Allow me to be naive for a few minutes… We finally have a hung parliament. Over the last 20 years there has scarcely been an election without feverish speculation about whether we might get one this time, only to discover on election night that we have yet another landslide (either blue or red). Now at last we can find out what one is really like.
I wonder whether coalition government might also cause a revival of interest in politics in this country – perhaps even one that is less world-weary and cynical than most of us are used to. As a teenager at school, I grew up in an intensely political era: Thatcher came to power when I was 11, Michael Foot tried to take the Labour Party back to its socialist roots, and the western world was locked in the grip of the cold war with the Soviet Union. (The height of my teenage rebellion was to arrive in a solidly-Tory school one lunchtime, waving a copy of the Moning Star. This did not have the shock value I wanted: I was known to support the Liberals, which was almost as bad as being communist)
After three years in Tucson, Arizona in the early 1990s, I returned to the UK in the midst of Blair-mania. Socialist ideology was being ditched, as belonging to a by-gone era, to be replaced by – well, who cares, so long as it looked good and felt trendy. Blair might have been Britain’s JFK moment. Instead, within months it became obvious that some things would remain steadfastly unchanged. When tobacco sponsorship in sport was banned, one sport was exempt: Formula 1. And why was this? It transpired that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had donated £1 million to the Labour Party’s campaign funds [ref]. Sleaze, it seemed, would be here to stay.
Over the last few years I’ve noticed an increasing disinterest and world-weariness about people’s attitude to politics. The landslides have not helped because it meant that the governments could do whatever they pleased, making their decisions in cabals far from the debating chamber of the House of Commons.
Since Thursday, this is no longer possible: parties will have to negotiate with each other, and disaffected MPs may now be able to swing crucial decisions because a majority vote can no longer be guaranteed. Incidentally, it’s worth realising that coalitions are normal fare across Europe: and they don’t seem to be suffering too much as a result! My main hope now is that the LibDems will have the courage of their convictions and hold fast to their desire for proportional representation.
Good birders can tell species by their song. Although I’m nowhere near that ability, I have learned to tell when one particular robin has arrived. A flicking sound emanates from the feeder, as it flicks out of the tray any food that it deems unworthy of consideration, some of it hitting the window in the process. Notice how it’s cleared it’s right leg out of the way to get a better flicking line! (Even as I write there’s a flick-flick-nibble sound going on in the background!)