The last debate and election nights past

My goodness, that was boring. The only real entertainment was at the end when the trinity of would-bes found that the stage was raised too high for them to reach into the audience and press the flesh. We learned that Mrs. Duffy has scotched Gordon (am I the only one to think that there was a worrying hint of emphasis on woman in the phrase ‘bigoted woman’?) – he had to mention her for fear the others might pitch in. Cameron was plasticity incarnate, and Clegg not on peak form. He was once again lifting lines from the others – from Cameron during the banter, and Brown from last time (‘Get real!’). Also, he can’t, for some reason, say ‘create’. He says ‘crate’: as in ‘crate a better future’.

So all we have to look forward to is Election Night. I have always liked Election Night (it comes from having done Politics A level at a time when this was quite an unusual choice, and thereafter being a smartarse about swings and things), but I long for the days when the late David Butler chipped in with stats, only to be swatted away by whoever was the ringmaster, and when the late Bob Mckenzie, a great Canadian, chipped in with his home-made swingometer. Now we have the flailing arms of Peter Snow and (worse) the holograms of Jeremy Vine. I haven’t heard that they won’t be on, so it will be the same as usual, I’m sure. The best we can hope for is that weird surges and fluctuations of voting patterns (say, pockets of UKIP) disrupt the inexorable movement of Cameron and co. to some sort of minority government.

About three o’clock in the morning, I will be red-eyed and wishing, once again, that I’d hit the sack. I am feebly hoping for some sensation (‘Hague Loses Richmond!’) but I think I’m whistling in the wind.

Worryingly, it is now over 50 years since the first election I remember: 1959. I was at a toffee-nosed private primary school, and a boy called, of all things, Chamberlain, was duffed up in the playground because somneone had heard his parents had voted Labour. (As if this was unusual in Sunderland!) It was the first glimpse I had of the stupid tribalism of it all. My mother, bless her, had no explanation for the violence at school, other than that the Conservatives were … were … she couldn’t think, but good, at any rate.

In a local election in about 1972, my sister and I, at home from our respective universities on a polling day, pretended to forget all about it. We pretended to sleep in, an easy cover story for students. My parents nipped up the road and voted Conservative as the polling booths opened. We said nothing, and gave the air of two apathetic types who hadn’t a clue there was anything electoral in the air. Late in the evening, just as the polls were closing, we nipped up and cancelled out our parents’ votes. My father, to give him credit, laughed, and said we should have had a pact.

Pact: that’s a word we’ll be hearing a lot of in the coming weeks, I suspect.

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