Monday, December 14, 2009

Mad as March hares or Nuts in May?

Much talk lately about the date for the 2010 election, with the most popular choice currently being 25 March, as Ladbrokes have now stopped taking bets on that as the date - showing the wisdom of crowds. Or not.

I don't buy it, to be honest.

My best bet is 6 May, to coincide with the metropolitan election dates. If we have an election on the 25 March, campaigners across the country will have to energise themselves after an intense five week short campaign ready for a second burst of activity in the run up to the locals. The party workers won't be happy and the public won't thank us for making them traipse to the polls again within a few weeks.

The advantage - apparently - is that it gives the government some control over the date of the poll, as the further through the year we go, the more certain the date is. That's certainly true, but I'm not sure that it makes that much difference. Certainly, the opinion polls aren't likely to shift around much before the election campaign gets going in earnest and while an earlier date does reduce the impact of opposition campaigning, it will also reduce the impact of any positive news on the economy. There may also be an argument that if - and I still think it is an if - Labour loses the election, then we may be able to save some metropolitan councillors.

On the other hand, Labour voters are notoriously reluctant to vote outside general elections and I think that there is an excellent chance that if we combined the general and the local election dates, that we would end up with more councillors in the metropolitan authorities, even if we potentially lost the election, which would give us a better starting point for the future. Additionally, if we lose the election, then we get the bad news out of the way in one fell swoop and don't give the opposition a chance to batter us again in a month, when our voters may decide it isn't worth turning out.

So, for my money, May is the date, but then I thought we'd have an election this year.

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