Inspired by the funniest bit of media to grace the UK's May 6th, 2010 General Election, I thought I'd try to bring a bit of an alternative review of the political events we witnessed here in Northern Ireland over the last couple of days. So please join me for a few minutes and I'll try not to keep you hanging around as long as Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
If you haven't guessed already the bit of media I'm referring to was the immensely funny Channel 4's Alternative Election Night. A show that was hosted by David Mitchell, Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne and made me laugh all 4 of my cheeks off even more than Conservatives complaining on Radio5 today. It wasn't meant to be funny on the radio but I just couldn't keep a straight face. I mean callers were lifting their handsets to their heads to moan that their party has to actually come down off its high horse and 'talk' with other parties. Parties that after all make up the other 63.9% (with one constituency still to be decided) of voters who didn't vote for them... or as the case might be outside of England, the 80.5% of the electorate who voted against a Tory government - and that's a stat including the other comedy gold that was the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists New Force (though not the Fermanagh and South Tyrone unionist candidate who said he would take the Tory whip). How long will the quick attempt to buy a tribal vote just in case of a hung parliament continue is a intriguing question. Is the UUP likely to get Conservative HQ 'junk' status? Or is it just likely there is to be a bit of re-branding? Perhaps "UCU New Force can be felt by Jedi Cameron as strong - trust in the force, party" or "Ulster Conservatives and Unionists Revenge of the Sixth"?
And it wasn't just the Galactic Tory Empire that was having trouble with the Rebel Alliance here in Northern Ireland when it came down to tribal politics. Our fair and benevolent First Minister Peter Robinson found his hand being lightsabered by the positive force. Naomi Long led the Alliance to arguably one of the most significant victories of the election here and one that shows that even tribal leaders aren't above the democratic process. A positive campaign and admittedly although as I'd be biased since I voted Alliance in my constituency, a great step forward in Northern Irish politics. I'm almost tempted to move to East Belfast!
As it is, I'm not alone in the optimism that this might be a turning point in Northern Irish politics. Akin to taking down the shield generators on Endor, in time, maybe the Alliance and the Ewoks, ermm sorry, Green party and other moderate candidates may be able to normalise politics here, letting us finally vote on issues that effect us all as a single community. We can but keep the dream alive.
Why a single community? Well, other than what I said in this Nick Roll post, I hate to break it to everyone on planet Earth but we are all human and part of a global community - our species' future will depend on everyone pulling together at some point - even if it is just to co-ordinate getting away from each other and flying to separate planets like in Dr Who with Starship UK the other week! So even if the naughty boys and girls (who make friends by choosing to sit in separate groups and only agree to play with each other nicely when someone holds the chance of more toys their way) would like to make us all think otherwise, that isn't our future. At least not a pleasant future anyway. I think the Channel 4 Alternative Election Night got it spot on in bringing it all into perspective when they had the charismatic and worldly wise Dr Brian Cox giving the top 5 things we SHOULD be worried about. From Super Volcanoes to Supernovas, which would pretty much kill all of us, number one was mankind's own stupidity.
Which leads me nicely on to another MP elected - Sammy Wilson. His re-election by the votes of the happy go lucky residents of East Antrim may worry anyone interested in the growth of science, technology, niche green markets in renewable power and manufacturing throughout the UK - after all, his vote in Parliament is unlikely to be for green economic change - at least going by the environmental views he's held in the past - but wait! Maybe I'm not giving the credit to the DUP voters in East Antrim they deserve... after all, sending him to London to once again be 1 voice amongst 649 others (where we would hope some common sense on major issues might shine through anyway), we're also getting a free gift! I personally believe it to be one of the best results of the election - now he's re-elected, he's stepping down from his his ministerial position and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Good times!
In North Down we saw popular opinion shine through for Sylvia Hermon who left everyone in her dust and I thought she came across very well on TV. The interview made it seem like she might be in a game of Deal or no deal. If it came to it Banker Cameron or Banker Brown could be calling to test the waters but the good news is she sounded like she'd hold on for bigger money. Sure, if it was needed for any party to join some tangled coalition or informal support, maybe they'd all get to take turns at opening the boxes until it was their turn to play? I reckon we could hold out for £299 million if Plaid Cymru are holding out for £300 million. All we need to make this work is Noel Edmonds on board. Sadly it'll all probably collapse before going to air due to the banker getting a bit greedy selling all the audience seats to people who can't afford them. In the short term maybe getting all the Blues out of the way first is a good idea and we'll leave the Reds for later!
The most hotly contested seat of this general election in the whole of the UK though has to be Fermanagh and South Tyrone. It wasn't the eventual winner that made it exciting but the number of votes involved. In the end Michelle Gildernew took the seat by a margin of 4 votes, yep, wouldn't you be gutted if you were a Rodney Connor supporter and didn't bother to vote or missed the cut off time? Who knew there was actually a place where every extreme vote counted!? After being bored to sleep by the slow results trickling through at around 2.30am we missed this one being called live or the recounts with the final result being declared at 20300 to 20304 after the 3rd recount! Not only that but now it seems even this result is being disputed. Here is the full story of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone count on the BBC site. I feel sorry for anyone counting there, just imagine you've been up all night and get asked to do a 3rd count! All the while, probably being glared at by the two candidates/supporters from opposite sides of the 'traditional' divide. I suspect it would feel like making a funny sound by accident and then making it again to make it sound like you meant to make the sound and then realising they might not have heard the first time and thus have to do it again all the while wondering if they heard all 3 and think you need help.
The rest of the DUP, Sinn Fein and SDLP candidates who gained the public's vote seemed to be elected without much of a shock with no other seats changing hands and not too many delays. With counting happening overnight it also proved to the rest of the UK and Ireland that we've either found a new use for the night staff at a 24 hour Tesco, or, as is more likely, we have joined the rest of the world in planning accordingly for a special occasion. Get us and our in time election declarations, still a wee way to go before rivalling Sunderland.
And that was that for now. We could probably all end up doing it all again before too long depending how all the negotiations go. So next time I want to see TV executives asking the party leaders to compete in Krypton Factor as well as live debates. The good news is that no matter what, most of us who live from pay check to pay check are still likely to be worse off in the near future but luckily the financial system and billionaires will be very grateful. I'm rather dubious at the moment as to how things will pan out, I doubt it'll be as bad as the election scare tactics made out but you never know. Like the public in Greece found, you never know if we hear everything - like those big numbers that have gone walkies. I presume, like IKEA flat packs, where these days they usually give you one extra screw that you weren't expecting, I'm still waiting for one to show up both in the package here and over the water. I'm just hoping this half decent start to a hung parliament does end up providing some real and long lasting changes, both in a shift to normalised politics for Northern Ireland and general electoral reform in the whole of the UK. With nothing more to say on the subject for now I'll sign off today with a video recently posted by Stephen Fry. So just in case it goes mammaries up with electoral reform this time out, here is that light hearted yet serious video starring John Cleese on the subject of Proportional Representation and why we need it: