British elections have been known to throw up some unexpected, unusual results in the past – “They’ve elected a Labour government! The public will never stand for this…” – but polling day 2010 is something else entirely. It’s not just a shake-up of the political map; this was a deconstruction. When you order a bacon and egg sandwich, you do not expect to receive two thin slices of toasted brioche, a poached quails egg, slivers of Prosciutto, atop droplets of a tomato and basil jus….
Well, that is what seems to have happened on May 6th….
No patterns emerged. The anti-everything vote saw the Greens win Brighton Pavilion, their first ever MP; but saw both independents in Wyre Forest and Blaenau Gwent lose. George Galloway failed in his attempt to be re-elected; so did Esther Rantzen, who at one point was favourite to win Luton South. She barely reached 2,000 votes.
The north-east stuck solidly Labour, as would be expected. But hang on, there’s Redcar (REDCAR!), former seat of Mo Mowlam now LibDem controlled, the 2010 equivalent of Hove in 1997.
(It was Jeremy Paxman who spotted it first, in 1997, seeing “LABOUR GAIN HOVE” run across the bottom of his screen. “Are your ready to drink hemlock, yet, Mr Portillo?” )
The BNP were roundly, soundly, fantastically, undeniably defeated, struck down by sense and reason, hope not hate.
And now there is the hung parliament situation, with “grubby 1970s style deals”, to use the Daily Mail phrase. Nothing of the sort, of course, but then again Nick Clegg isn’t a baby eating Nazi. As Clegg has consistently said throughout the campaign, the party with the most votes and seats has been given the mandate to attempt to form a government. I still agree with Nick. The Conservatives won more votes and seats, Labour lost nearly 90 along the way, Gordon Brown cannot claim to have the moral argument on his side, never mind the mathematical one.
Simon Hughes told Radio 4 this morning that Tory and LibDem ideologies are, by their very nature, different. He sounded concerned, although not enough to put any credence to the rumours that he is about to defect to Labour.
In this new age, without a uniform swing, the idea that any party can exist in isolation is outdated nonsense. The choices Nick Clegg has to make this year are hard; our party does not have everything dove-tailed with the Conservatives, and the electoral arithmetic makes it almost impossible to join with Labour. Compromise and consensus are the watchwords; blind ideology has no place in this reshaped political situation.
I want Clegg to push through our fairness agenda into the governance of the country, whoever is ultimately in charge. Supporting a Conservative administration will be difficult for some to take; we may lose votes in the short-term, we may have arguments with our supporters and members to contend with in the coming months. Britain needs help – our economy is suffering after years of Labour misrule. Change is a concept, not just a word or slogan, and although there could yet still be a Labour minority administration, I just cannot support Brown continuing to run the country.
This mad, crazy sport of politics often elbows from the centre of the screen the real issues; there are people, employees, mothers, doctors, teachers, students, who need to know there is a government focusing on their needs. The closed doors behind which the talks are happening need to be opened soon. Whatever happens, let’s get on with running the country.