Sunday, 9 May 2010

And the winner is….

The election is over bar the waiting, quite a lot of waiting since the consensus opinion is that we won’t have a government until Monday at the earliest. This hiatus between the closing of the polls and the start of whatever comes next is a good time to make a few final observations about the election just gone.

Thanks to the televised debates between the leaders of the three main parties, an unlikely ratings success as it turned out, we now know who Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is. In fact for a while it seemed like a large section of the public really did agree with Nick. As it turned out both Clegg and his party peaked too soon and the orange surge failed to translate into either votes or seats, that said the Lib Dems could still play kingmaker in the negotiations to form a coalition and will be able to demand more serious treatment from the media in future.

As expected Gordon Brown imploded on the campaign trail, the Labour Party campaign was a lumbering mess and the Bigotgate scandal robbed Brown of much of his personal authority. It is ironic that he made the only halfway decent speech of the election to an audience of community activists gathered in Methodist Central Hall at the start of last week, his passion may well have been genuine but few people listening would have been able to believe that his moral compass isn’t irretrievably broken.

If there is an award for running the most energetic campaign is should probably go to Conservative leader David Cameron, for four weeks he seemed to be just about everywhere. This could have led to a bad case of over exposure, in fact it saw him emerge from the dust of the campaign as that most rare of things a fully functioning human being who also happens to be a full time politician. If, as seems likely, he ends up leading a government obliged to start taking unpopular decisions from day one that may prove to be a valuable asset.

Election Day threw up some surprises, some of which were comic while others left this observer fearful for the safety of our democracy.

Former UKIP leader and full time scourge of the EU Nigel Farage emerged from a Dick Dastardly style plane crash to do battle with commons speaker John Bercow. Sadly he lost that particular dogfight but has cemented his place as a ‘character’, the next logical step for Mr Farage is surely canonization as a fully fledged national treasure.

There was much less to laugh about in the exclusion of thousands of people who turned up to vote in the hour before the polls closed at ten o’clock. Yes many of the people involved probably could have voted earlier in the day but the inability of the Polling Clerks at the stations where the problem occurred should have been more organised. Voting is a fundamental right and it should not be denied to people due to incompetence on the part of public officials.

The result, as the polls had for once been accurate in predicting, was the first hung parliament in the UK since 1974. Since the early hours of Friday morning our democratic system has taken on a distinct similarity to the sort of ‘photo-romance’ that used to appear in Jackie and other teen magazines. Should Nick give his heart, or his fifty seven seats in the commons anyway, to sporty Dave or brooding Gordon; decisions, decisions, what is a party leader to do?

By this time next week a decision will have been reached, in all probability David Cameron will be head of a government about to set sail into economic waters stormy enough to make the shocks and scares of an election seem like child’s play. There are interesting and probably dangerous times ahead.

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