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Five years on from the election that never was

October 6th, 2012

Today, is the fifth anniversary of Gordon Brown’s decision not to hold an election in the autumn of 2007.

It was a very interesting time for anyone interested in politics or betting.

We had a Labour MP writing an article predicting ‘Shortly there will be an election, in which Labour will increase its majority’

Labour spent a reported one million pounds for an election that never happened.

Lord Kinnock’s intervention during the Labour conference, where he  explaining why he wanted Labour to secure a fourth term he said: “I want to do that to grind the bastards into dust.” was a defining moment, alongside Sir John Major’s intervention criticising Gordon Brown for campaigning during the Tory conference. The conference which saw George Osborne unveil his Inheritance Tax Plan, Alastair Darling, then announced a week later, a similar policy.

In the words of Damian McBride

The media handling of the announcement on the Saturday was nothing short of a catastrophe, and made an already disastrous news story into a total clusterf**k. 

Had Gordon Brown been honest, and said, yes we thought about having a general election, but we’ve seen the latest polling, we’re going to focus on governing, he may well have gotten away with it, but his credibility took a blow, as shown with the subsequent polling, the media reporting at the time, and at PMQs.

What would have been the result? My own hunch was that we’d have a hung parliament and a bit of a constitutional nightmare not seen since 1951, of where the Tories had received the most votes, but Labour received the most seats, which would be have the opposite of 1951.

We probably would have a Lab/Lib coalition, with Sir Menzies Campbell as Deputy Prime Minister, and a general election campaign taking place right now, I wonder who the three party leaders would have been?

Will the events of the autumn of 2007 have resonance today?

A few years later, during the Labour leadership campaign, it was said that

Ed Balls tried to pin the blame for the 2007 “general election that never was” on to Ed Miliband, now his rival for the Labour leadership, according to a BBC Radio series starting next week.

This could also explain why Ed Balls wasn’t Ed Miliband’s first choice to be Shadow Chancellor.

Given the plethora of stories, a few weeks ago about apparent disharmony between the two Eds, I wonder if we’ll see any more, especially were Labour’s lead to decrease.

I suspect Ed Miliband, even without his recent assurance and confidence, won’t make the same mistake as Tony Blair, and actually deal with troublesome (Shadow) Chancellor.

  • This Guardian article from June 2008 goes into some detail about the processes and consequences of not holding the election

 

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