Friday, 6 May 2005

The nation speaks

Well, not quite the nation: one in five of the population voted to return New Labour to power, with the lowest share of the vote ever taken by a winning party.

Tony Blair has said that he thinks he has a very clear idea of what the British people now expect, but nevertheless has not yet announced the date of his resignation. It was a pity that the clearest message about the main reason for the widespread contempt for him, and the loss of a hundred seats, had to be delivered by the unsavoury George Galloway in overturning a former Labour majority of 10,000.

By way of light relief after the long night we had the usual upbeat statements from the leaders of the other parties, with Michael Howard laying out the plans for rebuilding his party “from the grass roots” and Charles Kennedy telling us once again that Lib Dems are "a national party of the future”.

World reaction has been understandably muted, with a slight overtone of puzzlement and some reluctance to attempt any analysis. Typical was the comment of the Thai Government spokesman Chalermdej Chopoonut: “The results of the election came out as expected…”
The big problem faced by the media over the last 24 hours has been the difficulty of choosing words to describe the outcome of these elections. An historic third term was widely favoured but an unprecedented third term cropped up almost as frequently. Historians of the future may settle for an historically unprecedented third term.

It was an enjoyable night, though it had its longueurs, notably when Returning Officers were making the most of their moments of fame. My only regret was that while catching up on the night’s excitements this morning I forgot to watch a film that was showing on TV: Sons of the Desert, one of Stan and Ollie’s finest.

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