The booking of a heavyweight outdoor campaign in October by the Labour Party has sparked off speculation that it could be working on a contingency plan for an autumn election, following the negative publicity gained by the resignation of the Northern Ireland secretary, Peter Mandelson.
According to the outdoor sales specialist Concord, the Labour Party has taken the unprecedented step of booking 400 national supersites for a campaign which will take place in the second half of September, lasting four weeks.
The Labour Party has, like its rivals, been busily booking up sites during the pre-May period, and Parliamentary sources are convinced that the election will be called in May. However, Nigel Mansell, the managing director of Concord, said: 'September sites can be cancelled without penalty up until mid-June, which would suggest that this is a sensible tactical purchase to hedge against a deferment from May.'
In the last election there was no history of any political party booking such a heavyweight campaign before it was known when and who was elected.
Parliamentary sources are suggesting that the autumn campaign could also be booked in by the Labour Party as a thank you to voters after the election, or in anticipation of a government initiative ear-marked for that time.