The recent speculation that Tony Blair is thinking of a snap election in the first quarter of the year has had no impact on the betting markets.
The price on the election being in the April-June period of 2005 has barely moved from the 1/6 to 1/5 region and you can still get 15/2 on the poll being before March 31st.
In a good analysis of the election date options the Independent columnist and former Tory MP, Michael Brown observes today :- The downside is that this early date might deprive the Government of holding a pre-election budget of goodies on the eve of the formal campaign. Budgets are usually held in the second or third week of March. This would not be possible if Parliament had already been dissolved. But if there is a budget on 2 March (notice of this would be given some weeks ahead), be on your guard for an announcement, immediately afterwards, of an election on 31 March. Remember that, in 1992, John Major dissolved Parliament 48 hours after an early March budget. I do not expect this to happen. However, if it does, you read it here first.
Brown also notes that Harold Wilson held the 1996 General Election on March 31st and Labour was returned with a 100 majority. Such a date this time would mean that the impact of the student vote might be reduced because it would be the vacation and Charles Kennedy would be deprived of the expected campaign boost from the birth of his first child.
A complication of such a date might be that the fact Easter in 2005 is just about as early as it can be with Easter Day being on March 27th.
Blair has shown that he likes holding more than one election on the same day and it is hard to see him not following the same pattern and having the General Election on May 5th – the date set for the County Council elections.
But it does no harm for him to keep everybody guessing.