Apologies for the rather brief and disjointed nature of this blog. The main reason being that my computer appears to be undergoing some sort of crisis and has slowed its workings to a crawl. Is there are anything more frustrating in life than owning a Mac and watching The Spinning Wheel of Doom whirr away as you wait interminably for a page or document to load? I have given up trying to load pictures - each TSWOD delay felt like it was bringing on an aneurysm.
Secondly, I haven't been to bed yet because it was election night in the UK. This was the Viagra Election in that it kept you up all night. Fascinating result after fascinating result, which left the pundits speechless and the politician's tongue-tied. This morning, as of 11 a.m, there is no overall majority. The Conservatives are the largest party, yet the Labour Government (the second largest party) has the right as incumbent to see if it can form a minority Government. However, the Liberal Democrats, the third largest party, who dreamed of a breakthrough that never materialised, hold the balance of power. Their leader Nick Clegg has indicated the Tories, as the largest party, should have the chance to see if they can form a Government. Presumably a deal with him in return for a commitment to change the voting system, or offer a referendum on it, which is the Holy Grail of the Lib Dems. Understandably, as they received a almost a quarter of the votes cast, but won less than a tenth of the seats available. Problem is it is hard to see the Tories and Lib Dems doing a deal, as they differ so much in policy. The Lib Dems are much closer to the Labour party in spirit, and the latter would offer them more concrete guarantees about changing the voting system. Yet the feeling seems to be among the Lib Dems politicians (not their supporters, many of who are disgruntled Labour folk who would rather hack their own eyeballs out with a teaspoon than cosy up to the Tories) that the will of the people is they speak first to the Tories. Of course this could all change. Expect many days of horse trading and negotiations.
Here are some other observations of a pretty dramatic evening:
1. The British habit of waiting patiently in line come what may was demolished. Not without good reason either. I went to vote yesterday morning and the queue was enormous. It was clear the turn out was going to be high. When people got home from work and went to vote the queues grew. By the time some polling stations closed at 10pm hundreds of people in seats across the country were locked out and refused the opportunity to exercise their democratic right. Some places ran out of ballot papers. Outrageous, given that while more people voted than last time, it was hardly a gargantuan turn out. TV news showed scores of angry would-be voters haranguing officials. In some seats where the races was tight, there could even be legal challenges to the result if parties feel their vote suffered. It is pretty shabby for a nation who often sends monitors to check on the validity of elections overseas to preside over such a farce. File it alongside the hanging chads of Florida in 2000 and it's palpably clear we in the West should be rather careful in casting sanctimonious aspersions on fair and free elections in other countries.
2. Exit polls, which had become notoriously unreliable ('Tell me about it,' says Senator Kerry) were given some much needed credibility last night. The BBC one got it pretty much spot on, despite the fact that most of the broadcasters and politicians lined up to rubbish it initially.
3. The random fringe parties that a General Election attracts add some much needed colour and humour. At Tory leader and probable next Prime Minister David Cameron's count in Witney, the Monster Raving Loony Party fielded a guy who looked like Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard. Meanwhile, at the result of current PM Gordon Brown's constituency, a fringe candidate stood on the platform, fist raised in some kind of protest or salute. Unfortunately he didn't bank on Gordon making such a long speech, so half way through, in full view of the camera, his arm began to fall, his face betraying the strain. It got so that the most interesting part wasn't whether Brown would concede defeat to the Tories, but whether the fist would remain above the perpendicular. It didn't. It sagged and flagged, giving everyone a handy metaphor for Mr Brown's political career.
4. Broadcasters must realise that we don't give a fig what celebrities think of the election. The otherwise admirable BBC coverage kept cutting to a boat on the Thames where a series of increasingly inebriated slebs pronounced slurring verdicts on the proceedings that ranged from the banal to the bleeding obvious.
5. Don't attempt to stay up all night without any coffee in the house. And don't offer to drive the kids to school either. London streets + no sleep = high blood pressure and terrified kids.
If any serious resolution materialises I will update the blog, but otherwise that's it for me. I will return next week with some politics-free stuff and hopefully a working computer.
Dan - Friday