Wednesday, May 5, 2010...7:25 am

Whoever you vote for, government wins

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I usually love elections, but, despite the fact that this is the most unpredictable, closest-run contest I’ve known, I just can’t seem to get worked up about this one.
I’ve always enjoyed them. Appropriately enough, the first election I was really aware of was in 1974 – the last time that we had a minority government in the UK.
It was the year I went with my dad to the polling booth to watch as he put his cross on the ballot paper (Liberal, coincidentally, before it was achingly fashionable again), and walk out with the sense of having fulfilled part of your civic duty. But then he had fought in the War, so it probably did mean more then.
For whatever reason, I’ve always voted since (though almost always for the losing candidate. I think I may have voted for a winner in a by-election once when I was at university, but I can’t be sure.)
In a way, that makes it easier. If you always vote for the loser, you can’t really take the blame for the mess the winner makes of the job. Which they always seem to do, in the end.
But this year is a real dog’s dinner. I think the reason I just can’t seem to get worked up about it is that whoever gets in we’ll all end up paying through the nose for a decade or more for the mess that the government and the banks have got us into.
More to the point, no one is coming clean about it. They seem to think, probably rightly, that no one wants to hear how tough things are going to get. And if we’re told, we’ll punish the messenger by not electing them.
It’s a ridiculous situation. I’d rather be treated like an adult and told exactly how grim the economy and the public finances are going to get – not least because it will help me plan for the next few years. Some in the media are making the right noises – but no politician dare come right out and say the “c” word, even when the Institute for Fiscal Studies waves it in everyone’s face and argues cogently that it does the electorate a disservice.
It’ll be interesting how things play out after Thursday. Will we see Greek-style anarchy in the streets? Perpetual grinding recession? Or, bizarrely, another credit- and delusion-fuelled boom?
Whatever happens, as usual I’ll probably stay up far too late on Thursday night to see what happens – and I’ll probably go crazy and Tweet it live or something. Who knows – I may even start to get excited about seeing the result again.
Until I have to actually live with it of course…


  • Totally agree. Weirdest election ever. The usual rules all gone.
    As you say, who ‘wins’ this election makes no difference. The markets will decide our fate, and it probably won’t be pretty.
    Silver lining? Well, we did survive the 1970s, despite everything. Every hope that we’ll survive this, too.
    But you’re right: it’s going to take a decade, not a parliament.

  • It’s a strange election to watch from the other side of the world. I left the UK in 1987, so I’m a little out of touch with some of the runners and riders.
    One thing I find curious is all the talk of the economy tanking if there’s a hung Parliament. Since New Zealand changed to proportional representation 16 years ago we’ve had a permanently hung Parliament – oddly it is more stable than having a single party of government. What’s more, we’ve enjoyed more economic growth than the UK and fared far better following the global financial crisis.
    If that’s what a hung Parliament does – give me one every time.

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