Friday, 7 May 2010

Britain, land of the elect

What fun we’ve all been having here in Britain!

Those of you sadly denied the privilege of inhabiting these shores may barely have registered the fact that the UK had a general election last night. For us, we’re barely aware of anything else. Of course, we realise that there’s been some sort of unpleasantness in Greece, and the Yanks seem to be terribly upset – but then when are they not? – about one of our revered British institutions, BP, and are being beastly to them for pouring oil and making troubled waters. But apart from that, well it’s been the election, the election and nothing but the election.

And what a marvellous election it’s been! It’s actually quite a shock to realise that the word ‘Schadenfreude’ isn’t English since it describes our favourite pastime: we delight in other people’s misfortune. So what could possibly be better than an election where everyone lost?

First the Conservatives. They peaked in the opinion polls at about 125% some time last year and then adopted a brilliant electoral position of telling voters that they were going to cut everything and cause everyone lots and lots of pain. As a result they ended up polling about 36% and failed to secure a parliamentary majority.

That hasn’t stopped them claiming all day that this election is their best and Labour’s worst since 1931. At that election they took 473 seats (306 today) and the Labour Party 52 (258). It’s reassuring to know that people this good with numbers are likely to be charged with getting us out of our financial mess.

Then Labour. They took 356 seats in 2005. That gave them the kind of majority that just can’t be wiped out in one election (the Conservatives had 198 MPs). Well, nothing is beyond Gordon Brown. If you really make every mistake in the book, dithering about when to hold an election, being denounced by your colleagues as a bully, getting caught dissing a voter on a live mike, then it doesn’t matter how good you may be at trivial things like getting the country out of recession, you can overcome every obstacle to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

And what of the Liberal Democrats? Well, they had what was called a ‘surge’ in the course of the campaign. Whenever I hear that term ‘surge’ it conjures up the image of what might happen to an adolescent boy in his bed at night: it takes a special kind of dream to bring one on, it’s over in a flash and it makes a bit of a mess that needs to be cleared up in the morning. So it proved with the Lib Dems. It was fun while it lasted, but then all the grand hopes evaporated and the party ended up with just a percentage point more votes than last time and actually lost seats.

So all three the major parties lost, and nobody won.

And there were lots of other losers, to make our delight complete. The United Kingdom Independence Party or UKIP – I always feel that the abbreviated name sounds like something to line a cat’s litter tray – failed to win a single seat and, oh joy unconfined! so did the British National Party. The BNP have had to be forced by not just one but two court orders to open their membership to non-Whites. Even though they’ve changed their Constitution to comply with the law, I can’t imagine any Black or Asian person joining the BNP even if if it was a matter of life of death, which it probably would be if they ever did. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t join the BNP if my life depended on it, and I’m White.

The BNP won two seats in the European Parliament last year, which was ironic since no-one can possibly be more anti-Europe than they are. They thought it was that anti-Europeanism that chimed with the voters and gave them their success, and imagined they might pull the same feat off in the General Election. In the event, their leader, Nick Griffin, took 6000 votes, which is about 6000 too many, but saw his Labour opponent hold her seat with an increase in her own support, against the national trend.

What were you thinking, Nick? Listen to your own propaganda: the Brits hate Europe. That’s why they don’t give a damn who they send there. That’s how even the BNP can win seats in the European Parliament. But in a UK election? To our Parliament, the one in Westminster? The one that matters? Think again, pal.

Then there was a success. Caroline Lucas won Brighton Pavilion (winning a seat in Brighton Pavilion sounds like being offered a plush spot to sit down in a quaint location, doesn’t it?), the first ever seat won by the Greens. But then she’s her Party’s only representative in Parliament, so really that’s a defeat too.

Defeats all over the place. Brilliant isn’t it? What a boon for a country that loves to moan about its losers that it suddenly has so many, all at the same time.

Happy days.

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