Is Dave the new Dizzy?
Sure none of you remember 1867, but I'm willing to bet a few of you know what happened then, when Benjamin 'Dizzy' Disraeli was running scared at the helm of a minority conservative government and bowed to pressure from the Whigs to introduce reform and enfranchise more people than ever, hoping that the gratitude of new voters would keep him in government at the next election. I find it one of the most exciting moments in British political history. And I'm really hoping we're about to get an action replay for the 21st century.
My friends are sending me frantic messages. Those same friends who have had their interest piqued by this election, who have suddenly for the first time become interested in politics and have been asking me questions since the election campaign began, or at least since those television debates that seem so long ago now. Those friends who have in many cases voted for the first time, only to wake up next day to the news I've been watching develop all night - a hung parliament! Oh noes! Nobody can form a majority so there is no clear 'winner' for the first time in my generation's memory. So what happens next?
If you learned anything by supporting the Lib Dems this year, you learned not to trust the media.
Well, friends of mine, they're listening to god-knows-what guff coming out of their media outlets and believing "announcements" that Nick Clegg is going to take the Lib Dems into coalition with the Conservatives. Hold your horses, guys, that's NOT what he's said. I was listening to his speech on the radio just now and what he ACTUALLY said was that David Cameron has the most votes, the most seats of any party and it is therefore up to him to prove he can govern. At no point did he say the Lib Dems would form a government in partnership with the tories. Indeed, he's not allowed by the party constitution to make that kind of a decision alone ANYWAY.
Do you know what he is saying? He's saying "go on Dave, take your *best* shot". Even with the help of the Democratic Unionist Party as the Conservatives often have, Cameron's tories will form a minority government. And a minority government is a far more obedient one to its people than a so-called 'strong' one, because all the time it clings to power it must be moderate enough to keep from getting itself thrown out on a vote of no confidence.
Here it comes..
I'm really excited. The atmosphere in this country right now, the howls of the people who in some cases even had their votes taken away from them by the chaos at the polling stations, the massive surge in turnout from 61% in 2005 to somewhere a rumoured 76% this time around, the people noticing that with only a small percentage more of the vote the Labour party have five times as many MPs as the Lib Dems... the appetite for change *is* delivering exactly the change you want. Stop, think, don't be scared. The election was not the end of your responsibility and your involvement, as elections have been for the last 35 years. This is what politics looks like. This is living in interesting times.
Minority government is weak government. Weak government is fearful government. It's weak where you're powerful. It has to give you what you want. So demand reform! I'm damn sure the Lib Dems will be doing the same from the opposition benches. We can take back our votes. We can overturn a rotten system that sees a party with 25% of the vote get 10% of the seats in parliament. This election could have been the last one where your vote counted according to your postcode instead of your true opinion. You've done yourselves proud, people, you hung your parliament and now you can get the fairness you want out of them.
Last night, like many Lib Dems, I was in tears over the friends and colleagues, the good people who were losing their seats. I was desperately disappointed, and I couldn't see the wood for the oh-so-emotive trees. Right now, I may be exhausted but I'm more optimistic and fired up than ever. It's a GOOD THING we didn't get those 120+ seats we expected and wanted. It highlights the iniquity of the system just beautifully. And it means nobody can look to us for some phony 'progressive coalition' with a Labour party who turned its back on the rule of law and respect for human rights many years ago. Off the hook nicely there, then: it's not possible so we don't even have to fall out with each other about it.
Ahaha we haven't lost. Far far from it. We're just about to start winning. Victory! Amber revolution!