Could the outbreak close off the possibility of an October election?
Six and a half years ago the last outbreak of foot and moth disease caused Tony Blair to move back the general election date as well as the local elections from the first week in May until June. There was even controversy then because the disease was not fully eradicated at the time the poll was called.
For months last time the harrowing pictures of livestock being destroyed and the big controls on movement dominated the TV screens and the papers and the questions about how well ministers had dealt with the crisis became a huge political issue.
One big industry to suffer was tourism where some estimated the loss at £8bn. The pictures of cattle being destroyed did not encourage visitors to come to the UK.
Already Gordon Brown has cancelled his family holiday and a nationwide ban on the movement of live-stock has been put in place. Should David Cameron be thinking of returning from Brittany?
The problem is that much of the damage from the disease spreading might have happened already and other parts of the country could be affected.
Will it have a political impact? Almost certainly yes. What will that impact be? That’s hard to say but it could be the making of the Brown premiership for this is one of those things where only government can sort it out. It could also work the other way round.
The Tories and Lib Dems have to be very careful how they play it for the last thing they want is to be seen to be trying to make political capital out of the crisis.
Election date betting is here. I have become a “buyer” of “Gordon Brown weeks” on Spreadfair. This is a spread market on the number of weeks between Gordon’s succession on June 27th and the general election. Until last night the spread had been edging down as speculation about an early poll has increased. The latest spread is 75.5 – 83.5 weeks which takes us to December 2008 – February 2009.