From here in Spain I have been able to follow the recent UK general election with (a degree of) detachment. As a non-resident, I have no UK address from which to apply to register and therefore have no say in the election. However, until I left the UK permanently two years ago I was a member of the Liberal Democrat party, and I have found that politically an umbilicus still attaches me tenuously to the UK.
It seems ironic that after waiting and hoping for so many years, no sooner have I left the country than up comes an election that puts my erstwhile party into government. In the protracted negotiations that followed the result, I experienced highly ambivalent feelings. It is true that as a centre left party we would expect to have more in common with Labour than with the Tories; at the same time, collectively the electorate - in a gratifyingly higher turnout than for some time - had rejected the idea of a further period of of Labour government. Difficult as I might find it to accept, the Tories, with most seats and the highest share of the vote, were preferred by the voters if not actually trusted with an outright majority, and so the only honest way to let the voters be the king makers in Nick Clegg’s words, was to negotiate a coalition programme with the Tories.
The consequences of this have greatly amused me. The reaction of the right-wing press and the Tory right-wing makes me think of an eldest son who, following the death of his father, attends the reading of the will, fully expecting to move straight into the family pile and get stuck into some long overdue changes around the estate, only to be told that his father’s will stipulates that in order to inherit he has to go out and find a bride. One is found at short notice, a wedding is quickly cobbled together and the couple move into the big house.
Almost immediately, the groom’s family and their hangers-on begin the loud lament. It will never last. He has married beneath him. She needn’t think she has any say in the running of the estate. His father’s stipulation was quite outrageous. They will have none of it. They will scrutinise events for signs of discord and broadcast them to all and sundry with an air of self-righteous relish.
Lorca could have had a field day turning this into a drama to rival Blood Wedding!