Nnnyaaaaaghwooohaaooooororarararararghhhhhhh. That's the message the electorate gave on Thursday. A long, angry, discordant noise that eventually became silly. Hence the result. I praised the public in last week's column for their ability to remain calm, considered, sensible and, at all times, one step ahead of the pundits and politicos. But for a result that so perfectly expresses the public's mounting mix of contempt, confusion, and sheer bloody-minded desire to see the political classes sit down to eat humble pie, stand up to get thwacked on the head with the remainder, and then shoved into a corner to be locked in a dark cupboard to sit in their own mess, Thursday's result was sheer comic genius.
The most obvious feature was that absolutely nobody won. Depending when you were born, there were various cultural comparisons to make. The constitutional expert Peter Hennessy, clearly a child of the 60s, called it the Mick Jagger election in that no-one got any satisfaction. I being slightly younger, see it differently.
It was the election in which all the key players aimed at and shot each other, just like at the end of Reservoir Dogs. But what was breathtakingly beautiful about the final outcome (and by "beautiful" I mean the ability to completely roger the self-satisfied look off everyone's faces) was the exquisitely excruciating mathematics of just how hung the parliament was. Labour stuffed, but just given enough hope to think they might cling on, but stuffed enough to know they can't cling on with just the Lib Dems; the Lib Dems, in turn, rather slapped about a bit after all that Cleggmania that gave them a rude strut, offered the chance to govern, but with a more natural enemy in Cameron than the more obvious friend in Brown; the Tories, that natural party of government, born to lead, having gone through four years of living hell trying to be nice to people and the gays, to the point of even spending a whole night talking to fishermen, suddenly given a loud fish-slap on their baby-faced cheeks. Fermat's Last Theorem was as nothing to the complicated game of maths the public played on Thursday to get just the right formula for absolute and total searing pain across the political landscape. If it weren't that the fate of the country was at stake, it would be pretty damn funny.
Two personal memories from election night stuck in the gullet and clarified things a bit for me. One was at around 1am, as I turned up for a stint at the Sky News election headquarters. Next to me in the room was Kelvin MacKenzie, chuckling away at the collapse of the Lib Dem vote and gleefully recounting how he'd been with Michael Ashcroft's people. They'd "looked at their ready reckoner" and seemed confident it was going well in all the marginals where Lord Ashcroft had poured his money; the Tories were heading for a majority, it seemed. It was hilarious watching Mr MacKenzie getting quieter and quieter as the night wore on and Ashcroft's ready-reckoner turned out to be as useless as a straw hat in a fire.
But it did strike me that the public, so resentful of the easy sloganeering and cheap-shot posters in the campaign, might well have become mortified that they could be bought and calculated with a ready-reckoner. There's an electoral study to be done in calculating how much being singled out for Cameron's special attention repelled electors enough into voting for somebody else. It would be an interesting study, but not as funny as the look on MacKenzie's face as he slumped tiredly back in his chair like a walrus who'd just eaten a bad puffin.
My main epiphany came earlier when I walked on to the BBC's now notorious election barge, to be greeted with the site of a hundred celebrities and swanky public figures. It's unsettling to realise you're regarded as one of them. I'd been promised proper debate but instead stood next to Joan Collins while the thrice-divorced star of "The Stud" and "The Bitch" praised Cameron's family values. We lost electrical power, which meant we didn't know what was going on. Neither were we being broadcast, anathema to any self-respecting celebrity. It was the dawning realisation that none of this actually mattered, that the collective views of the commentariat and entertainocracy were irrelevant to the sophisticated earthquake taking place outside, that suddenly hit home.
The public gave everyone a slap on Thursday night. Not just the politicians, but the experts who said the TV debates changed everything, the money-men who thought they could buy constituencies, and now the celebs (including myself) who thought that by endorsing a party they could make a difference. Against the collective will of an intelligent and wary public, we were so much electoral cack.
Meanwhile outside, the system tried to play one last joke on the public by denying evening voters the right to vote. As news came of patient queues being turned away at polling stations, there was mounting anger. My guess is that soon this anger will turn to collective wisdom, and that our electoral system, the system the public used so expertly last Thursday to cause maximum confusion, will be seen, like the BBC's barge, to be creaky, laughable, and running out of power.Reuse content