The media (naturally hoping to fill up the tedium of Labour-conference week) is abuzz at the prospect of an imminent 'snap' election. I can't get quite so excited. Sorry.
Some bloggers are also getting their knickers in a twist about it (I won't bother linking - they're easy enough to find).
Firstly, there is no reason for an election to be called; Brown's government has a comfortable working majority and Labour's mandate runs until May 2010; if Her Majesty grants a request for a Dissolution in the next few weeks, if one is asked for, then let's be quite clear - the time and expense of holding an election now will be used/wasted solely for the expediency of the Labour Party and Gordon Brown. If he does call an election this Autumn my opinion of him as a manipulator and a coward will only be strengthened - however he won't manipulate everyone. Far too many media 'pundits' (right of centrists amongst them - did anyone else see Janet Daly on Head2Head last evening, for example?) seem to think that Brown's recent 'satisfactory' handling of terrorist threats in any way outweighs his abysmal mishandling of the economy over the past 10 years - piling yet more debt onto the public accounts, contracting for a great deal more debt which, by what is almost but not quite sleight-of-hand, is kept out of the balance sheet, tying the hands of the Bank of England by 'liberating' (*) it and separating responsibilities between three bodies who don't seem to coordinate their activities anything like enough and certain parts of which are pretty ineffective anyway.
My view is quite clear: if Brown calls an early election this Autumn, under the guise of seeking a personal mandate (he does not need one under our system), it is a sign of weakness, not strength - and if enough people understand in time the trickery that is being attempted if he does 'go' then perhaps the outcome will not be so straightforward as the polls predict.
Do I think he will call an election? I have no idea. I have no intention of going through my life trying to second-guess his thought-processes. If it happens, it happens. Whoever I vote for it certainly won't be Labour.
(*) I confess that at the time I thought this was a 'good thing'; possibly I was wrong. In retrospect, and we have had 10 years of experience of Brown to guide and inform us, it looks a lot more like the classic Brown/Socialist/Civil Service tactic of 'divide and rule' - emasculating a robust regulatory system by splitting responsiblities between several bodies, the easier to manipulate it from the sidelines without having to do it in public.