Could foot and mouth blow Gordon's chances of an Autumn election ?

Foot and Mouth disease is the last thing anyone wanted to see spring up again in this country, but for Gordon brown it must be an extra headache, but also a chance to show the difference between him and Blair again.

Gordon Brown has acquitted himself well in the recent floods, showing a that he seems to care, visiting the scene and not going to Africa and ensuring the armed forces were actively involved. Now he has another problem, but unlike Blair in 2001 Brown is taking swifter and more decisive action having learnt the lessons of the slow way in which the Labour government got to grips with the crisis in 2001.

But perhaps the biggest problem this will cause Gordon Brown will be the chance that the foot and mouth problems might cause any wishes he might have had for an Autumn election to be put on hold.

Those of us involved in the elections of 2001 will remember well how the local elections and general election were put back a month because of the closure of chunks of the countryside. For people like me campaigning in North Norfolk, it caused enormous headaches. Out campaign had been designed to build up to a crescendo of action from late March, and suddenly years of planning had to be altered, printing schedules adjusted and renegotiated, and s sudden feeling swept over us that an election campaign we were set to win had suddenly got beyond our control. As it was in North Norfolk, we (the Lib Dems) won narrowly, but I know of other seats that swung sharply as a result of Foot and Mouth and the crisis it had brought to some communities.

The alternative view is, of course, that Foot and Mouth might make the decision easier for Gordon Brown. If he was in two minds about having the General Election this Autumn, then this will allow him to put that idea to bed until the spring, which must have been his favoured option before Labour's poll renaissance.

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