Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Forgive my abrupt absence. I think the election got the better of me. Yesterday, I had to lie in bed like an old lady. It was either low grade virus or actual election fever. Through long hours of wake, sleep and blinking drowse, the voices of BBC News filtered into my consciousness. There was something about Alistair Campbell and Adam Boulton and fisticuffs; the prime minister was stepping down, nobly and selflessly, or venally and deviously, but either way, not yet; the Scots Nats were bringing self-righteousness to new heights; the lovely Jon Sopel was literally and metaphorically throwing his hands in the air. Oh, and Lord Mandelson of Foy was plotting, but I don't know why that was considered news.
I am idiotically, congenitally, stupidly, pointlessly optimistic. Even during the expenses scandal, I kept believing that most of our elected representatives were pretty good humans who did a thankless job, mostly rather well. (You can all laugh and point now.) After the crash and shriek of NO MAJORITY, it seemed to me that the party leaders were rather calm and statesmanlike. I thought it right that Gordon Brown was standing back; I thought it bold and interesting that David Cameron was making his offer to the Liberal Democrats; I thought it correct and straight of Nick Clegg to stick to his promise of talking first to the part with the most votes and the most seats. You see, I thought, they are all grown-ups. All shall be well. They are men of good faith.
Also, I rather liked the idea of a centre-right and centre-left party going into coalition. I felt it could bring out the best in both, while the Labour party could go away for a while and find its heart and soul again, and then come back, renewed. The way I saw it, everybody won. Oh, and those pesky politicians really were putting country first.
So much for my idiotic, congenital, stupid, pointless optimism. Just as a beatific sense of decorum seemed to have descended over the political classes, everything exploded into plotting, and horse trading, and weasel words and every other damn cliché you can imagine. The Lib Dems, despite their high-minded talk of a new politics and putting the national interest above all else, turned out to have been having secret midnight trysts in candle-lit basements (or some such) with Lord Mandelson and Alistair Campbell. Everyone scrambled for their metaphors and similes: Nick Clegg was showing leg to David Cameron but doing the dirty with Lord M; he was like a Jane Austen heroine, or, according to David Blunkett this morning, a 'harlot'; he was a master of realpolitik or a shameless hussy.
Everyone had twenty-seven different opinions, and no one was shy about stating them. The public would want this, the public would want that, said the partisans and the pundits, neglecting to ask the public itself, which appeared to be going about its business with remarkable good humour, considering.
This member of the public feels a little sad and foolish. I really did think the high-minded moment might hold. I quite understand that the Liberal Democrats might prefer to go with the Labour party; that is of course their right, although they would only achieve a very fragile majority that relied on keeping the 'Others' in line, which could prove antithetical to the very national interest they keep speaking of. What I object to is the underhand, cheap way it was done. Just as I was looking at Mr Clegg and thinking I had been wrong about him and he was a man of substance after all, he seemed to be behaving like a huckster. You really must finish with one lady before taking up with another, if you are to make any pretence at being a gentleman.
It also makes the Liberal Democrats look as if they were, all the time, just after their own narrow interests. The irony is is that they have provided the worst advertisement for the very voting system they so ardently desire. If this is what every election would descend into, give me first past the post any day. I like to pride myself on being so damn fair it actually hurts, but this kind of spectacle makes me think: sod fairness, I just want something which does not make me feel embarrassed by the entire political class. I keep trying to believe in them, and then they do this.
My feelings are, of course, of no importance whatsoever. What matters is that we get some kind of credible government, so we do not turn into Greece, and the triple A credit rating is preserved, and a level of sanity is returned to the economy, so that everyone does not lose their job. I thought of that when Lord Ashdown of Pantsdown came on the Today programme this morning and said he had never known anything so 'excruciating' in his life. He did not mean for the country or the future, he meant for himself, because he and his party had to choose between the Conservatives and Labour. I yelled at the contraption: 'It's NOT all about you.'
Is it too much to ask that everyone grow up and do the decent thing? Could we have a bit more Captain Oates and a little less Simon Cowell? It's not as if we are in the middle of a boom, where one could have the luxury of fighting over the niceties of electoral reform and my STV trumps your AV plus. There is an economic crisis to deal with, in case no one mentioned it.
There. I think I might have to go and have another rest now.
No prizes for guessing what the Picture of the Day will be. At times like this, the only thing that can really cheer one up is an excessively adorable picture of some baby penguins going for a walk: