Iain Dale reports that the Labour Party is booking up advertising hoardings for January and February. He speculates that this is one more sign of a possible snap election.
I blogged previously about the reason why Brown will favour an early poll:
- Cameron may be the darling of the media and the punters but he still has no policies and it is difficult to fight an election without them;
- Gordon proved he can win in Glenrothes and will think he can do it again
- The economy might be down the tubes but it will only get worse and the 'Brown plan to save the world' is still relatively current
- the Tories still have problems of their own and Mandelson can create more
- Barack Obama is sworn in at the end of January. Not only will Brown manage to stage a photo op just before the election (or during it), but the public works on 'Democrats = Labour' thinking and this will boost Brown.
And let's throw a new reason in there - talk of an election brings a party together. Brown can bring (most of) his rebels back on board for a short time to fight against the Tories.
But there is one new reason why Brown might want to hold off. That is the planned Irish EU referendum. If he thinks the Irish can see it through, it allows the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified and put finally to bed. Once this has happened the Tories cannot undo it. But until then, Cameron can campaign on a ticket that says that hewill unpick Britain's ratification and allow a referendum here. That would be bad for the UK's relationship with the EU (in Brown's view) and would be a popular campaign message for the Tories.
For the Lib Dems, there is a pivotal moment in such a campaign. Do we say (as Brown will) that the Lisbon Treaty is a thing of the past as far as the UK is concerned and that it is not a valid subject for a general election. Or do we side with the Tories and promise a referendum if we have influence. I suspect the former but would prefer the latter.