Hard to believe that it's been five years since the last general election. So much has happened in this time, much of which could not have even been imagined in 2005. I was just re-reading a couple of posts I wrote on my old blog Liberal Elite: one was a (lukewarm) endorsement of Labour, the other just some general observations. It makes for fascinating reading (for me, unlikely for anybody else).
The biggest contrast between 2005 and 2010, as far as I am concerned, is how little enthusiasm I am able to muster for the entire thing. I don't know if this is because the party leaders are so uninspiring or because I have become so old, jaded, cynical and tired that I can barely bring myself to care. It's probably both. At least in 2005 we still had a (just about) credible government led by a credible Prime Minister. Meanwhile the alternative was a spiteful Conservative Party obsessed with immigrants and Europhobia and led by Michael Howard who still makes me involuntarily scratch myself whenever I hear his name. The Liberal Democrats weren't fit for office. (I actually just had to check who was leading them back then as I honestly couldn't remember: was it Kennedy The Drunk or Ming The Elderly? It was the former.)
But in 2010? The current Labour Party is a shambles, led by a blundering, injured bear who has something of the Midas touch in reverse, given that everything he does or says turns to excrement. Gordon Brown has been an appalling Prime Minister. Admittedly he has had to oversee the most dire domestic and international economic situation since the 1930s - and to his credit, some of his actions were correct: e.g. the highly unpopular (but highly necessary) bail out of the British banking system, something that the Conservatives and Lib Dems actually opposed - but overall his leadership and people skills leave much to be desired. Those that doubted Brown's ability to take on the big job were spot on - he doesn't have the requisite skill set. His stiff demeanour resolutely fails to hit a nerve with the general public and, oh my, when he smiles for the camera! It's so forced, so unnatural. He looks like a ventriloquist's dummy having a prostate examination. His coffin was finally pinned closed this week with the disastrous events of Bigotgate - he is officially a dead man walking.
So who to vote for? 1997 was the first general election I was able to participate in. I voted Labour and have done in every general election since. But I will not be doing so in 2010. I tentatively nibbled at the Conservative offering and wracked my soul thinking about it. There is no question that the Tories are a very different party under David Cameron. He has shed a lot of their social conservatism, which is what I have always found most repellent about his party. I could never align myself with the Telegraph reading, flag waving, Proms attending, Queen respecting, Euro bashing, protect-the-pound-at-all-costs brigade. Cameron has alienated a lot of this contingent, forcing them to sit and fume quietly in the corner (or join the feeble, impotent and raging UKIP) while his leadership drags the party towards the liberal centre. Which is all well and good and Dave has gone some way to ticking some of the boxes on the wish list I wrote in October 2005 where I wondered out loud what could make me vote for the Tories. But then I see stories like this about how up-and-coming Tory MP Philippa Stroud helped to found a church that believed it could "cure" homosexuals by the power of prayer. You see, I read something like this and I just think "Oh, fuck off". This ridiculous woman apparently played a significant part in formulating Conservative social policy. Sorry Dave, while your party still gives shelter to deluded arsewits such as this, you will never get my vote.
So after much tribulation I have decided to vote Liberal Democrat in this election. Not without reservations: I have issues with many of their policies. Principally, this is a tactical vote. The constituency I live in is usually as blue as Papa Smurf's arse but the 2006 by-election saw the Lib Dems reduce the Conservative majority to only 633. The general uptick in Lib Dem support nationally may, just may, see them nick it this time round. Here's hoping.
Ideally I want to see a hung Parliament. National sentiment towards the main parties is so divided, not one of them deserves to form a government on its own. Ordinarily I would have liked to have seen a Lib-Lab pact but, as Nick Clegg pointed out, if Labour come third in terms of number of votes actually received, it would raise serious question marks over its legitimacy. I predicted a Con-Lib pact about six months ago. It seemed ridiculous but now it doesn't look entirely unlikely. It would certainly be... interesting. Whichever way it goes, the Lib Dems will make electoral reform a pre-requisite policy, something which is long overdue - this ridiculous system that distorts public opinion to perverse effect in the House of Commons needs to be addressed. Some form of proportional representation is required to give credibility to our electoral system and, depending on the outcome on Thursday, its time may - finally - have arrived.
The outcome of this election is going to be very interesting, even if the candidates we are voting for are not.