The October 2007 General Election?

If Mr Brown wants an election on 25 October (the last Thursday before the clocks go back, and also incidentally St Crispin’s Day), he has to call it early next week, which neatly allows him to steal the headlines away from the Conservative Party conference.

But where does the requirement that an election be called (at least) seventeen working days before polling day come from? Is it just custom and practice, part of the unwritten British Constitution, or is it encoded in statute somewhere?

(Similarly: why always Thursdays? I approve of holding elections on Thursdays, as lots of children get the day off school, and this, among other things, helps to persuade them that parliamentary democracy is a good idea, but have elections always been on Thursdays in this country for ever and ever, and if so, why?)

For what it’s worth (bugger all), I’m thinking that there probably will be an election. I used to think that there wouldn’t be, as the Labour Party didn’t have enough money; but now people tell me that the Tories are planning to flood marginals with cash in the period between now and whenever an election is called, which seems to make it sensible to go sooner rather than later. (Unless the cupboard really is completely bare, but if it were, then presumably the Party would have killed this talk of an early election much much sooner?)

21 thoughts on “The October 2007 General Election?”

  1. I know we can probably just google the Thursday thing, but without looking, my memory tells me:
    1) That it’s convention, not statute.
    2) That the times you can’t have elections are weekends and bank holidays.
    3) That no one knows why it’s Thursday, but it may be to do with market days.

    1 and 2 may be out of date, given our brave new constitutional world. If all the above are wrong, apologies to anyone who I’m teaching British Politics to this term.

  2. If the Tories are planning to spend considerable campaigning money prior to Brown calling an election, he should let them blow it and hold and election in 2009…

  3. it’s ruled out by the 1983 Act.

    Ah, OK, but I was wondering why it should be prohibited. Don’t elections in some other countries take place on Sunday?

  4. From table 8 it’s quite startling that 6/7 pre-WWII elections were held in Q4 of the year, 4/10 in the 30 years after 1945, and 0/7 since then.

    Maybe people are increasingly wussy?

    The It-Has-to-be-Thursday thing, which does seem to have some practical advantages in giving you a weekend do form a government, seems to date really from 1945, so I wonder how that date was chosen. Although Thursday was more popular before then than any other day.

  5. Looking at the Times in 1935, the reason it was on a Thursday was because Parliament was dissolved on a Friday, and candidates could only be nominated after 10 days, so that made a Monday, and then the election had to be 10 days after than, which made a Thursday.

  6. Yes, they do. Is it an anti-clericalism thing?

    Dunno. Might be here in Spain I suppose, since the Church was never that keen on elections.

    Possibly sort of anticlerical faux-ignorance: “what, Sunday is supposed to be some sort of religious festival? Stone me! What’s all that about then?”

  7. 25 October is also Great October Socialist Revolution day (at least it is if you’re in Ethiopia or anywhere else still using the Julian calendar…)

  8. Surely not an anti-clerical thing, because if people have all gone to Church in the morning, the priest will tell them how to vote that day. So that’s the day of the week the Church would be most able to influence the state, so any gesture of Church-state separation would be a little counterproductive.

    Surely it’s just because nobody works on a Sunday (traditionally, and especially more so on the Continent), so it’s seen as more democratic (for want of a better expression) as nobody will be unable to vote because they have to work.

  9. Yes.

    I can’t even get away with saying that I mistook it for the 80th anniversary of Prokofiev’s Cantata for the Anniversary of the Revolution, as that was for the 20th anniversary, and will therefore only be 70 years old…

  10. I always thought it was in honour of Abergavenny Thursdays, the world fampus football team. But maybe not. While I’m here, can I recommend a very full and honest account of what is going on in Baghdad as a result of the invasion.

    For some obscure reason, the Washington Bureau of a set of very obscure newspapers has been head and shoulders above the rest of the US media.

  11. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

    I choose Balaclava then. At least part of one side was using the Gregorian Calendar.

  12. I can’t even get away with saying that I mistook it for the 80th anniversary of Prokofiev’s Cantata for the Anniversary of the Revolution, as that was for the 20th anniversary, and will therefore only be 70 years old…

    On the other hand, Eisenstein’s October is 80 – which means that just about every documentary about the revolution will illustrate it with 80-year-old footage, in the absence of authentic 90-year-old footage of the real thing. So it’s a perfectly understandable mistake, if mistake it be.

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