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.
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!”