So there won't be a General Election this year. Although Team Labour in Southwark was ready to go if Gordon Brown had announced a November 1st Election, many members will be relieved that we can concentrate instead on the important elections for the London Mayor and the GLA next May. The choice for the electorate in those elections is plain - more progress on developing London as the World's Capital City under Ken Livingstone; or making us a laughing stock under Boris Johnson. I can't believe that anyone is seriously considering voting for Boris - he treated the whole exercise of becoming the Tory candidate as "a bit of a laugh", and apart from making a few fatuous and inaccurate comments about bendy buses has said nothing of interest about London or Londoners.
So did Gordon Brown make the right decision? Almost certainly, yes. There were numerous reasons why a November 1st poll would have been bad for Labour. Firstly, it would have been incredibly difficult to encourage people to come out to vote after dark; the electoral register is at the end of its useful life for the year and many people would have been disenfranchised; and I am not sure that people would have understood why we were having an election now. Given that we had just passed an amendment to our Party constitution in Bournemouth which provided that any future manifesto had to be agreed by a vote of the entire Party membership, it would also have been a bit odd to throw ourselves into an election without going through that process. It would hardly have been a demonstration of support for our new-look internal party democracy!
The speculation was allowed to run on too long, and I can't help thinking that Gordon Brown has not been well served by his team of advisers. It is incredible and fairly disheartening that he has ended up getting such bad publicity for such an unnecessary reason.
So when will the next General Election be? Although the indications are that it will now be in the Spring of 2009 I have believed for some time that we may have a General Election on the same day as the next borough elections in London in 2010. This will be leaving the General Election until the last possible date, but there are recent precedents in 1992 and 1997. Now that really would make for an interesting election locally and nationally!
One footnote from the weekend of campaigning - both Labour and the Conservatives were out working in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, but there was no sign of the LibDems. I can't help thinking that Simon Hughes and his colleagues are really worn out and are just giving up on Southwark!