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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007, 22:45 GMT 23:45 UK
Minister suggests autumn election
Barbara Follett and Gordon Brown
Mrs Follett is the first minister to speak so explicitly about a poll
Women's minister Barbara Follett has fuelled fresh speculation about a possible autumn general election.

Speaking at a Labour Party conference fringe meeting, she said there was an "80% chance", suggesting 25 October, 1 or 8 November as possible dates.

Mrs Follett is the first minister to speak so explicitly about the chances of a snap poll and its timing.

Skills Secretary John Denham has said opinion polls predicting election gains were "exciting" to see.

Meanwhile, Ed Balls, schools secretary and aide to Prime Minister Gordon Brown questioned whether the greater gamble would be to wait before having a snap poll.

Senior figures are suggesting a snap poll is now more rather than less likely and Mr Brown has again urged Tory supporters and members to join him.

Mrs Follett told a conference fringe meeting: "When I came here I thought there would be a 40% chance - I now think there's an 80% chance.

"It's about having a mandate, having a fresh start, whether its 25 October, 1 November or 8 November," she said.

Cameron criticism

The fresh bout of speculation came after a series of events pushed the issue back up the agenda at the Bournemouth conference.

Former Tory chairman Lord Tebbit delivered fresh criticisms of David Cameron's leadership, saying the public thought the Old Etonian was out of touch and had "no experience of the world whatsoever".

And Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said the British public did not yet know what the Tories stand for, adding that the party had to have a "clear party message" by the end of their conference next week.

But Conservative sources have said the party is ready and waiting to fight a snap election, with candidates selected in their top 200 target seats.

At the Labour Party conference, the prime minister used a question and answer session with delegates to urge members of all political parties to join him in his attempt to transform Britain.

It all came against the background of continuing good poll showings for Mr Brown, who is thought to have had a successful conference week.

The conference will draw to a close on Thursday with speeches from Justice Secretary Jack Straw and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The traditional end-of-conference send-off will be delivered by deputy leader Harriet Harman.




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