Winter is back. As the cold winds bring the temperatures down across Britain, the political heat generated by the Prime Ministerial Debates has evaporated and turned into the dampness of political stalemate. It had been duly predicted so I’m not sure why everyone is puzzled.
I feel what happened is quite clear. First, Britain discovered TV which allowed people to learn more about the Lib Dems, the party the press ignores because they can’t win. The intelligent and sophisticated gentlemen and women of the press wouldn’t trouble our little heads with difficult things such as the fairness of an electoral system or the option of choosing a party other than the established two.
Second, people learned about the First Past the Post system and hated it. They found it unfair because they couldn’t vote what they really wanted as the percentage of the vote doesn’t necessarily translate into seats. Caught between the devil and the blue sea, 36% voted for the Tories, 29% voted against the Tories and 23% agreed with Nick.
The Tories are still held in suspicion. This is notwithstanding 13 years of a Labour government relying on cosmetic changes rather than radical reform, and a leader in Cameron promising renewal. I feel it is partly because Cameron took the appearance of Obama, but (mis)matched with negative rhetoric during the campaign. His Big Society offers no guarantee for those who will be bitten by the economic crisis, while his anti-immigration spite will only embitter the country more.
Nevertheless, the Tories got 36% of the popular vote so it’s up to them to form a government. The ‘Left’, ever so un-democratic and thinking they know best, should restrain from suggesting a left-of-centre coalition. It would be ill-conceived, arrogant and stupid. The ‘Right’, however, would better find cross-party agreement (yes, with Labour too) on the budget. It takes a little maturity, which is what the electorate said in their ballot papers: work together!
What was hailed as a ‘historical’ election turned into farce. Hundreds of people were turned away from polling stations notwithstanding a meagre 65% turnout. (Why can’t we vote on Sunday like everyone else? Why can’t we have electronic voting?)
What is historical is, perhaps, that the public have shown to care about democracy, including how their vote translates into government. They care about issues such as immigration and don’t want to be simply fobbed off with a smile. They care about getting some answers instead of endless waffle. I hope the politics of charm of the Labour years has been tempered by today’s need for substance. It is time for politics to grow up.