So… I bet you are glad you paid attention in constitutional law now, right? In case, like 80% of the people being interviewed across the media this morning, you have next to no idea what comes next, here is a brief outline of The Rules. First and most important, it is the incumbent who gets the first crack at trying to form a government. Fortunately, there is no ‘moral right to govern’, except in the wettest dreams of a Tory-boy fantasy.
In the First Past the Post system, someone actually has to make it past the post and, for all their grandstanding, the Tories haven’t quite managed it. This is like one of those Grand Nationals where all the riders fall. The Conservatives will now be trying to do some deals, although with the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists, UKIP and the BNP so far failing to win any seats, it looks like they will need the now leaderless Democratic Unionist Party to make it happen. These are the ones that don’t like gay people much and have doubts about evolution, so it is difficult to see how that will fit with the idea of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ that Cameron has been peddling, and we will all have to watch how the situation develops closely.
There have been some blows, but also some good things: the Greens won in Brighton, the odious Philippa Stroud failed to win. Nor should Nick Clegg be as disappointed as he sounded on the radio this morning: electoral reform which should assist the Liberal Democrats in bringing about their vision of a fairer Britain must now be on the cards to a greater extent than it has been for generations. That is a victory, even if it appears a small one.
Both Labour and the Conservatives have had years to change the electoral system to avoid this mess. They failed. Most of us learn that you can’t start changing the rules to suit yourself midway through the game in the playground at about the age of 6. It is testament to the playground nature of British politics that our politicians never did.
So it is important now, more than ever, to keep up the scrutiny. Back-room deals will be taking place all over Westminster but we need to resist attempts by the parties to make us all go back to sleep for another five years. If this is the first election to grip you, don’t turn away now. There will be a demonstration for democracy in London this weekend and the many other campaigns for electoral reform will continue.