Hanging chads – UK-style
If the result is really close, one almost unnoticed event may come into play. Last month, John Boakes, the Ukip candidate for Thirsk and Malton, North Yorkshire, died. This has meant a rerun, with polling not happening until 27 May. What if hung parliament calculations are so squeakily tight that the new government depends on who wins the delayed poll. The seat is nominally a safe Conservative one, but is a new creation, and the result is by no means predictable – especially if the composition, even the very nature, of the new government depends on what would, in effect, be an election decider contested in rural Yorkshire.
Candidate of the week
"They're all the same!" goes the voters' traditional cry. Proof of the contrary arrives through Buckingham letterboxes courtesy of Independent candidate Anthony Watts. His election address reads in part: "The Queen claims to possess a democratic government in the House of Commons but her barristers have mutinied and become representatives of the Queen and also the people which in turn converts them into Totarians. The Speakers of the House of Commons have not done their duties but rubbed shoulders with totarians in there, which brings into disrepute .... Judgements since 1950 where Judges do the judging .... My intention is to oppose totarians in the Commons or have them politically neutered." Roy Jenkins couldn't have put it better.
An unexpected endorsement
Tony Blair has written a glowing article for Time magazine praising the Prime Minister: "Jobs have been created ... Stringent fiscal measures introduced by his government ... are mighty accomplishments that are recognised by the international community ... He doesn't hesitate to lead from the front, often with great personal courage. It is this conviction – and his unquestionable personal integrity – that allows him to keep going in the face of daunting odds." The only problem is that it is an article about the prime minister of Palestine, Salam Fayyad. Gordon Brown will have to wait a little longer.
Political anorak's quiz
Last week, we asked you which religious-minded prime minister forecast the end of the world. All those of you who plumped for Tony Blair were wide of the mark. The identity of the Downing Street soothsayer is Spencer Perceval, a keen evangelical (and member of the anti-hunting lobby), who thought the world would end in 1926. Sadly, his clairvoyance was no more reliable when it came to his own times. Failing to foresee the dangers, he attended the Commons on 11 May 1812, and was fatally shot by an unstable businessman called John Bellingham. The inquest, incidentally, was held at the Cat and Bagpipes pub on the corner of Downing Street.
Since it's a week when penitence is all the go, we have scoured the record and finally have cause for a mea culpa of our own: an apology to the leader of the Monster Raving Loony Party for omitting, from our precis of its policies, their idea of minting a 99p coin to save on change. We now wish to visit him in his home to view his family photo albums, drink his tea, eat his HobNobs, and grovel. Our press spokesman has never seen us so mortified.
Gordon Brown – where it all went wrong
You may think the campaign's major screw-up was all down to a combination of the Prime Minister's odd temperament and a stray microphone, but the roots, we now learn, go much deeper. Word reaches us from a strange outfit called Successful Spaces which says that "the magnetic alignments of No 10, when mapped against the date of birth of its occupants, can give a clear indication of whether the person occupying the building will have a successful home and work life while they are there." SS's "success indicator" gives Brown a reading of 39 – on a par, they say, with Jim Callaghan's, and well short of Margaret Thatcher's 64. Lest anyone imagine that things can only get better, David Cameron's reading is the same as Brown's, and Nick Clegg's is considerably worse, at 25.
Great moments in electoral literature
Andrew Pelling – elected as a Conservative in 2005 but had the party whip withdrawn after he was arrested, but never charged, over a domestic incident – is standing as an Independent in highly marginal Croydon Central. In what may well be a first for British politics, his election address carries an endorsement from his first wife, Sanae. She tells voters: "I'm sad to see friends in the Conservatives being so horrible to him and people saying that Andrew was unfaithful to me – that's just not true... I find it deplorable... that the Conservatives should be distributing their hateful material with references to me. The Conservatives have betrayed Andrew." The seat, which he won by a mere 75 votes, is now a three-way marginal with much local support for Pelling. He is a hard-working MP, and may well pull off a surprise win.
"Been heckled by a couple of smackheads in a stairwell" - Sally Bercow, wife of the Commons Speaker John Bercow. She is a Labour local government candidate.
"His recognition factor is probably equal to mine, or exceeds it" – Liberal Democrat candidate Lembit Opik showing his ego when talking about Nick Clegg.
"I think what you guys are looking for is someone to throw an egg at me or something and then say that there is some public anger" - Gordon Brown talking to journalists.
"I would suggest your husband changes his career because he has been looking unwell since getting his new job" - A concerned shopper speaking to Sarah Brown in Weymouth.
"A smile has to be a spontaneous thing if it is to look right, and it has to come from the heart. It has to be about deriving pleasure from others. Gordon Brown's smiles don't look natural" - Labour donor David Abrahams.
"Progressives have to realise that Britain is facing a once-in-a-political-lifetime opportunity to defeat the Conservatives, usher in electoral reform, an elected House of Lords and fixed-term parliaments. We may never get this chance again" – Welsh Secretary Peter Hain.
"Good morning. I'm a 69-year-old Jewish lady and I want your vote" - Esther Rantzen's comment as she entered a mosque in Luton South where she is standing as an Independent.
