Friday, May 06, 2005

Top Ten General Election Moments

Based on the criteria of entertainment and incredibility:

1. Paxman vs. Galloway
The most arrogant man in the world faces the most objectionable man in the world. (I'll leave it to readers to decide which is which-- could go either way). If only Paxman had said, "fair enough, bye," when Galloway boasted he was too busy to answer his interviewer's first question, which he disliked so much.

2. Tony Blair Has To Listen To Reg Keys
While Tony Blair has infamously engaged in a "masochism strategy", where he allows himself to be abused by angry citizens, so he can prove he's sorry, there was something unique about his experience at the Sedgefield count last night. Reg Keys, father of a military policeman killed during the Iraq occupation, had been standing as an Independent against the Prime Minister. While the Tory candidate, Al Lockhart, refused to stand aside, and hence undermined Keys' chance, the bereaved father was entitled to make a concession speech. Watching Tony Blair listen to Reg Keys was a rather moving moment for me.

3. Bob Marshall-Andrews Returns From The Dead
After declaring his defeat and showing what a great bloke he is by joking that it would be the only good news for the Prime Minister during the evening (as the two men dislike each other), it turned out that Bob was re-elected, in fact. As an eloquent and decent human being, and the best of the rebel Labour MPs, parliament would have been the worse without him. David Dimbleby reported Marshall-Andrews had
declared, "I am Lazarus!" on confirming the reversal of expectations.

4. Lord Toby Jug Backs Up Howard
The only amusing Monster Raving Loony Party candidate of the night was Lord Toby Jug, standing in Folkestone. While Howard tried to make a case for his own success, he and his fellow contenders had to suffer the idignity of Lord Toby's support. When Howard bosted of the first black Tory MP (who managed to escape the fate of Lord Taylor), Lord Toby cheered "good on you". When Howard mentioned a British Muslim Tory MP, Lord Toby backed him, "that's great". Even the Pensioner's Action candidate suffered, when Lord Toby placed his large comedy hat on the geriatric opponent's brow.

5. All-Labour Sport Fists
The all-women short list issue is one that bubbles around in party politics, but I don't think anyone would ahve imagined it would lead to such a result as the one in Blaenau Gwent. This was especially surprising given problems with the health of Mr. Law, who Labour failed to select because of the use of an all-women short list. They suffered an incredible loss of a 19,000 vote majority. I can't help but think this is an example of Livingstone's mayoral win all over again. If Labour are smart, Peter Law will be forgiven and welcomed back into their party as soon as it is polite to do so.

6. Galloway vs. The Returning Officer For Bethnal Green & Bow
Talk about bitter... Galloway proved his elloquence in a very clever speech which successfully savaged the Returning Officer (unprecedented in British politics), praised Oona (oh what a hero he is...) and plugging Respect's council campaign in the next few months. Galloway is many things- none of them good -but he is also a massively clever operator.

7. Were You Up For Stephen Twigg?
It was irony, or hubris, or something: the man who surprised himself when he unseated the heir apparent to the Tory crown in 1997 was himself a casualty of the unnatural support for Labour is some rock-hard Tory marginals. We knew he'd lost from his embraces for his staff at the count, and his face bore dissapointment and bravery equally well.

8. Hornsey Swings LibDem
The swings we were seeing from Labour to the Liberal Democrats was the shock of the night- for me, even. The first results, from Sunderland onwards, seemed to show an early pattern of LibDem growth, but when the party claimed it was going to win Hornsey we really saw this effect. 12% swings were occurring in many seats and 10,000 Labour majorities were shrinking. Solihull was atypical of this swing, in being a LibDem gain from the Tories, but I think Hornsey was more typical of the big swings they were enjoying over the country.

9. Tories Gain Putney
Besides Enfield Southgate, Jimmy Goldsmith's spiteful heckling of defeated Tory David Mellor in 1997 was one of our most iconic moments of that night. The Tories really should have taken this back in 2001, but as the first Tory gain we saw, this was a barometer of their slow progress in 2005.

10. Charlie Faulkner On Postal Voting
A rare alliance of Shirley Williams, Anne Widdercombe, Ian Hislop and Jeremy Paxman all blasted the Lord Chancellor's attempts to claim that postal voting was supported by everyone, and Labour bore no responsibility for the cock-ups.

It goes without saying that my phone call to the Oxford East count, when I learnt of our success there, is my personal favourite moment of the night, but I don't think I can include that when I'm trying to describe national events.