The United Kingdom is abuzz with rumors that Prime Minister Gordon Brown will call a snap election, possibly as early as next month. His Labour Party is currently around ten points ahead of the opposition Conservatives in the polls, and light years ahead of the worthy but hapless Liberal Democrats. Under Britain's parliamentary system, the serving Prime Minister has gigantic leeway regarding when to hold a vote. Of course, Brown himself was not elected Prime Minister; he inherited the position from his predecessor, Tony Blair. So the PM is said to be eager to secure a mandate of his own. A snap vote could give him just that. Or he could wait until next spring, when he will have had more time to prove just what a forceful, effective leader he is. Or he could wait until 2009, by which time the Conservatives might have completely imploded again. Or he could ... well, you get the idea.
I think the British Prime Minister's ability to 'choose his moment' is a wonderful innovation that should be extended to each and every one of us. Imagine what a boon it would be in our personal and professional lives.
Say that you're the boss of a failing business, like Foxtons, for example, which just announced that it "may be filing for bankruptcy protection in order to close the business in an orderly fashion." If you had the powers that the British Prime Minister has, you could say: 'Wait a minute. I'm not sure I want to face bankruptcy just now. Please come back in six months, when the housing market may have recovered, and we'll talk about it again. Better yet, make it nine months because our research shows that this nasty sub-prime lending business will have blown over by then.'
Or, if things are going well, you could invoke prime ministerial privilege to ensure that they keep going that way. Maybe, after a couple of good years in the market, your investments are starting to sputter. Just do what Gordon would do, and say: 'You know what, this market downturn comes at a really inconvenient time for me. Let's postpone it for a year, or maybe 18 months. Then we'll look at it again.'
And just imagine the effect of incumbent's advantage on your personal life. Has your partner fallen out of love with you? Is she/he no longer enamored of your enormous personal charm? Has he/she finally had enough of your eccentric hygienic habits? Hold on a minute. All you have to do is pull a Gordon: 'On reflection, I've concluded that it's better to postpone this break-up/divorce/separation until the fall, or possibly next spring, or even May of 2009, by which time I will have changed my ways and you will almost certainly love me again.'
Events, dear reader, events ... they happen when they will. All the more reason we should be empowered to do like Gordon Brown, and at least be able the choose the moment when we finally face the music.
James Geary is the author of Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists . He and his "juggling aphorisms" show are at the New York Public Library on Oct. 9.