"No Loony candidate has ever failed to lose their deposit - and any one who did would face being drummed out of the party," Party leader Alan Hope.
"What did I say to be bigoted? I'm disgusted. He's an educated person. Why has he come out with words like that?" - Gillian Duffy.
What does Cameron remind you of?
From the pages of Prospect come these verdicts on the leaders: Gordon Brown - "Schoolboy in 1950s-style shorts ... keeps a chart of all the school marks he has received in all the different subjects so he can demonstrate he has come top of the form." Nick Clegg - "BA short-haul pilot." David Cameron - "A private gynaecologist."
Nick Clegg's recognition factor still leaves a little to be desired. Witness the following scene on the London to Taunton train yesterday. A man with the Liberal Democrat group was approached by retired American political science professor Charles Hauss. "What are you doing for Clegg?" asked the former academic. "But," came the reply, "I am Clegg." According to Mr Hauss, the man of the moment looked younger than he does on television, and, to the surprise of the American, was also travelling standard class.
The sceptical voter's guide to the week
Sunday: The Sunday papers come and go without a "Clegg in drug-fuelled three-in-a-bed romp with asylum-seeking Nazi fugitive from Goldman Sachs bonus scandal" headline. Nick Clegg indicates that, if Labour finished third, it would be impossible for the Lib Dems to keep Gordon Brown in power. David Cameron, in an Observer interview, won't rule out electoral reform. Prospects of a hung parliament, and the resultant manoeuvrings, dominate questions the media put to the leaders.
Monday: Brown addresses the Royal College of Nursing's conference in Bournemouth and is given a standing ovation. The Tories say that poll results have encouraged them to add a further tranche of Labour-held seats to their list of targets. Clegg refines his hung parliament position, he says that if the Tories win most seats, it would be them he negotiates with first. Alan Johnson says Labour should not be fearful of power-sharing.
Tuesday: The Institute for Fiscal Studies issues a report which says all three main parties have failed to give anything other than vague answers to how they would deal with the deficit. Clegg is also given a standing ovation from the RCN in Bournemouth. Conservative candidate in Ayrshire North and Arran adds to Cameron's difficulties in wooing gay voters when he says that homosexuality is "not normal".
Wednesday: Brown meets Rochdale pensioner Gillian Duffy, has a chat, tells her how nice she was, then, in the safety of his car, is heard growling about what a disaster the encounter was and how she was a "sort of bigoted woman". The self-abasement which follows was almost unwatchable. Just to add to Labour woes, one of their candidates is arrested and breathalysed after crashing her car into a roundabout. Waterstone's said that sales of manifestos are running at: Conservatives 38 per cent, Lib Dems 32, and Labour 30.
Thursday: Gordon Brown takes his rictus smile for a walk around a Midlands factory. He looks like the manager of a relegated football team apologising to supporters for the way the season has turned out. The final televised leaders' debate is held in Birmingham. Under questioning that falls some way short of forensic, Brown, Cameron, and Clegg trade sound-bites. Brown, who at this point faces so much animosity that he would fail to win even a one-man popularity contest, is more spirited than in the previous two debates, but he is still adjudged by instant opinion polls to be the loser.
Friday: After the Labour campaign was derailed the previous day by the Duffy Affair – still being commented upon ad nauseum – it encounters a car crash when a vehicle has an accident just as Gordon Brown is about to unveil the party's latest poster. The papers duly lap up the headline opportunities. Tony Blair goes smiling round a clinic, giving a brief masterclass to his former chancellor on what campaigning charm looks like. Gordon Brown tries to rouse students by referring to a 1920s athlete.
Saturday: The Guardian and The Times both announce they are forsaking their former attachment to Labour. The former now backs the Lib Dems, and the latter the Conservatives. The polls continue to show a lead for Cameron, but not of sufficient size for a working majority. And, from a variety of stumps, come predictable warnings of the dire fate awaiting the voters if they foolishly reject the speaker's advice.
Winners of a Gordon Brown doggy chew!
We asked for versions of great passages of English literature translated into Brownian. The winners were:
James Derounian with two entries: "There are reports that 600 of our troops are engaged in fighting in Helmand province. The Light Brigade are targeting enemy positions. There may be casualties." (Alfred Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade.) And "I could have gone one way, but went the other." (Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken.) Adrian Brodkin "We shall fight in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, we shall fight in Slough, we shall fight in Birmingham Selly Oak, et cetera ad nauseam. And then we shall surrender." (Winston Churchill.) John Gullidge "If he quoted, 'Friends, Romans, countrymen,' he would lose me on the first word." (William Shakespeare.) Pamela Boston "If I can keep my head when all around are losing theirs and blaming me/ If I can trust myself when all men doubt me/ If I can dream and not make dreams master me/ If I can meet Tories and Liberals and treat these two impostors the same ..." (Rudyard Kipling.)
This week: win a party leader finger puppet
This week, we have a set of multi-party finger puppets to give away. The set contains David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg, Caroline Lucas and Boris Johnson (how did he get in there?), so that you can take any hung-parliament negotiations into your own hands. To win, send us your hung-parliament haikus to email@example.com.Reuse content