What will a short election campaign mean for TV debates?
I hear the team around Gordon Brown has closed the door on any idea of a John Major-style long election campaign.
Mr Major went for a six-week campaign in 1997 hoping it would see Tony Blair exposed under the relentless scrutiny of the campaign.
It didn’t work for him, but more importantly Labour’s team feels that the public is not in a place where it wants to listen to its politicians for a moment longer than it has to.
Second major consideration, when you call the election the government is instantly diminished… you may still be PM but you are also candidate for PM and equal coverage rules apply.
What actual start dates etc this all means is not settled, even if the end-date of 6 May is.
If you go close to the statutory minimum, you have a late March Budget, signal an election date before or just after the Easter weekend, then don’t have formal full-on campaigning until the week beginning 12 April.
That could throw the ITV/BBC/Sky leaders’ debates into some confusion because I am told that the current draft memorandum of understanding the parties and broadcasters are working off assumes a week’s grace after the election date is announced before the first debate and a week between the last debate and the election itself.
You could end up, in a very short campaign, having to junk the idea of one debate a week (favourite current dates are Thursdays – I am told) and squeeze two in one week. Not what was meant to happen.
The parties hope to sign off on that memorandum very soon and how much it nails down the rules on debate dates could be our best clue on the campaign timing.