The man who lost his mojo

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Kenneth Roy

It was a terrific night for Labour. The party increased its share of the vote almost everywhere,…

Kenneth Roy

It was a terrific night for Labour. The party increased its share of the vote almost everywhere, kept seats it was expected to lose, recaptured two constituencies it somehow managed to lose in by-elections, and accumulated massive majorities all over the place. It is true that, strictly speaking, it did not gain any seats, but then realistically it had none to gain. It was a majestic performance.
     I refer, of course, to that semi-detached corner of the empire known as Scotland, I don’t know what we are to do with ourselves, really I don’t. It seems we just think differently. I asked my early morning taxi driver – we were progressing sedately over the hill to Kilmarnock with a gorgeous panorama of the Firth of Clyde to our left – why this is so.
     Because,’ he said at once, ‘we have longer memories. We remember Mrs Thatcher.’
     Whatever the explanation, If I were Iain Gray, I would be a happy bunny this morning. Given anything like a repeat of last night’s results, he will be first minister a year today. Alex says he is happy too. I must take his word for that. The Ochil result was pretty terrible for the SNP, although in a number of seats the party elbowed the hapless Lib Dems into third place.
     Did I say hapless?
     Alf Young, in yesterday’s SR, wittily anticipated a slightly disappointing outcome for Nick Clegg by alluding to his party’s ‘slow puncture’. Last night was no slow puncture, but a blow out in the fast lane. The television debates which were supposed to change the course of British political history, after which nothing would ever be the same again, turn out to have changed surprisngly little.
     Mr Clegg, the runaway winner of the first of these diversions, is inevitably doomed to be cast as one of those X-factor winners who finds himself delivering the post in Basildon six months later.
     Oh, yes, and Labour managed to win Rochdale, despite the distress and inconvenience visited upon the town by the inexcusably rude Mr Brown.

Which reminds me: whatever happened to the humiliation of Gordon Brown? Let us remind ourselves, or invite the media to remind themselves, that this was the man leading Labour to electoral annihiliation and probable meltdown. The party would never recover from the malign influence of his self-destruct button. Thanks largely to Mr Brown, and with some accidental assistance from Mrs Duffy, Labour was about to be replaced as the second party of British politics.
     But when we look at the scoreboard, what do we see? A bad night for Labour, but on any reasonable assessment of the situation, no disaster. The prime minister, if he decides to step down within the next few hours or days, will do so with some dignity and credit. He has kept his party in play. He has deprived the Conservatives, who should have swept to victory, of an outright win.
     There were many incidental pleasures.
     * Simon Hughes declaring the all-too-accurate exit poll as ‘incredible’
     * David Steel declaring it ‘wrong’
     * The report that a large number of young people, turning up to vote without their polling cards, could not actually remember, poor dears, where they lived
     * Nick Griffin standing for Barking. How very apt.
     * George Osborne making his first appearance on the stroke of midnight. There is something of the midnight about him.
     * the first live pictures from Kirkcaldy. A bald man on a street corner.
     * the expulsion of Peter Robinson; one fewer ally for Mr Cameron to tempt into bed;
     * the sudden disappearance of the word ‘Bigotgate’ from political discourse;
     * the defeat of Lembit Opik. It was the cheeky girl wot lost it;
     * the long pause of Chris Huhne when he was asked if Lembit was ‘much of a loss, really’;
     * the row between Alastair Campbell and Adam Boulton when the former dared to accuse the broadcast media of bias. As if;
     * the faces of Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke, two of the awful people behind compulsory ID cards, in their moment of rejection;
     * the wonderful remark of Paddy Ashdown that ‘the country has spoken…we just don’t know what it’s said yet’;
      * the historic victory of the Greens in Brighton

But I did not enjoy Ed Balls’s graceless victory speech with its bullying tone or the sight of poor Mr Clegg, ‘the man who lost his mojo’ as one reporter put it. No one should have to fall quite so far quite so quickly. That leaves David Cameron – in Downing Street, one assumes – with no mandate for any of the draconian cuts he is said to be planning.
     All in all, hilarity is unconfined.

Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review.