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Last Updated: Friday, 28 September 2007, 09:23 GMT 10:23 UK
Eyes on PM over 'snap election'
Gordon Brown
Mr Brown has had a lead in recent opinion polls
Speculation is continuing to grow over a possible autumn general election, amid suggestions that Gordon Brown will make a decision this weekend.

The BBC revealed on Thursday that Labour had begun recruiting campaign support staff, with a view to starting work next week.

The Tories and Lib Dems both say they are ready for an autumn election.

Advisers to Mr Brown, who has had an opinion poll lead recently, say he has yet to decide on a course of action.

The prime minister does not have to call an election until 2010 and asked about a possible date he has repeatedly said he is focusing on "getting on with the job".

'Mandate'

But there are suggestions that so-called "Brown bounce" in the opinion polls since he took power in June will encourage him to go to the country in October or November.

Opponents say he needs to seek a mandate from voters, as Tony Blair was Labour leader at the last election in 2005.

However, Labour's finances are reportedly in a worse state than those of the Tories, prompting some commentators to say the prime minister is likely to wait until at least next year.

If he calls an election in October he will have given us more advanced warning than any recent opposition, and if he doesn't, he has completely bottled it
George Osborne

But Labour Treasurer Jack Dromey said on Wednesday: "I'm confident of our capacity to be ready. We will be."

Labour was "no longer racking up debts" but was "living within our means", he added.

It is understood Mr Brown will meet advisers this weekend to discuss a possible election.

The speculation comes ahead of the Conservatives' annual party conference in Blackpool, which starts on Sunday.

'Ready and waiting'

Shadow chancellor George Osborne told the Daily Telegraph: "I sometimes read that Gordon Brown is supposed to be this great genius at election planning but he has managed to put himself in the position where if he calls an election in October he will have given us more advanced warning than any recent opposition, and if he doesn't, he has completely bottled it."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Will Gordon Brown listen to the Cabinet kids or to the grey hairs?
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said earlier this week: "The continuous speculation is bad for the economy, bad for the political process and bad for public confidence in the government."

"The Liberal Democrats are ready and waiting for a general election as soon as possible."

The people approached to help with Labour's campaigning are understood to be self-employed or working for lobbyists or organisations sympathetic to the party.

Some are in other political posts but all could be released from their roles immediately. However, they could just as quickly be told to return to their normal jobs.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the decision showed Labour had moved beyond contingency planning to active preparation for an election campaign.

SEE ALSO
Labour 'recruits election staff'
27 Sep 07 |  UK Politics
Cameron 'ready for snap election'
26 Sep 07 |  UK Politics
Lib Dems 'on snap election alert'
16 Sep 07 |  UK Politics



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