Friday, May 06, 2005

The Election That Nobody Lost?

My goodness, I am exhausted, having pulled the true all-nighter at the Carlton Club, and stumbled into work on time. But I said I'd deliver some postgame, and a promise is a promise on Ahab's (except when it's not.) The lead-up to the election returns was another classic, with my colleague David leading the charge into gin and tonics (as Tory a drink as they come) and the house red. Following a nice dinner, where the usual pleasantaries and rote election predictions were exchanged (I called a Labour majority of 70), came the main event on a couple of big screen TVs.

I'm too mentally fatigued to go into much detail, but suffice it to say that the mood was jubilant as the returns came in, at least as jubilant as it could get for a group of supporters resigned to the fact that its party would inevitably lose. The biggest cheers came for the Tory gains in London, including Hammersmith & Fulham and Putney; it was at that point that we knew the night would be interesting. I left at about 4:30 am, when the results had slowed to a trickle, and just after Oona King's devastating defeat to George Galloway. There really is nothing like watching election results come in; it's like watching the Super Bowl, yet somehow a little more tangible and real.

The final result, a likely mid-60s Labour majority, makes me wonder: given realistic expectations going into election day, does every side come out of this relatively happy? Labour remains in power, but anti-war voters gave Blair the oft-mentioned bloody nose, and wiped the smug smile off of the party's collective face. The Lib Dems look to get around 60 seats, the party's best showing since the Roaring Twenties, and having taken several key seats away from Labour, can only really be disappointed by the failure of its 'decapitation' strategy against leading Tories. And the Conservatives, knowing full well that ultimate victory would be with Blair this time out, set itself up well for the next election, making inroads in London and defeating Labour in too many swing constituencies to mention.

On a more personal note, my congratulations go out to Labour's Claire Ward, who was reelected MP for Watford for the third time, in what must have been a nailbiting three-way race. I worked for her in parliament in 2000, when she was the youngest female MP, and the people of Watford couldn't have reelected a nicer representative.

Nonetheless, given the alternatives, I supported the Tories this time out. (There, MacDuff, I said it.) Given the resurgence of the opposition parties, and with Blair's mandate greatly reduced, this election did not disappoint, even if I felt pretty lukewarm about every horse in the race.


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