So, the RG asked me what my thoughts were on whether or not Premier Cox would call a summer election and what the pros and cons of that would be. Due to size limitations not all of it made it into the resulting article, but the my full comments are below. I should warn readers that I was very sleep deprived when writing my answers, so it isn’t all that eloquent… There is also a thread on BIAW resulting from the RG article.
What are my thoughts on Premier Cox calling a summer election? What may be the pros and cons?
My thoughts on Premier Cox calling a summer election is largely one of indifference at the moment. The two Opposition Parties do not represent a threat to the continued governance of the PLP, at least in their current form. I don’t really see that changing between an early election and one called at the last possible minute. On the one hand the current dynamic between the BDA and the UBP are such that the PLP are likely to win by a landslide, with the two Opposition Parties cannibalising the opposition vote. To that effect the PLP could take advantage of this situation, just as the UBP did in the wake of the PLP-NLP split. However, I don’t see any indication that this situation will change in the next couple of years, and so the PLP will benefit from this whenever the election is called. On the other hand, a landslide victory for the PLP really wouldn’t change anything. The PLP already have an overwhelming majority. This isn’t going to change and so there is no practical need to do so. The main argument I can see in favour of calling an early election would be for Premier Cox to claim she has a ‘popular mandate’. Under that idea she’ll want to take her time to set out her stall first. However, I really don’t see that argument being applicable to Ms. Cox. Her leadership isn’t one focused on the leadership, she is much more a corporate leader (in the sense of the collective, not the private firm sense). She would argue that the PLP already has the mandate to govern and as such she does not need to obtain a new one at the moment. Additionally, she doesn’t really have any opposing internal factions to her leadership at the moment, whereas Dr. Brown did. Calling an early election can be used just as much to enforce unity in the Party as it can be used to defeat the opposition (not all opposition is, afterall, external). I also think Ms. Cox will be mindful of the potential economic costs of holding an early election, as well as holding one in the midst of the restructuring that the economic crisis will manifest over the next twelve months. While the PLP will still win, it could lead to some embarrassments and problems to the PLP – and Ms. Cox in particular.
The only real pro that I can see then is that an early election will have the potential to facilitate either the further destabilisation of the UBP or anhiliate the BDA before it begins to become even a mild threat. And calling that a pro is questionable. I think Ms. Cox herself would agree that we need an effective Opposition and that we would gain little from further weakening it – besides, the UBP and the BDA are quite capable of destroying themselves as is without assistance from the PLP (the UBP has ongoing problems while the BDA is still nebulously irrelevant).
So, personally, I think the next election will be at, or close to, the expiry of the current parliaments full term (I believe that would be in late 2012?). The only factors that I think would change that would be if the economic situation greatly deteriorates from the already poor situation, and the PLP then needs a mandate to enforce some form of austerity which they know would be unpopular, but at least through an election they could argue they had the popular mandate to do so. Alternatively, should either the BDA take form and start threatening to live up to its own boosterism of being something different from the PLP and UBP on policy positions or a new political force emerges, then this too would change the dynamics.
I guess I should add the usual qualifier that predictions are often wrong. Ms. Cox may indeed call an early election. I just don’t think there are any particular arguments in favour of her doing so.