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19 February 2010

Election will not be called tomorrow

Rumours sweeping Westminster are wrong.

By James Macintyre

Greetings from the progressive governance conference (sponsored by Policy Network) in central London, bringing together numerous social-democratic leaders from across Europe, where Gordon Brown gave a keynote speech this morning, followed by a panel discussion chaired by David Miliband.

Inside the conference hall, high politics are being discussed. Outside, rumours have been flying around: not just conspiracy theories surrounding James Purnell’s rather straightforward resignation, about which I wrote earlier, but also that Brown is set to call a general election tomorrow at the Labour meeting in Coventry where the party will outline its main electoral themes.

Stepping outside, I bumped into one official who had heard this was spreading around Whitehall. Now back inside for the afternoon sessions with Peter Mandelson and Brown again, I asked some of those around government and in the know (not Mandelson or Brown, I modestly hasten to add).

The answer? No election announcement.

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This makes sense. Every indication is that Brown seeks as short a campaign as possible — some say four weeks; some say fewer than 20 days — and that he would want to present a Budget. In short, everything still points to 6 May.

PS: Listening to European prime ministers here in the conference hall, which Peter Mandelson has described as being full of the “progressive masses — or what passes for them” — one delegate just leaned to me and pointed out: “Imagine what the equivalent gathering would look like if David Cameron tried to do an equivalent — it would be full of Latvian and other nutcases!”