The dust has yet to settle; yet any election blogpost is already out of date. Other more savvy political commentators than me (and probably ones with more time on their hands) like Obsolete and Anton Vowl have already digested much of the results and have largely pre-empted much of the points I might make.
When I went to bed early on Friday morning; with media helicopters hovering ominously and blackly over Witney, in the hope of watching David Cameron’s coronation; and with the Lib Dems already down two seats: I slept fitfully and fearfully. The next morning’s result was more than I had hoped for only four hours earlier: while the Lib Dem seats were disappointing, the votes weren’t, and merely underlined the wrongness of the system; the wonderful, inspiring Caroline Lucas was now Caroline Lucas MP for Brighton; Nick Griffin and the Dagenham & Barking BNP louts had all had a mighty drubbing; and we were heading for a hung parliament. No coronation, just lots of constitutional and parliamentary wrangling ahead.
Several days on and there’s still everything to play for. Gordon Brown has tendered his resignation of the party—still necessarily prime minister, as he has an obligation to remain so until the next prime minister is decided, even if that happens to be David Cameron—and the Lib/Lab pact has new life. Electoral reform is in the air, which would have given the Lib Dems something like 150 seats this time round. Even the pompous never-was William Hague, prompted by Labour’s moves, made a speech offering watered-down electoral reform—not merely the opportunity of an electoral review that the Tories had limply suggested earlier—that sounded like he was trying to swallow an unexploded mine, spikes and all.
I sincerely hope he chokes on it; chokes on the very notion of a sort of change that (were they to have been consulted) millions of people have always wanted; a sort of change that he and the rest of his party would never have countenanced.
Interestingly, before the election a co-worker tried to change my Green vote to a Lib Dem vote, on the grounds that in Witney either was a “wasted vote” but that by voting Lib Dem I would be at least catching a wave. Without electoral reform, on one level he was right at the time (yet ultimately wrong about that wave.) But I hate, and have always hated, tactical voting. It’s a clever-clever idea based on the assumption that everyone else—except you and me, obviously, chum—are idiots, and the ballot box cannot be relied on to provide a mandate without help. Tactical voting is the symptom of deep-seated rot in our suffrage, not the palliative for its symptoms. As such it inherits that rot: the supposed pragmatic act of tactical voting injects the rot of the system right into the heart of the voter.
As Paddy Ashdown said—and I’m sure he’d say it about my Green vote too—if you don’t vote for the version of the country that you want, how do you ever hope to realize it? Non-tactical voting, voting out of hope, voting out of idealism: this is an affirmative act. It’s a creative process and a way of willing yourself towards changing reality with your own words and actions, a willing of a different politics into being. Electoral reform, a coalition government, Westminster upheaval… these all might finally permit humble voters the alchemy of turning their wishes into a better world.
No wonder Rupert Murdoch is spitting feathers.