Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Election Reflection: Part Two

I was freakishly excited about the election results last Thursday - I fully intended to stay up until about 5am when a result became clear, drink a lot of wine and then sleep in on Friday. After all there's always a result in UK elections, all those opinion polls couldn't possibly be right about a hung parliament...

The first sign that this was different was the exit poll at 10pm which predicted a hung parliament and, despite the BBC harking back to 1992, I knew the polling was likely to be much more accurate. The night went on and there was still no sign of anything resembling a clear result by about 3am - lots of talk of recounts, "odd" results and the BBC presenters getting increasingly het up about queues of people outside polling stations (what happened with that by the way?!). 5am came and went without a result, David Dimbleby and Professor Vernon Bogdanor were harking back to 1974 and none of the party leaders looked particularly happy. The dog thought I'd gone mad when I fell asleep on the sofa and I then woke up to my mother coming into the room at 6.30am to see what had happened.

The answer appeared to be nothing! The Conservatives had done very well but no outright majority seemed likely - 326 seemed an impossible target - and by about 7.30am on Friday morning it literally was. We had the first hung parliament since 1974 and I'd finally found a vocation for historians as pundits on election shows (the BBC had had at least 5 on by this point). I was still on the sofa in last nights clothes but instead of removal vans in Downing Street there was just a procession of sleep-deprived politicians and reporters trying to work out exactly what was supposed to happen next. Gordon Brown couldn't resign, David Cameron couldn't form a government and Nick Clegg just appeared close to tears that Lib Dem popularity hadn't translated into more votes or seats.

Thus began my six day addiction to the BBC News channel, Radio 4 and any other source of news... Friday was first Nick Clegg's announcement that the Lib Dems would first talk to the Conservatives - which I welcomed but never thought anything would seriously come of, particularly as Labour were wildly talking up a progressive alliance of the left. Then came David Cameron's address on Friday afternoon which was impressively wide-ranging in its offer to the Lib Dems as partners in a coalition.

The two parties seemed massively unlikely bedfellows - I had a long debate via twitter with the lovely @DaughterOfLir about the ins and outs of a deal - finally concluding that one would be nice but that the Conservative right were just too barmy for it to be a realistic proposition! Particularly given the rumblings of discontent emanating from the direction of Lord Tebbit and Lord Ashdown... Then came the news that discussions between the two official negotiating teams were "going well" throughout Sunday and Monday - I had a bit more hope but the Twitterverse was aghast at the idea!

We all got a little more familiar with the internal workings of the Liberal Democrats and their now infamous "triple lock". Conservative backbenchers grumbled covertly to journalists. Flashmobs invaded Westminster demanding PR. The SNP started shouting very loudly about the Conservatives having no writ in Scotland (it was at about this juncture I began to support Scottish independence). Journalists looked increasingly desparate for a story, reporting on the delivery of pizza to the Lib Dem HQ. In short the world appeared to have gone mad...

Then on Monday night Gordon Brown resigned and announced that negotiations for a Lib-Lab coalition were officially opening. Given that I'd waited for Brown to go for three long years and fully expected him to be dragged out of Downing Street kicking and screaming - which in the end was very uncharitable of me - it was a surprisingly depressing moment. On Tuesday I woke up to the dulcet tones of Alan Johnson talking up Labour's ambition for a "progressive alliance", apparently being fully supported by Paddy Ashdown and the SNP. Doom appeared imminent...

Tuesday then appeared to have taken some kind of drugs - Malcolm Rifkind appeared on the BBC accusing the Lib Dems of cheating on the Tory party, everyone agreed that a decision needed to be made today or the world would end and the Lib-Lab talks foundered. Dave and Nick had a secret second date in the House of Commons and the rumour mill picked up frenetic pace despite the fact that the people making the decisions were locked up in the Cabinet Office. When I left work at 5pm breathless reports of bags being loaded into vans at the back of Downing Street and Lord Mandelson leaving in a black mood were circulating. By 7.30pm Gordon Brown was resigning for the second time in two days and the Queen was on the verge of inviting David Cameron to form a government, apparently in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. I then stayed up until after midnight to wait for the Lib Dems to push the deal through their triple lock system.

Today, Wednesday 12th May 2010, I woke up to the first non-Labour government in 13 years and to the first peacetime coalition government in 81 years. I'm still slightly stunned but somehow incredibly hopeful for this brave new dawn. Lots of people have told me that you can't be a liberal conservative, it's a contradiction in terms - but that's probably the way I'd best define my own politics. Now it appears the government is this very impossible thing and I am so hopeful, for the first time in a decade, for the future of the UK...

Onwards and upwards!

1 comment:

  1. I like the fact that the Liberals are stopping those right wing Tory dinosaurs making policies.
    I'm very positive about the whole thing too, it incourages true debate and not the constant sniping between politicians were used too. So much so I would vote for PR so coalition goverments become the norm rather than the exception as they have had in Germany for many years.