Miles Kington: This campaign has given me ode rage

'Still stand the posters, now in tatters, shredded like their promises'
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The Independent Online

The one thing that seems to have been missing from this general election (apart from genuine political choice, of course) is a celebratory poem from the Poet Laureate. Where is the "Ode to the Election" by A Motion Esq?

Luckily, I sometimes have access to the mighty computer here at The Independent, so yesterday I took the opportunity to challenge it to do a bit of verse for the occasion. This led me to feed the selected works of Andrew Motion into the machine, giving it some time to digest them, and then I asked it to do a few lines on the general election (on which subject, of course, it had already been stuffed full of data).

And just seconds later it came out with the following:

Every five or so years

I go to the polling place

And post a letter

To my next MP.


Dear Mr Candidate

(Is what I wish to say)

I hope you get elected

And all your dreams come true.


But nobody trusts me

To write to you personally

(Even the pencil provided

Is suspiciously tied down with string)

And all they will let me do

Is find your name on the list

And put a cross against it.

No wonder you never write back.

Yes, well, I thought... Suddenly it occurred to me that, while I had got the computer into poetry mode, I could have asked it to try some other writer on the subject. For example, how about John Betjeman? This was no sooner suggested than I got this back:

Driving through the English country,

Goodness, how the colours clash!

Blue for Tory, orange Liberal,

Labour's red and yellow mash.

Patient in the dreary hedgerow

Like a squad of scarecrows there,

Stand the posters, all unheeded,

As we drive through Staffordshire.

"Vote for Watson", "Vote for Taylor"

Who are all these desperate men?

And if they should be elected,

When will we see them again?


The votes are in, the ballots counted,

Someone's won and makes a speech.

But along the English hedgerow,

Between the lime tree and the beech,

Still stand the posters, now in tatters,

Shredded like their promises.

Orange bombast, blue corruption,

Red and yellow emptiness.

This was more like it. I really quite liked the sound of this work, so I pressed the button for a little more of the same, and out it came...

In the fields the cows are dying,

Shot because of foot-and-mouth.

There are riots in northern cities

And overcrowding in the south.

Still, our football team has beaten

The Greek team two to nil!

On the telly, what excitement!

In Number 10, such thrill!

For when we win at football,

As all the experts know,

The voters flock out to the polls

To support the status quo.

That was enough of that, I thought, so in an attempt to vary the texture I asked the computer if there were any poets he was keen on himself. He gave a little cough and produced this:

Yes, I remember Adlestrop.

A marginal, half town, half land,

Where we stopped one afternoon

To canvass voters, as we'd planned,

But no one came and no one went

And no one even noticed us,

And after half an hour of silence

We got back in our battle bus.

Just when I thought it had finished, it produced this and then went silent.

"Is there anyone there?" said the


Knocking at the sunlit door.

"Only apathy," said the echoes,

"Only apathy. Nothing more."