We are living in strange and ugly times.
Whilst we played out the drama of the tightest UK election for years Greece is sliding into meltdown and the international money markets are gripped with a fear and paranoia as the banker’s greed and shaky 21st century economics threaten to engulf us yet again.
Meanwhile we have had a general election in the UK where every single party seems to have lost!
Politics is a dark and ugly place where power means everything and idealism is considered a weakness. In the TV age a live debate can be won or lost on a look to the camera (interestingly the inert Brown won all three debates in polls conducted with people listening to them on the radio).
What you look like in 2010 counts for far more than the dread word, policy. A puppy dog smile is worth a million votes, a scripted put down of a rival grabs headlines in a way that a great idea never will- especially with your right wing backers in the printed press.
Despite this up and down the country a very pissed of electorate- still reeling from moats and duck houses made sure that there were few winners on this fascinating and fearful night.
What we are left with today is an undignified and rancid scramble for the crumbs of power. Clandestine deals sorted out on melting Blackberries and steely stares in interviews not giving the game away are the order of the day.
A well hung Parliament
There is no clear winner- the Tories have the most seats but not enough to grab power. Surely this election should have been a shoo-in for them. They were up against a deeply unpopular government who were on a no-win-three terms-and-we-are-bored-of-you sticky wicket.
All the Tories had to do was beat a party led by a man with the charisma of a sack of potatoes, who despite his intelligence, was an awful choice of leader. Brown spent the campaign looking uncomfortable in his own skin and recoiling from meeting the public and that was before the Rochdale and ‘Bigotgate’ (I still wonder what the other leaders muttered under their breaths after these meet and greets?).
Labour had everything against them- not just a leader who was like Bill Wyman taking over the Stones if Mick Jagger had left in the seventies. They also managed to get blamed for the world recession, lost a whole generation of voters over the Iraq war whilst managing to being held responsible for the expenses scandal that engulfed all the parties and then ran a lacklustre campaign.
Somehow, though, they didn’t go into the predicted meltdown, the much talked about longest suicide note, because, instead of crushing Labour and romping home by a landslide the Tories have limped into a shaky looking lead.
It was the Sun wot lost it!
The Tories fought the most negative campaign in British political history where for long stretches of time their main policy seemed to be ‘look at Brown he’s useless’. Spearheaded by Murdoch’s drooling Sun droogs their multi million-dollar blitz has been a failure. All that Ashcroft money, all that brazen manipulation by the right wing press and that desperate attempt to make ‘Cam the Man’ (he takes his tie off! he likes indie rock! he drinks a pint in a pub! he once met a black man!) look like Obama have failed miserably. The Sun may have mocked up that ill-advised Obama artwork cover and ‘Cam the Spam’ may have rolled his sleeves up on those speeches on the stump but he severely lacked the charisma and the intelligence of Obama.
His love of the Smiths and the Jam’s ‘Eton Rifles’ (not the lyrics! They don’t count!). Those aforementioned tie-less, sleeves rolled up speeches on the stump in front of party lackeys. The fiercely negative campaigning. That innate Eton confidence that the reigns of power were rightly his have not worked for ‘Cam the Hollow Man’.
He may have the most seats but today it’s an empty victory- just a weary resignation from the electorate and a downright ‘No!’ from Scotland where Labour increased their vote- the Auld Union is looking decidedly dodgy now.
Nick Clegg, who for a brief few days was going to break the mould, has done worse than last time. The limelight initially was his friend. He shone on camera. He smiled. Girls swooned, the youth were energised and there was talk of the Lib Dems or the ‘Liberals’ as the other two parties took to calling them, being the new opposition.
Clegg looked like a far more convincing leader than ‘Cam the Adman’. He had a natural assurance and polished empty charisma of a modern politician that his stiffer Tory rival could never quite manage. But the limelight is a cruel and fitful place and when the full glare of the spotlight turned onto his party it was found wanting in many areas.
He may still be the kingmaker in this most curious of Parliaments but he too is another big loser in the only election I can remember where everyone lost.
(…apart from the Green Party who won their first ever Parliamentary seat in Brighton…)