Monday, October 08, 2007

Electoral droll (what?)

In what now appears to have been some sort of pre-emptive compensatory reminiscipackage for the fact Gordon Brown won’t be calling a snap election (whereby, I presume, the conventional democratic procedures for electing Parliament would be ditched in favour of a massive game of cards with very basic rules), on Friday BBC Parliament screened the full 12-hour-long BBC coverage of the 1987 general election night. And I’m proud to say I watched it. Clearly the channel’s Head of Programming was in the know while media speculation about an announcement early this week of a 2007 election was reaching fever pitch. BBC Parliament gave the people what they wanted. Well, at least what all the unemployed people with the time and inclination to watch it wanted. Well, those of them with access to extraterrestrial channels like BBC Parliament, that is. And enough masochistic tendencies to manage to derive something almost resembling pleasure from witnessing Thatcherite success and domination in a very real way.

It made for hugely interesting viewing. What started off as just something to watch while eating my dinnertime ham and coleslaw sandwiches developed into a four-hour televisual marathon with the kettle working overtime and my even going so far as to remove my shoes. By 3.45pm, with the Tory majority projected to pass the one hundred mark, I’d seen enough and left the flat. Which is the daytime equivalent of sloping off to bed at 3.45am on election night, depressed at the prospect of five more years of Thatcherism. The coverage was led by the same Holy Trinity as it would be today: David Dimbleby with his customarily detached attitude and hyper-Englishness; Peter Snow excitedly producing and describing his abstract graphics on a big screen; and election analyst Professor Tony King of the University of Essex giving electoral projections and rationalising the British public’s buffoonery (“what we’re seeing here, David, is… [a load of shortsighted southerners voting in the name of nothing but personal gain - Ed]”, he [should’ve - Ed] repeatedly said).

There was a brilliant moment when the baton had been passed to the now deceased Robin Day (fine precursor to Paxman in the interview bully stakes) to interview some party figures, only for Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s seat declaration to be suddenly made. They cut straight back to David Dimbleby, who was looking extremely sheepish and wiping some kind of sticky residue from his lips in an embarrassed manner. Fellatio from Tony King in the election studio? He claimed he’d been “half way through eating a Mars bar”, and I suppose I’m willing to believe him given that he had something vaguely half-Mars-bar-sized hidden up the left sleeve of his jacket. All in all, it was fascinating seeing famous old faces and the twenty years younger versions of people still familiar today. I saw John Prescott sounding far more eloquent and articulate than he ever does now. David Mellor and Norman Bloody Tebbit each increasing their majorities. John Redwood and Diane Abbott looking and sounding no different whatsoever. Plus Labour’s Paul Boateng making quite an incredible speech after becoming one of Parliament’s three first ever black MPs that night.. He might seem like a slight pillock in reality, but his speech, delivered in the spectre of Apartheid, was gloriously over the top and quite rousing (“today Brent South, tomorrow Soweto!”).

Even more interesting was just how clearly Britain was divided on Northern v Southern lines in that election. It’s abundantly clear where the bulk of blame for eleven years of Thatcher and eighteen years of Conservatism should lie. Yet another reason to dislike people from the south east, on top of their general egomania and fondness of glottal stops. They cast their votes with no social conscience and while drunk on the artificial boom of Thatcher’s economic policy, wreaking economic and social devastation elsewhere. They kept that woman in power and Britain is still suffering the social consequences. “Who’s responsible? Pat Butcher and her associates fucking are”, to (almost) quote the Manics, which is (almost) always a useful thing to do. Another major reason for Labour’s spectacular failure in toppling Thatcher, despite a promising election campaign, appeared to be its defence policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament, which seemingly rendered the party unelectable. The fact that the two major parties were separated so glaringly on an important policy matter is what was most striking about it all. It’s totally inconceivable that there’d be such a policy gulf today, which is a shame really.

P.S. If this post reads as though I became so fatigued as it went on to the point that I could no longer be bothered, then your reading would be correct. I'd love to provide more 1987 election analysis in the style of Tony King, but this internet cafe existence doesn't lend itself well to elongated bloggery, I've got a headache, and Neighbours starts in twenty minutes, so I'm off and that.


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