Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Lib Dems were wrong to call for an early election

What line of attack could the Liberal Democrats use if Gordon Brown does call a general election in the next couple of weeks?

One promising line would be to say that he is playing a cheap trick because of a temporary blip in the opinion polls and because he knows that much worse economic weather is on the way. We could say that this makes him look rather shabby and not at all the statesman he likes to pretend to be.

Except that we can't say that.

Because when Brown first became prime minister the Liberal Democrats greeted him with the following press release:
Menzies Campbell today called for a general election as Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister

The Liberal Democrat leader said that Brown ‘does not have a mandate’ and that the country needs more than just a change in personnel.
I could not see any sense in this at the time. The British constitution is not a presidential one. If someone becomes prime minister between elections and enjoys majority support in the Commons he is under no compulsion - legal or moral - to call an immediate general election. Indeed, the more thoughtful voices in the party have been rediscovering our support for fixed-term parliaments.

In fact I have some sympathy for the commentator who suggested that if Brown turns up at the Palace asking for a dissolution, the Queen should point out that he has a comfortable Commons majority and more than two and a half years for the parliament to run, and then tell him to get on with governing.

Nor do I get the impression that we Lib Dems are particularly keen on an early election or feel that it will be in our interest.

I do hope that this gimmicky press release will not come back to haunt us in the weeks ahead.


Paul Walter said...

Good point except that the release called for an immediate general election at the time it was still summery and the changeover happened - not in the cold and dark of late October/early November when Gordon thought his ratings looked good.

dreamingspire said...

Hence Feather Lynne calling for one trigger for an election to be a change of PM. But I sympathise with an early election now not being in the interests of LDs. Meanwhile, Gordon does seem to need his own mandate, and one wonders why he spent so long with the Queen when he took over. Jack Straw got into trouble on R4 Today today about changing the law to support victims - as Home Sec when the current legislation was created, why didn't he speak up?

Anonymous said...

Surely the people who should be listened to as to whether they want an early election are, er, the people....?

Campbell badly misjudged this one. We should be getting chicken suits made up. Oh and nobody seems to have pointed out that one thing an early election will do is disenfranchise tens of thousands of students. Deliberately of course, given everything Broon has done to impoverish and insult them.