Sorry, but I have to disagree with practically all my LibDem colleagues, just about every Conservative I've come across, and almost the entire panoply of press, radio and TV journalists. I don't think Gordon Brown is a coward.
I don't think Brown bottled it, because I don't think he ever intended to hold an autumn election. I think it was a cunning plan that went wrong. I think his plan was to let everyone think there was to be an election so as to unsettle them and smoke out their plans. The only bit of evidence that doesn't fit that is the various strands about Labour shifting people to election posts, taking on staff, etc, but that could easily all be smoke as well. I remember Ferrari once doing it brilliantly to McLaren during a close race. They got all the mechanics out for Schumacher, McLaren reacted by bringing Hakkinen in, the Ferrari mechanics all went back inside, Schumacher got a couple of extra quick laps in and won the race.
The original plan worked. He got a good idea about Tory plans which he was able to shaft with the pre budget plans for inheritance tax - nicked by the Tories from the LibDems by the way. And he no doubt ruffled a few feathers. But he paid a very high price for it for two reasons. The first was flawed execution. He needed to pull the plug on the idea sooner, but I guess he couldn't bring himself to. And the visit to Iraq was tenable (even as a piece of political upstaging it was forgiveable) but the spun announcement about troop reductions was a big mistake.
The second reason was, I think, that he underestimated the power of the press. They're blaming him for leading them on, which he undoubtedly did, but they were willing victims. It was far too good a story for the press to miss - fills papers and hours of screen time without any effort on their part. So they desperately wanted an election to talk about, and they fell for it hook, line and sinker. And then he was powerless to stop it attaining much bigger heights than he wanted it to. The only thing he could do was to stop it,and he failed to do that. To me it's a lesson in the limits of political power.
And now of course he's suffering from press over reaction. He was doing brilliantly in the summer according tomany,when he really did nothing but show once again that he is a very able administrator. And he was lucky - a terrorist plot that failed to achieve any of its targets, foot and mouth which didn't take hold, and floods which enabled him to look primeministerial. And now all that's happened is that he's shown he can misjudge things occasionally. Heavens above - he's human.