The Cabinet are leaving London this week for the Easter break with a single upbeat and unified message. Gordon Brown has long seen this week as an opportunity to begin his political fight back in the run up to planned May 2010 election.
If the government can win the narrative battle over the coming weeks and offer a real sense that the global economy has turned a corner, Gordon Brown should go to the country on June 4th.
The headlines for Labour are only going to get worse over the coming months. Unemployment will steadily rise, with some predictions suggesting we will see over 3 million people joining the dole queues by 2010. Officials this week have started briefing that Britain may be heading to the IMF for a bailout. The pre budget report in the Autumn is likely to see an increase in the rate of VAT to 18.5 pence in the pound, with potential rises in income tax.
These unhappy developments will come straight after what is likely to be difficult, if not disasterous, local and European elections. The Labour vote is expected to collapse in key marginals as supporters register their disapproval of the state of the economy. In Labours northern strong holds we may see the first BNP MEPs elected; recovery from potentially the lowest national share of the vote Labour has ever seen would be nearly impossible.
It might seem contradictorary to urge the Prime Minister to call an election to avoid an electoral drubbing, but votes registered against a party in local and European elections do not always translate to a loss of support in a general election. If Labour can secure a high voter turnout as people head to the polls to vote in local, national and European polls it stands its best chance of winning an unprecedented fourth term.
Party finances should also motivate the Prime Minister to consider fighting a general election in June. Labours bank balance is still heavily in the red and the party will struggle to adequately fight separate local, European and general election campaigns within eleven months of one another.
David Cameron's reaction to the G20 agreement this week demonstrated the dividing line that Gordon Brown would like to demonstrate. The Conservative party leader, after welcoming the agreement called for an immediate return to tackling domestic economic issues. Gordon Brown wants to portray to voters Cameron's naivety in thinking that the issue of domestic and international economic recovery can be separated from one another.
It is clear that the Conservatives have yet to convince the electorate that they would handle the economic crisis better than the current Government. Divisions in the shadow cabinet have emerged following Ken Clarkes announcement that raising the threshold of inhertiance tax wouldn't be a top prioirty for any incoming Conservative government.
David Cameron's constant comments about the state of the economy, although largely accurate, risk painting him as a pessimist at a time when people are desperately seeking signs of the promised 'green shoots'.