It is said that the recent General Election cost the taxpayer £130 million pounds. Many complain about this. I reckon that this works out at under £5 per voter, and the hours of entertainment which it gave (I watched all night) were well worth this. I’d pay £5 just for that shot of George Osborne’s face as he turned his knife into the woman who sacked him when Cameron fell.
There is a point here about Theresa May, incidentally, which is relevant to her subsequent failure (as I write, the gossip is of backstage plots to oust her). No-one, including Osborne himself, can have been surprised that he did not keep his post. Theresa May took the opportunity to tell him what she thought of him and to give him some rather patronising advice about needing to show more humility if he ever wanted to be prime minister. Tomorrow belonged to her, or so she thought, and I suspect that there were others whom Mrs May treated with disdain. Be nice, or at least polite, to people you meet on your way up because you may meet them on the way down.
Our elections are brutal. MPs are sacked, there, on the public stage and on live television. There are charlatans and shysters among them, no doubt, but some of them have given years of their lives to public service and are dispatched in a moment. They have offices and staff, families, aspirations and causes, to say nothing of a job and an income. It makes for gripping television.
Before that we have the day at the polls. There is something gloriously eccentric about the whole thing – not just the official elements but the habits and memes which have grown up around it. The standard polling station notices were apparently printed in 1935. Scratching pencil crosses on scraps of paper contrasts with the fact that you can order almost anything by talking to a box in the corner of the room. At a time when rigorous proof of identity is required for the most trivial applications, you can just walk into a polling station, give an address and a name and cast your vote.
One relatively new invention is the Twitter hashtag #dogsatpollingstations. We don’t have a dog any more, so I took along one of our old dog’s dog toys:
One of the eccentricities of our elections is the fact that anybody willing to risk the deposit may stand as a candidate and end up on the platform alongside the Prime Minister herself if they so choose. Theresa May found herself facing not only Elmo (embarrassingly dressed in almost the same orange) but Lord Buckethead. The latter gave rise to one of the more glorious Twitter exchanges of the whole affair.
The aftermath is anything but funny, but still the jokes roll in. As I write, 10 Downing Street has just issued a denial of a story that the Tories have reached a deal with the DUP. The source of the original story was….10 Downing Street, who apparently issued the wrong press announcement in error. These people are about to embark on Brexit, the biggest set of diplomatic, legal and economic negotiations we have ever seen. God help us.