Letter from the Editor: And it's off, the most unpredictable election in decades


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The Independent Online

Perhaps this was the week that the metaphorical starting gun for the election was fired, with Parliament dissolved and Thursday night’s non-debate debate between Ed Miliband and David Cameron, which the former won.

It was also the end of an era with the likes of Gordon Brown, Jack Straw, Andrew Lansley, and William Hague stepping down as MPs.

Their passing reminds us of the smallness of politics and politicians today. There are many outstanding MPs, but very few of them are men and women of historic stature, and there’s plenty of mediocrity in the mix. It’s partly for this reason that we could be on the verge of a constitutional crisis. Some currently apathetic voters might wake up to this if the kingmakers in the United Kingdom turn out to be two people – Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon – whose mission in life is to stop the United Kingdom existing.

Much more than other party leader, Nick Clegg is a constitutional reformer, believing that the best way to make people care more about politics is to make politics work better for them. On this he is right, ahead of the curve and in tune with most of you. Those at the top of other parties who I speak to – Greens excepted – say that making Westminster more effective is just not what voters care about. It’s not what they hear on the doorstep, apparently.

But is that a reason to let our democracy wither? Hardly. The House of Lords, for instance, is increasingly absurd, a bloated institution in which many members have bought their way into our legislature. Or electoral reform, a bugbear of this column. No matter how hard I try to make sense of it, I just can’t accept that despite loving my country and being obsessed with politics, the fact that I live in a very safe seat means my vote is basically irrelevant. That is true for two-thirds of British voters – and a national disgrace.

For all that, we’ll do our bit to electrify this election. We’ve got some marvellous stunts and specials lined up, from the best political team in Westminster. Not least: Andrew Grice, Nigel Morris, Oliver Wright, Steve Richards, Donald Macintyre, Andy McSmith, Matt Dathan and, from our Sunday sister paper, John Rentoul, Jane Merrick and Mark Leftly. Plus all your favourite commentators, including: Janet Street-Porter, Grace Dent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Matthew Norman, Hamish McRae, Andreas Whittam Smith and, of course, Columnist of the Year Mark Steel. There are too many others to mention.

Some people think this election is boring. But the stakes couldn’t be higher, or the outcome more uncertain – and our unrivalled team will bring you the best reporting and analysis every step of the way.