I still think that there is a very strong chance Labour will emerge as the biggest party in the new parliament. There are two reasons for this
1 Brown will do well in the last leader’s debate. It is about the economy – if he can’t shine in this debate he never will. Also it will remind people that the key issue in the election is the economy and given the tricky position we find ourselves in it is much better to have an experienced team in place rather than good old George Osborn.
2 There will be the return of the 1993 factor – Remember; unpopular PM, knackered party, opposition leader making the right noises but still not totally convincing the electorate, country emerging from an economic downturn. The parallels are scary. Back then, in spite of opinion polls predicting the opposite, the country stuck with what it knew (ie John Major) as it didn’t want to endanger the economic recovery. It won’t happen again, but it might be enough to give Labour the most seats in the new parliament.
The success of Nick Clegg and Vince Cable means though that there will inevitably be a hung parliament and this is where the fun starts.
I imagine that many Labour supporters now secretly hope that Clegg does a deal with the Tories. The inevitable in fighting and inexperience will mean the coalition goverment is a disaster and within a few months the UK will be clamouring for a second election. By this time David Miliband will be leading the party and it will look and feel a lot more electable. I think that Labour could win an outriught majority within a year.
If Clegg does a deal with Labour it will be riskier for the party. But that deal certainly won’t include Brown. If that happens Labour should appoint an interim leader in Alan Johnson and see what happens. I think a Clegg/Johnson leadership might actually work for the UK as the two parties are much closer in terms of policy than the Lib Dems are with the Tories. If things go wrong then Miliband is waiting in the wings.
I do think that it isn’t a coincidence that Miliband has had a fairly low profile in the election so far. He remains Labour’s best shot at winning a majority and I do wonder if the party is keeping some distance between him and Brown so that he can take over after the election.
Well, we’ll find out soon enough