The horror of a new blue dawn

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The Independent Online
Nightmare! I dreamt last night that Labour lost. At 4am, panic takes hold. Labour are faltering and slip-slithering in the polls. OK, so it may be a blip, but what if it's not? Like other commentators, I have sniffed the air among the voters and smelt something odd and dangerous. Where are the genuine enthusiasts for Labour? Where are the people who truly, madly deeply love Tony Blair? Why do so many New Labour and old Labour voters alike sigh slightly when they say they will vote for him? Why are there so many more undecideds than ever, and so many who say they will not vote at all? Is contempt for John Major's government deep, dark and bitter enough to compensate?

It's 2 May. John and Norma are beaming and waving at the window of Number 10. He has rapidly made the only available decision to move sharply to the right, since that is where his new intake of MPs heavily leans - anti- European, anti-social security, ruthless on law and order. Kenneth Clarke has been ditched: no more fudge and mudge. Portillo, Howard, Redwood, Lilley, Leigh, Duncan, Hamilton, Lamont, Forsyth, Taylor and Mawhinney (architect of victory, hero of the hour) are in the rampant ascendant, rewarded with the great offices of state. Lady Porter has returned from exile to become Leader of the Lords.

In a new blue dawn, Major has thrown off his shackles, discarding the tattered remnants of one-nation Conservatism. Narrow political pragmatism is his only constant. Stampeding towards withdrawal from Europe, heading for a Little England of trade protection and nostalgia, the business world is aghast. Foreign companies are preparing to get out fast, and the brain drain starts in earnest. Everyone wants out.

What have the voters done? At 4am I am planning a special kind of exit poll of my own in which I shall stand in the high street, clipboard in hand, and ask people how they voted. If they say Tory, I will shoot them, a quick exit.

The trouble with democracy is the voters. Listening to them sometimes makes you despair - they are stupid, selfish, pig-ignorant, horrible. Politicians aren't allowed to say that - and newspapers are not supposed to either, as we all try to seduce and flatter potential voters and readers. But one more vox pop from some cretin saying, "They're all the same, aren't they? They're only in it for themselves," and I'll be reaching for my revolver.

The trouble with the voters is that they really are just in it for themselves: mean about tax, narrow-minded, ungenerous, with no sense of the wider civic good. Kill, kill. And after satisfying my blood lust, I shall emigrate. Where to? The Netherlands, maybe; decent, civilised people, an earnest yet imaginative society. Windmills, tulips and dope.

Calm down, calm down; it's only a bad dream. Take a deep breath, count to 100. Not all voters are stupid and selfish. If the Tories win the 1997 election, it will be the same as all the past four elections: a dishonest conjuring trick done with a minority of the voters. The great British majority will still have voted to throw the bastards out. The great British majority will have understood that democracy is all but done for if the Tories win again. There would be nowhere for Labour to go, nothing to do but drop dead and give up. They can't go forwards and follow in Tory footsteps ever further rightwards. Nor can Labour retreat backwards to windy rhetoric, land of our socialist fathers, back to the Celtic mists of the valleys and the glens.

So what would we do if the Tories won? Revolution! The will of the people, yet again, will have been thwarted by our monstrous voting system. This time, on hearing the election result, the anti-Tory majority will rise up with one voice, take to the streets as they did in eastern Europe, and stay there until promised a fair voting system and a new general election.

It will start in Scotland, where an outraged tartan army will storm the citadel of Edinburgh Castle, plant the thistle and declare independence from Tory hegemony. And the leek will fly over Cardiff castle, too. We English will be every bit as outraged as the Celts, since even among us the majority of our votes will also have been cast against the Tories (54.5 per cent against, last time). So, a week after the election, the coaches will pour into Westminster from Truro to Ipswich, from Carlisle to Brighton, demanding genuine free and fair elections. On the great platform erected illegally in Parliament Square (police and Army stand passively by), fiery speeches will pour from the lips of all those currently conducting a far too sotto voce election campaign against the Tories. Too late, they will find the words to excoriate the constitution of this banana monarchy and the stinking corruption of power of a fifth Tory term. Too late and somewhat sheepishly, all those young non-voters will join the uprising and confess they were wrong. A contrite Swampy will be up there on the platform, too.

In case anyone thinks my views unbecoming of The Independent (It Is. Are You? etc), let me say that I am absolutely certain I would be feeling as passionately - who knows, maybe more so - about the need for a change of government if the Labour Party had been in power for the past 18 years. In fact, the mind boggles at the awful thought: try writing the imaginary History of the Labour Government 1979-1997: The Foot/Kinnock Years.

Since he is human, I imagine that Tony Blair must occasionally have his own nightmares. Sometimes in the watches of the night he must awake sweating with the fear of failure. I hope that if he wins, he will have the humility to remember these dark moments. For we do not know - one of the very many things we do not know about him - what he really thinks about proportional representation. Unlike Robin Cook, he never advocated it. He was dragged into agreeing that there should be a referendum on PR at a time when it was expedient for him to work closely with the Liberal Democrats. But we do not know what sort of referendum, or indeed when, or whether he would throw his weight behind PR during a referendum campaign. If he wins a landslide majority, will he and most of the Labour leadership actively campaign for PR, or will they oppose it?

How fine it would be now, in his hour of slight uncertainty, to hear him make a ringing endorsement of the principle of fair voting. Better still if he were to reiterate that belief on the very morning of his victory under the first-past-the-post system. I do not know how he speaks to his God, or what kind of God he speaks to, but perhaps at 4am he may do well to make a pact: "Let me win, O Lord, and I promise to bring in proportional representation to ensure we never again have 18 years of one party minority rule - not even my own."