I love election nights, even if (as last night) I can 't actually vote. (We got to vote for Surrey councillors at the last General Election, and for own local council last year).
Being a sitting on the fence kind of girl, I am I suppose what you'd class as a floating voter. Instinctively I'm with the Lib Dems - well I was before they turned into a bunch of liberal fascists, and I've not really got on with them since Paddy Pantsdown left. Had Vince Cable gone for the leadership, I think I might have been tempted back, but Nick Clegg hasn't yet convinced me.
I have actually voted for all the three major parties on different occasions. I used to vote Lib Dem automatically, then moved here and realised the sitting MP had such a huge majority it was pretty much a waste of a vote. I could, I suppose, have spoilt my ballot paper, but given the struggle so many people endured (particularly women - I live up the road from the hospital Emily Davison died in, it concentrates the mind rather come election time) to get me one, that always goes against the grain.
So for a couple of elections I half heartedly voted Tory - so half heartedly in 1992 I do remember standing in the poll booth for about half an hour trying to make my mind up - because though I wasn't a fan of Margaret Thatcher or John Major, Neil Kinnock never seemed a credible alternative either. I did have a moment in 1997 when I thought I could vote Labour, but thinking that was a wasted vote in my area, I voted Lib Dem instead. To my amazement when the results came out the total of Lab/Lib Dem votes would have voted out our horrendously out of touch Tory MP, which would have been an upset on a similar scale to Southgate.(coincidentally where I grew up. How I cheered when Portillo went...)
Locally I tend to vote Lib Dem, but more recently have also voted Labour as several of my neighbours have stood for the local council, and I'd rather have them in then the arrogant Resident's Association lot who inexplicably keep getting voted in here, and seem to think it's their right to govern.
We also now have a brilliant constituency MP in Chris Grayling (Shadow Secretary for State and Pensions), so I regularly vote for him, less on Tory policies and more because he is incredibly effective locally, you actually SEE him in the town, and he has pursued an energetic and determined campaign to retain our local maternity services and children's ward against huge odds.
Last night, like I say, I couldn't vote. But it was bloody exciting none the less. I know it's not a general election, and anything can change between now and 2010, but I think the Labour party are exhibiting the same arrogance and dismissive attitude towards the electorate that the Tories showed in 1997. It is time they were booted out, and if the Boy Dave can do it next time, I will be pleased.
A very troubling by product of the catastrophic failure of the Tories to become electable again has been that their natural voters have become disenfranchised, and have been tempted towards the extremes like the BNP (who would have EVER thought the BNP would get any votes, let alone seats on councils). I think at a time where the British sense of fair play and tolerance has been stretched to breaking point by this government's determination to skew things in favour of every minority going be they pink, yellow or a three headed alien from Mars, this is an extremely dangerous development. A resurgent Tory party gives the disenfranchised voters somewhere to go to register their protest. This can surely only be a good thing, even if you hate the Tory party.
So I must say I found watching the country turning blue, and seeing things swing away from Labour to the Tories, was dead exciting last night. At the last General Election I was so depressed that despite Iraq Teflon Tone looked set to stay, I retired to bed early and listened to Jeremy Vine's analysis of the situation on the radio instead. He even played Won't Get Fooled Again, and I thought but sadly, we seem to have been...
Last night Jezza was taking up his newish role of filling in Peter Snow's shoes. Awful Texan accents aside, I do enjoy his mix of the lighthearted and serious in his approach to politics, and his analysis of the results as they came in was highly entertaining.
More entertaining still was seeing Polly Toynbee (she of the mirthless grin) squirming, first on Question Time (the only one on the panel apart from Des Brown,trying to defend the indefensible, namely the 42 day detention law), and later trying to make out it wasn't a bad night for Labour.
In the end it got late and we went to bed, but had the telly on as we watched what was happening. I dozed off but woke around 2.30 to hear poor Pol (I did almost feel sorry for her at that point, but then I remembered she'd evaded Richard Littlejohn's pertinent questions about where she sent her children to school earlier on, and stopped) miserably rubbing her hands at the thought that the country was turning blue, and Boris was looking very strong in London. I actually thought in my sleepy state that Boris HAD won at that point (I still think it's too close to call myself), but was sadly disabused of that notion when I woke up this morning.
I would like to see Red Ken out, because I think he treats London as his own little kingdom , shows scant regard for the voters, and has dubiously moral tastes in some of the people he's prepared to meet in his mayoral capacity. But I also have serious doubts about Boris, much as I like him. In order to win this race, he's had his wings clipped horrendously by the party machine - what we all like about Boris makes him unelectable, so that's had to go, which is a shame I think.
Having said that, even if Boris were allowed to be Boris, I don't really think he has the capacity or the ability to run London, and despite his carefully chosen black spokesman speaking earnestly about his accessibility last night, I don't really buy it. The only thing that he'd probably do is get a bit more sympathy for the Home Counties - this Labour government seems to think anyone living out here in the sticks must be a rich, several home owning, capitalistic bastard (class envy, alive and well? Discuss.) - when actually that is so far from the truth as to be risible.
Yes, we are lucky out here, we have in the main decent schools (though one local one I have mentioned before has been put in special measures - SIX years after they implemented a policy of only being open four days a week because they couldn't afford the staff - would this scandalous situation have been allowed in Hackney? I think not.), we have a good hospital (which this government has done everything in its power to close), but housing is hugely expensive, and to be a first time buyer around here for a two bedroomed house, the like of which we bought for £84000 twenty years ago would now set you back a tidy £350000. People here do struggle. Although I know many people, who are fortunate as I am to be able to live a good standard of life, I also know many more living in rented accommodation without any expectation ever of owning their own property. If Boris gets elected, maybe those people's needs might start to be taken into consideration.
Whoever does end up sitting in the Mayor's seat at the end of the day, at least the contest has been closely fought. I don't want Ken to win, but if he comes back with his majority significantly reduced, he might actually have to start listening to the electorate. Boris is an unknown quantity, who might be a lot of fun to have around, but I'm not really convinced he'd do much for London. Whatever happens now though, I think last night was a good day for democracy, because people have gone out and voted with their feet. One hopes Gordon Brown might actually start listening now...