Will Brown Call For Election?

Will he, won't he, should he, might he? In Britain these simple questions are bugging the nation -- ok, that's a slight exaggeration -- bugging the bit of the nation obsessed by politics. We call it election fever. You'd probably call it paranoia.

The new Prime Minister of our country, Gordon Brown, has the right to decide when the next election is going to be. I'm not kidding. With his only constraint a five year maximum term, he can pick any day at random, without consulting anybody and keep it a secret until the last minute.

That may be what is happening right now. The Prime Minister's political party, Labour, is telling him - "go for it Gordon". The polls suggest he'd win handsomely. But the Prime Minister's opponents - the Conservatives - are also urging him on, ready to cry chicken if he doesn't. And the Prime Minister himself? He won't say yes and he won't say no.

This is a risky game. The last Labour Prime Minister to dither was the late Jim Callaghan. In the fall of 1978 the pollsters and his party said - this is the right time, Jim. But Callaghan delayed. Events, however, stop for nobody. Soon there was a wave of massive industrial action - streets piled high with garbage, even the grave diggers went on strike. Eventually the Prime Minister who'd waited so long was forced to face the voters and lost.

This is an agonizing choice no American President ever has to make. But now there's an extra agony. Because this is also the time of year in Britain when the register of electors is updated. We all have to register annually. And the folk who check the paperwork reckon that one million people are currently not entitled to vote at all - through no fault of their own -- they might have moved house, or even got married.

So if Prime Minister Brown calls a snap election and it's closely fought, you can bet your bottom dollar some disenfranchised voters will kick up a fuss, bring in attorneys and give it the Florida treatment with legal action galore.

The clever money is still on Gordon Brown making an election announcement on Tuesday. But then again, he might not. Aren't you glad you've got a constitution and fixed four year terms?
by Ed Boyle
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