Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Election Reflection - Part One

I've been following both the General Election campaign and the negotiations for a coalition government pretty breathlessly - which has earned me the title of political correspondent at work as well as some less desirable nicknames!

It's not my first general election as a voter - I voted in vain against the Blair government in 2005 - but it is the first election I could participate in where there was a real and growing sense that change could happen. However, I dreaded until about an hour ago that real change wouldn't actually happen - a change I didn't even think possible until last Friday. To a certain extent we won't know that anything has changed for months, even years but to me the events of the 7th - 11th May 2010 already seem momentous.

I should probably clarify my own politics a bit more here - I don't claim to have foreseen a Conservative-Liberal coalition or that I would have voted for one had it been on offer last Thursday. I think the coalition has the potential to do tremendous good for the country but that's a position I've arrived at very recently indeed!

I come from a traditionally Labour-voting community in North Wales - my grandfather once claimed that Wrexham would elect a cow if you stuck a red rosette on it - but not from a particularly Labour household. I remember my parents admiring Margaret Thatcher and whilst Tony Blair taking office in 1997 is a moment embedded in my memory I don't recall it bringing any scenes of wild joy at home (I was only 11). Personally, I've always been interested in politics but quite often from a historical perspective - I studied history at uni - and have struggled sometimes to find a political "tribe". After all Welsh girls don't vote Tory do they?!

Except this Welsh girl did and does, at least for the time being... I've watched David Cameron change the Conservative Party over the past 4 years and I hoped, prayed and voted for a Conservative Government with a mandate that would allow him to change this country. It was always an outside hope - opinion polls consistently pointed to the result we eventually got, a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party - but I truly believed it was the only way the UK could move forward. Maybe that's the trouble with being a historian, you get a bit too wedded to the status quo because it is "historical" and not always because it's the best way of doing things!

Also, given Labour and Liberal noises throughout the election campaign, I can probably be forgiven for attaching virtually no value to Nick Clegg saying that he'd support whichever party gained a majority of votes and seats. The "Anti-Tory" voices were everywhere - much as I love Twitter there's been some very nasty abuse doing the rounds for anyone who even thought of voting Conservative - and a so-called "progressive coalition of the left" seemed by far the most likely outcome of any split vote. Plus "my" party have their own faults - Cameron's done well but there are still some hard-line right wingers hanging about (Lord Tebbit I'm looking at you) - so Lib Dem support for the Conservatives seemed about as likely as hell freezing over. I kind of felt that was a shame - I've always had a soft spot for the Liberals - but at the end of the day I felt I had to pick a party and I chose the Conservatives.

I did that for a number of well-thought out policy reasons not just because I like David Cameron and think his wife's pretty... Firstly and fundamentally, I'm not a socialist in even the most moderate sense - socially liberal yes, but I'm a strong believer in capitalism, enterprise and a small state. Secondly, I'm mildly eurosceptic - I believe we get a lot of benefits from membership of the EU but the single currency and other aspects of European federalism just don't stack up in my head. Finally, I believe in a welfare state that supports its citizens when times are hard but encourages them to be pro-active as often as possible. So I read policies, watched debates and reaffirmed my pro-Conservative leanings. Then I put my X in the box last Thursday and sat back to watch the results - half in hope and half in fear.

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