Political Betting identified a massive split between the politicians and the punters over who would win Glenrothes. The politicians mainly believed that Brown had turned things around and could pull it off. The punters felt that the Nats would walk it. Of course the politicians were right and Labour secured a massive majority. Even Guido is having second thoughts about 'Jonah' Brown.
What is also interesting to note tho is that the political commentators also got it spectacularly wrong. They were all (at least, according to Politics Home) calling Glenrothes for the SNP.
I have a strong aversion to the so-called expertise of the broadcast political editors in particular. I don't think that an ability to buy lunch for someone who then gives you a couple of tidbits on a no-names basis is a particularly worthwhile skill. They aren't reading the runes at all, simply repeating what others tell them. And, with a couple of honourable exceptions, there is a herd mentality among the whole of the Westminster media. Once a thought develops then the papers and TV all run with it no matter the evidence to the contrary. And all too often they are wrong (and even when they are right it is because they have pushed the story).
So they got their comeuppance with Glenrothes (not that they will admit it. Heck, most probably won't even notice).
And what does this mean for the timing of the General Election? Brown has to give serious thought now to calling the election early. Of course he is still behind in the polls but look at the evidence:
- Cameron still has high approval ratings but all on the basis of sounding good. He still has no policies because policies take time to develop. If an election were called now then I suspect that the Tory manifesto might be full of holes and certainly not everyone would yet be singing from the same hymnsheet. Plenty of splits for Mandelson to exploit;
- The economy is going to hell in a handbasket, but it won't get any better between now and the last moment for calling the election. At the moment Brown is riding high on his plan to save the world. Pretty soon people will start to realise that the plan was not all that magnificent; hasn't helped their pockets at all and wasn't even his to start off with.
- He's actually enjoying himself;
- The Obama effect. For all that Cameron is the new, inexperienced one, the UK public will see Obama as a Democrat as more akin to Labour and McCain as a Republican as more akin to the Tories;
- The Tories are falling apart over stupid little thing like George Osborne and Caroline Spelman. (Ok, 'falling apart' is too strong, perhaps 'occasionally forgetting to concentrate on the big stuff' is about the right level).
It's not a given, of course, and Brown still has to contend with an election in winter, but it is my guess that he will think in one of two ways. Either he will be arrogant enough to think he really is this good and can turn anything round and can afford to wait, or he will realise that this is a happy coincidence, that things will go down hill again and to seize the moment.
And what Brown will have to do above all else is to keep a lid on his own Party bickerings. He has squashed Miliband (D) and is under no real threat at the moment, but he needs to keep Mandelson in the back room where he does good and not all over the front pages. He needs to hide the useless ones and (dare I say it) adopt a Lib Dem image. We only ever get two or three people on the media (because they don't know who anyone else is), perhaps Brown should seek to make sure that only he and a couple of the other (public approved) ministers ever make it onto TV.