Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Inside, Labour ministers pack their complimentary, unread manifestos into corrugated cardboard boxes. Outside, a scavenging fox picks through party political broadcast scripts and plastic Sekt flutes, as a civilised British mob shouts 'fuck Tories' (too exasperated at the day's flip-flopping to bother with the definite article) through the black wrought-iron gates of Downing Street, England. Nick Robinson screeches into a fluffy microphone. Expats high-five each other, having preempted their own emigration with a long holiday. Pleas for optimism drift through the night, unheard.

Liberal Democrat votes counted for something at this election, thinks the fox, the one true winner for Sekt is a nectar easily drawn during election week.

Fox continues, now orating aloud to a dumb constituency of cellar-rats. Tomorrow, he says, the Liberal Democrats will be an integral part of a British government, something unthinkable four years previously. Their presence – the traction and transience of which remains to be seen – heralds one important thing; the lack of a Conservative majority. My rural brothers and sisters may be safe yet.

More burrowing, more digging, reams of black plastic nuzzled aside. Fox is onto something. A-gnawing, a-gnashing, a-tearing, he bears down on his prey. The KFC bucket yields.

Suddenly, movement - bloody Nick Robinson again, round the back for a slash. Fox is up and out of there, trotting down the street wearing the red and white grease-sodden cardboard bucket like a hat. Fox spies more bins.

Yes, I know, Fox pleads to no-one, under his breath, sniffing and rooting at the refuse heaped on the street corner. The danger is that Liberal Democrats will achieve nothing, they'll be sold on a couple of cheap manifesto tricks. I mean, look how quickly they've dropped the immigration potato, even as it cools. Fox finds a real potato, stone cold, bites into it. Tastes rosemary and rock salt, imagines a bugle, jerks his head up. Nothing there.

But, let's be positive. If I could have voted – Fox is speaking out loud again - I would have voted Liberal Democrat. They're now involved in day-to-day politics. The potential for electoral reform is there too. The default politics of electoral reform is coalition – here's the big experiment, will proportional representation work? If it does, and if British politics survives the next four years (another bonus, thinks Fox - we've avoided a snap second election in which Conservatives surely would have got a majority) Liberal Democrats will be at the heart of coalition politics, both as paradigm shift and as practicality.

In that sense – Fox snaps a chicken bone he'd saved specially for the climax of his diatribe – we have reasons to be positive. Lets ignore the negatives about class and incapacity, about press engagements over politics – the Conservatives have picked up a poisoned chalice, they'll be unpopular for a generation once more. Cameron will show his colours soon enough. Labour too will need to regroup and focus; they are broken politics.

Fox looks up and down the street, the wind settles. This is it, he thinks. It's not what any of us wanted, but a little positivity might go some way. Let hope liberalism stays principled, lets hope public engagement continues, lets hope politics hears the message of reform.

Fox turns tail and trots back the way he came, moving back towards the media throng, towards the floodlights and moleskines, a hint of resignation in the way his tail moves, but also the sense that all is not quite lost.

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