This might be incoherent, as I was up until half 7 this morning and have only slept fitfully since, but it’s worth a try. With one massive caveat, election night 2010 was almost quite fun. As I settled in at 22:00 last night, I was dreading the thought of a Tory majority. So the all-to-play-for exit poll was a nice surprise. The BBC election team of course then spent hours telling me it was probably wrong, and when the first few seats saw a huge Conservative swing I was close to calling it a night. Then it all started to go haywire, with small swings in Tory easy targets, Wales and Scotland comprehensively rejecting anything blue, and confusion generally setting in. I really wanted to stay up for a few particular results, and if I could also witness the Tories not win, all the better. And, of course, the exit poll turned out to be almost spot on, even if nobody’s quite sure how.
I can’t pretend to be thrilled with the result, but it could be far, far worse. I didn’t want a Tory rout – a large Conservative government with a mandate to do whatever they want is a very unpleasant thought. But I didn’t mind Labour getting a bit chastened, either – they could do with an ideological rethink in a few areas, and I think this may happen once Gordon Brown goes, which he presumably will. But I was hoping this would happen by a swing to the Lib Dems, and their lack of progress is a real shame. Obviously they have an important role over the next few days, and hopefully they’ll finally manage to extract electoral reform from whichever party ends up ruling (and this may save Nick Clegg). That said, I just can’t imagine a Lib-Lab Lib-Con coalition working for long. Lib-Lab, maybe; Lib-Con – they’re just too different: the Lib Dems are, you know, nice.
However, while yesterday I’d have been disappointed at the possibility of another general election, that all changed at 05:30 when Evan Harris lost by 176 votes to a Christian candidate. That is bloody not ok. Evan Harris was the shining light of science and reason in the House of Commons. In the past decade he’s repealed the blasphemy laws; led the charge on blocking religious hatred laws; campaigned fiercely for libel reform, stem cell research, and assisted dying legislation; spoken against admissions and employment discrimination by faith schools; held back anti-abortion amendments, and – in the last few days of the last parliament – unleashed hell upon the government for ramming through the Digital Economy Act. For all these things the religious lobby hate him and launched a huge media slur campaign – and they’re crowing today. This has to be fixed. This year I offered to help his campaign as a photographer, but this wasn’t something they needed, and for whatever reason I didn’t get involved further, despite receiving a general email asking for help with distributing leaflets etc.. I feel pretty bad about this. Next time I’ll do whatever they want, and hopefully half of the skeptical community on Twitter will be there too.
Staying up through the night with just Twitter for company is great. There’s a nice sense of a shared experience, with everyone who’s still awake at 4am suffering a bit and keeping each other going. And when there’s bad news it’s cathartic to join in with the general fury, and then everyone yells at the Tories. So big thanks to my witching hour chums.