Britain: Election Day
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|Thu, 05-06-2010 - 9:40am|
The People's Election: 15 reasons to celebrate a campaign that could change the face of British politics for ever
On polling day, 15 reasons to celebrate a campaign that, with your help, could change the face of British politics for ever.
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1. The leaders' debates
The main party leaders spoke largely in calculated soundbites and platitudes in their three showdowns, yet the effect of their communicating directly to millions of voters was electrifying. Nearly 10 million people watched the first debate â€“ and within 24 hours the British political landscape had been transformed.
Nick Clegg's overnight transition from anonymity to celebrity was one of the most remarkable popular mood swings since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It may have had more to do with who he wasn't than with who he was, but it has come close to breaking the mould of politics.
3. Voter registration
After years of alienation and mounting apathy, there is good cause to hope that today's turnout may be rather higher than the 61.4 per cent who voted in the 2005 general election or the 59.4 per cent who did so in 2001. An Electoral Commission campaign to encourage registration is thought to have resulted in more than 500,000 late additions to the electoral register.
4. Spoof posters
The subversion by online parodists of a succession of poster campaigns may have put paid permanently to the idea that electoral success can be bought. From the airbrushed Camerons on the eve of the campaign to Labour's "Ashes to Ashes" attack on the Conservative leader, it has seemed that, the more parties have spent, the more their opponents have benefited.
5. Pensioner power
You would have needed a heart of stone not to enjoy the Prime Minister's multiple discomfiture in his dealings with the plainspoken Gillian Duffy. This was political theatre at its cruellest. A few sympathetic voices noted that it could have happened to almost any poltician. For many, that was part of the fun.
6. Economical with the truth
Many voters will have asked themselves why the main parties have been so vague about what they intend to do about the crisis in public finances. But it took the Institute for Fiscal Studies to launch a blunt, impartial and authoritatively damning attack on all three parties, accusing them of not being straight with voters. The plans remain vague, but at least we no longer have to pretend that the parties are being straight with us.
7. The last-chance saloon
Even his detractors admit that, whatever setbacks the rest of the campaign may have brought him, the Prime Minister was magnificent on Monday when he made an impassioned speech to a Citizens UK meeting in London. It may have come too late but it showed what a modern politician can do if he or she dares to throw caution to the winds.
8. Payback time
Many MPs caught out in the expenses scandal chose to bring their parliamentary careers to a hasty end rather than throw themselves on the mercy of the electorate. Others have been out on the campaign trail, forced to find polite answers to their former constituents' angry questions. None will have enjoyed it. And today many of them will meet the electoral rejection they deserve.
9. Where's George?
Detractors of the Tories' chancellor-in-waiting may wish that George "We are all in this together" Osborne had been more in evidence during this campaign â€“ on the grounds that he might have deterred many voters from backing the Conservatives. But think of the irritation we have been spared. And congratulations to party strategists for keeping such a senior figure so far from the limelight.
10. Blair and the ash cloud
Some might think it odd that Labour should think the co-architect of the Iraq war a vote-winner; others might think it stranger that he should now be a Middle East peace envoy. Few will have failed to smile at the news that Tony Blair was prevented by volcanic ash from flying back from Jerusalem to be Labour's "secret weapon".
11. The man who broke ranks
There has been no shortage of off-message candidates in this campaign. Few have departed so spectacularly from party orthodoxy as Manish Sood, Labour candidate for North-West Norfolk, who this week described Gordon Brown as, simply, "the worst prime minister ever". The local party responded by labelling him "a dreadful candidate".
12. The smears that didn't work
Received wisdom holds that, when the press wishes to destroy an enemy's reputation, it usually succeeds. Yet when Nick Clegg's popularity provoked a backlash from right-wing titles, the public resisted manipulation. You didn't have to be a Liberal Democrat to be glad.
13. An earful for Paxman
TV's grand inquisitor took Plaid Cymru's senior economic adviser to task on statistical matters. Eurfyl ap Gwilym responded by giving Jeremy Paxman the mother of all roastings, telling his aggressor to "get your facts right" and "do your homework". Pure TV heaven.
14. The Green surge
Tens of millions of Britons care about the environment. None has succeeded in translating this concern into representation in Parliament. But this time, Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, has a realistic chance of winning Brighton Pavilion. For those who believe that all voters should have a say in the make-up of Parliament, it's a rather inspiring prospect.