Bittersweet and helter skelter…

May 7, 2010

Election nights always bring out the worst in me. I used to hate going to the count when I stood in council elections; I hated defeat that much.

Not only could I always have done more and not let people down by losing, but election night etiquette demanded that I put on a front of graciousness when, certainly some other candidates were never only political opponents but enemies held in contempt. It’s very un-English to be a bad loser, but that’s what I undoubtedly was. All that magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat stuff was beyond me – it’s not a game, its peoples’ lives, and they matter.

Losing a political majority to the Tories, some of whom would struggle to fall off a log, is painful and it was to these I expressed that hurt; up close and in their face. Not proud of it particularly, but the situation and feelings were real and what was said was true. David Cameron will soon find a number of such individuals on his side in the House of Commons.

It seemed odd therefore, not to be able to muster any sympathy last night for some Labour figures defeated in yesterday’s general election. At one point the scale of swing in voting against Labour seemed determined by the losers past proximity to the cabinet table – a toxic cocktail when mixed with personal misconduct.

Although I’m pleased that a Labour meltdown to third place remained just wistful dreaming by the hired nibs of Barons Murdoch and Dacre, some held on who didn’t deserve to; Hazel Blears for one.

The results exposed some basic misconceptions: that Cleggomania, if you’ll excuse the term, was capable of producing a breakthrough for the Liberal-Democrats; that the BNP could win parliamentary representation; that the Greens couldn’t; that the Speakers seat could be successfully contested and that the ‘independents’ could harness a significant anti-politics vote.

These exposures offered some solace in defeat.

It’s difficult to maintain 130/70 bp however, when Witham – an erstwhile Essex oasis through the worst Tory years of the 1980s – elected, on new boundaries, a pro-hanging, female former lobbyist. When Geoff Hoon, ex-Labour Minister and treacherous idiot savant of failed leadership coups turned up as a (presumably) paid pundit for the BBC, it became impossible.

It’s also hard not to be relieved that David Cameron failed to win a majority. Some months ago I tweaked Roy Jenkins’ famous analogy and wrote that, though Dave had simply to carry the Ming vase across the drawing room without dropping it, each time he opened his mouth it drew attention to how soapy his hands were. It was good to watch outright victory slip through them.

There’s no escape though from the most unfortunate outcome of the voting.

The single UK politician capable of holding any ring either side of the Atlantic and navigating a course through ongoing and world-wide economic crisis, whilst selflessly keeping the lives of ordinary people at the heart of what he does, will no longer matter.

A good number of people who voted Tory on May 6th will likely regret it later but I fear that a far greater number who didn’t, or who didn’t have a vote, will have much, much more cause for regret.

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