still for a May date for the election, though I would not be surprised if it turned out to be a different time. After all, no one, and I mean no one, with any authorative say-so has committed to the May date. It's all just speculation, column writers and editors wasting ink when they have nothing better to do, and it will remain so until Tony Blair takes the car to Buckingham Palace and asks Her Majesty to dissolve the Parliament.

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