I decided to go up to Cambridge for a few days to deliver leaflets in the run up to polling day. Why Cambridge when I could have picked several London constituencies is a long story, one I shan’t bore you with. However, I arrived at the rail station Tuesday morning, all ready to go out and win some votes for the home team.
Having been to Cambridge many times, my whole idea of the city is based around the really, really nice bits of the place – punting by the canals, you know the routine. Of course, Cambridge, like pretty much any city in the world, has its less than salubrious bits. It was less than an hour after I’d arrived in the city that I found myself up by United’s football ground, navigating weeds. Of course, there are cities in which one could face much worse going door to door in the less than nice part of said town, so I’m not complaining too much.
I’m not going to get into what flavour of cake one could have in a certain party HQ – I suppose the real question is what did I learn, if anything, about what’s going to happen today from the experience (of canvassing, not the cakes)? Obviously, not much from an empirical perspective. Cambridge is a Lib Dem-Labour marginal, and it seems too close to call on the ground. Labour has the youngins, Lib Dems have the data – we’ll see who wins shortly. All that time in the sun (although usually the clouds and wind, really – it is England in May, after all), did give me time to reflect on the last week or so.
I’m scared, basically. Because I have no idea what the next government is going to be and it seems to come down to how a handful of marginal seats swing. The fate of the nation is in the hands of very few people. The difference between a Labour prime minister and a Tory one is thinner than it’s ever been. And the difference between a sane, liberal group of people holding the balance of power, and some real fruitcakes being there instead is equally on edge. Particularly as neither of the large parties are going to get a majority and the smaller parties’ make-up will be key.
I had hoped to bring back from Cambridge some anecdote that perfectly summarised the state of Britain at this pivotal stage in the country’s history. But nothing I experienced will suffice in this regard. I think, in retrospect, I was hoping for the impossible: no plausible one-off meeting with a stranger could possibly encapsulate this election. We’re in far too weird a territory. The breakup of the country itself hangs in the balance with the whole SNP thing, praised by the left who should know a lot better. The fate of Britain as a nation of standing in the world, with a departure from the European Union on the horizon, praised by the right, who should know better.
In summary: one or almost certainly several parties are going to feel a mighty slap down tomorrow morning when all of the results are in. Usually, we know who that party is going to be. This time, we have no idea (okay, apart from UKIP for sure). Where we are right this second is truly the shores of the Rubicon. I hope we all wash up on shore all right.