It is a rule of politics that within two years of an election, a
major discussion topic is the date of the next one. After months of
speculation, confirmation of the date has led to a strange anti-climax.
And yet, rash assumptions that Labour will enjoy another huge majority,
and that the campaign will be dull, are as dangerous as they are
Polling has grown sophisticated in recent years, as all campaigners can
testify. But to declare the contest over before it has started is both
to underestimate the force of egos involved and to insult the voting
public, which must decide.
Real PR challenges lie ahead, threatening to expose Labour's PR
operation as less than perfect. The appearance of brilliance in 1997 had
as much to do with a shambolic Tory party as it did with efficient
systems and talented staff at Millbank.
The Tory party, of course, is still a shambles, and - as we have noted
over the last 18 months - systems and staff at Millbank remain as sharp
as ever. But since low turnout threatens Labour more than the Tories, it
is worth striking a note of caution.
It is advisable to watch the campaign before rushing to judgement on its
PR heroes. If the Tories steal 50 narrowly-held Labour seats, it will be
a triumph of well-targeted electioneering easily equal to Labour's
achievement if it retains a majority of more than 100.
Let battle commence.