Politics.co.uk Blog

Monday, 25 January 2010

We're still on for May 6th

Ladbrokes has slashed its betting on a February general election from 66/1 to a mere snip at 25/1, following a rush of bets on a snap winter poll.

The logic behind this thinking is that, despite slipping back in the most recent opinion polls, Gordon Brown is hoping the wave of euphoria over the end of the recession will cause the electorate to welcome Labour back into government with open arms.

No one really knows when the election is going to be called, although at his monthly press conference this morning the prime minister did display distinct smugness as he explained it was his "privilege" to name the date.

Brown would be mad to plump for a February poll. Apart from anything else Labour relies on turnout far more than the Tories. With the weather displaying definite tendencies towards disruption No 10 strategists will be more than aware of its off-putting effect. Even a rainy day is bad news.

As a result the most likely date by far remains May 6th. That's the Thursday when local elections take place and is perfectly-timed for an Easter kick-off.

The real lesson from today's speculation is how temperamental the betting markets can be. Brown's strong polling performance led to intense speculation around the new year that an early election would be called; it melted away as surely as the snow has.

The most likely scenario is today's flicker of interest will meet exactly the same fate.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Still hateful after all these years

Readers of Alastair Campbell's blog may be alarmed by an anecdote the ex-spin doctor reveals as he discusses his long-running hate-hate relationship with Mail editor Paul Dacre.

"The psychologist... felt it was highly likely that I figure in homoerotic fantasies which fill Dacre with terrible shame and guilt. There can be no other explanation, he said, for the scale of hatred expressed in his coverage of me over many years."

Campbell is rather flattered by the implication his sexual potency remains undimmed.

"But just as I don't do God, I don't do male," he adds.

"And I certainly don't do Mail scum. So, Paul Dacre, whatever is going on inside that troubled head as you toss and turn alongside your poor wife sleeping gently besides you, I am sorry, it is time for me to be frank with you - it can never be."

Meanwhile Campbell appears obsessed by second world war allusions. He refers to Dacre as Obergruppenfuehrer. He describes the Mail's coverage of his Iraq inquiry appearance as a "mini-Nagasaki explosion". He says "apologetic Mail hacks... usually quote the 'only obeying orders' Nuremberg defence".

The overall impression is more than a little uncomfortable. Yet it's somehow reassuring one of British journalism's longest-running feuds continues to endure.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Happy new coup!

The highlight of my new year was, at about five seconds past midnight, someone planting a six-foot rocket into the earth half a metre away from me.

It being an election year I expected fireworks. But this early start didn't quite go off with the alarming bang that seemed likely as the rocket's pleasantly inebriated owner attempted to light it.

Instead, he having thoughtlessly forgotten to remove the plastic cover over the fuse, the thing spluttered incongruously for a few brief moments before damply fizzling out.

The last few hours has seen rather a similar chain of events take place in Westminster.

Just after PMQs today was the equivalent of five seconds past midnight, when Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt plunged into the malcontents' latest attempt to get rid of Gordon Brown

Watching Hoon hop around nervously as he answered questions from the gaggle of journalists clustering round him in the Palace of Westminster was reminiscent of my own new year's eve attitude as an imminent explosion loomed.

It was the fizzling which was most memorable then, and is the overwhelming feeling now. Cabinet members were finally rolled out by mid-afternoon, dampening any spark of rebellion the few usual suspects might have been hoping to create.

It's been a poor day for Labour and a regretful one for Hewitt and Hoon, who have damaged their party.

Perhaps the wise words of Tony Lloyd should be heeded. He says the whole incident will be forgotten by the following week, slipping into the past like every other outbreak of anti-Brown sentiment in the ranks.

If I could remember what happened during my new year after the Self-Contained Incident With The Firework And The Ill-Conceived Plot, I'd be able to tell you whether I could extend the analogy somehow.

As it is this blog post is fizzling out, so I'll just shut up.