This morning’s YouGov poll, published in the Daily Telegraph, is surely the final nail in the coffin of any speculation about Gordon Brown calling a snap general election early in the New Year.

After the Prime Minister bottled calling an election in the autumn of 2007, I have always taken the view that it would be a long Parliament with a general election not taking place until 2010.

I was further convinced of this when Alistair Darling predicted in the pre-Budget report that the economy would begin growing again in the third quarter of next year: most experts view this as a very optimistic forecast, but he made it nonetheless. As such, calling an election before next autumn would surely enable the Conservatives and the media to make the charge that Brown was cutting and running in advance of a longer than predicted recession. "What do you know that you’re not telling us?" we would be entitled to ask.

All the same, with a seeming "Brown bounce" in the polls, there has been almost fevered speculation around Westminster over the last fortnight about the idea of Brown going to the country in the late winter or spring of 2009. But I would venture that this bounce has now come to an end.

Whilst it is always unwise to look at any one poll in isolation, a
trend is beginning to emerge as far as the recent YouGov polls are
concerned, with increasing Tory leads of 4%, 6% and now 7% being
recorded over the last month.

And assuming that this trend continues as the economic news gets worse, I am more convinced than ever that the election is a long way off – a view shared by two political editors writing in this morning’s papers.

Andrew Porter writes in the Telegraph:

"The Tories have talked themselves onto an election war footing, but if Mr Brown would not countenance one when a Telegraph poll put him 11 points head in September last year a seven point deficit is hardly the stuff that will embolden him."

Meanwhile, Andrew Grice – presumably writing before the figures of the latest poll emerged – states in the Independent:

"While it might boost Mr Brown’s prospects to hold an election in mid-recession, he knows that calling one might boomerang. It could look like an attempt to exploit the downturn to extend his mandate, a dangerous act when people feel little real affection for any party… So talk of a snap February 2009 poll is wide of the mark… he knows the bounce will probably end soon. That is why he is unlikely to call an election in 2009."

Of course, it is right that CCHQ should be prepared to fight an election whenever it is called, but I think that those charged with running the campaign should now be able to enjoy a rather more relaxed Christmas.

Jonathan Isaby

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