The pressure on Gordon Brown to call an early election intensified this week when a YouGov poll showed Labour's lead had stretched to 11 points enough to give Brown a three-figure overall majority in the Commons. If, after all his "high-octane Tory-baiting" such as inviting Lady Thatcher for tea Brown doesn't call an election for late October, he is going to "look a prize twerp", said Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph. His support may also fall away. For the moment, he has been successfully sold to the electorate as a sober leader, "confronting one crisis after another with lantern jaw and gimlet eye", but by next year he may be in hot water with the increasingly "restive" unions and party members calling for a referendum on the EU treaty. Meanwhile, the economy is going to look a "damned sight nastier" in 2008.
Brown's aides will be weighing up the options at a level of detail that "would astonish most voters", said Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. One official is studying sunrise and sunset times for the coming weeks to work out whether it will be too dark for canvassing. Voters like Brown because he is seen as strong, a quality which has long been seen as decisive in US elections, but he will surely be haunted by Harold Wilson's decision to "ride some good poll numbers" in June 1970, calling an election he promptly lost. He won't want to emulate James Callaghan either, said Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express. Callaghan failed to call an autumn election in 1978, despite a strong lead. Within months his credibility was destroyed by the Winter of Discontent. There followed 18 years of Tory rule. Then again, if he takes the gamble and loses, he would go down as Britain's shortest serving Prime Minister since George Canning's 119 days in 1827 hardly what he wants after preparing for No. 10 for 13 years.
The "tragedy" is that Brown will not be facing a "more deadly foe", added McKinstry. A decent opposition would expose his "shameful record". The presentation of Brown as a "titan of wise governance" may be succeeding, but the truth is our country has been "misruled on an epic scale". "Taxes have been squandered, democracy has been weakened and security destroyed". Our public services are a mess. Indeed, said The Daily Telegraph and this presents the Tories with a "rather juicy target". They should aim at it. Brown is, after all, flagrantly stealing Cameron's ideas, added Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. Still, the best hope for the Tory leader is for Brown to fail to call an election. It will make him look weak and hand Cameron a "desperately needed lifeline".
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