I don’t do politics here, as a rule. I think there’s enough of it about, frankly, and I will spare you. What I will write about instead is elections, since we are soon to have the elections to the Scottish Parliament and of course the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union in June. I love elections. Not the campaigning bit, that can be infuriating, the election night with the counting and the results. For the majority of elections since I was a teenager, even before I could vote myself, I have sat up a lot of the night and watched the results come in, usually staying up to see East Lothian’s results then going to bed after.
The first election I remember being aware of was the 1997 UK general election, when Labour won with a landslide. The world just felt different. I was only 8 but I was aware of the news and could sense that things were bad with the Conservatives and a change had happened. A couple of years later, I used to wake up really early in the morning before going to school in Edinburgh and I turned on the TV to see the results of the first Scottish Parliament election, presented by Kirsty Wark, I think. I stayed up very late the night before my Standard Grade Maths exam for the 2005 UK general election – I always claim it counted as revision – and definitely even later before work for the 2007 Scottish election when the SNP came to power.
I sat up all night in November 2008 the night Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. It’s hard to believe Obama is going to leave office in January though hopefully he won’t be succeeded by Donald Trump. I remember wondering if Obama had lost the plot when he began his victory speech that night: ‘If there’s anyone out there…’ Randomly, my current OU course features that speech somewhere. I always remember having to change the radio channel half way through because Radio 4 cut away from Obama to broadcast the Shipping Forecast at 5.20am.
Last year’s UK general election saw me stay up until about 6am. I bought popcorn, Irn Bru and very decent chocolate as I knew it would be quite a night. Here in Scotland, the SNP won 56 out of 59 seats, Labour kept only 1 and the Lib Dems and the Tories had 1 each. Nationally, of course, the Tories won a majority. Indeed. I quietly cheered when Jim Murphy, a figure for whom I reserve a special level of contempt, got turfed oot by the good folk of East Renfrewshire. My constituency saw Ian Davidson, the robust Labour Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, beaten by Chris Stephens of the SNP. And even East Lothian turned SNP too, won that night by the journalist George Kerevan. I never thought I would see the SNP or anyone else win East Lothian in my lifetime.
The last election I paid close attention to was a couple of weeks ago. I have a particular interest in Irish politics and spent a fair while a few years ago reading the early proceedings of the Dail. At time of writing, the makeup of the Irish government hasn’t quite been set. Fine Gael won the most seats but nowhere near a majority and their previous coalition partners, Labour, pretty much got decimated. The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, is still there, awaiting a deal to actually form a government. Another election could happen, as if it’s the people’s fault for having the temerity to vote the wrong way the first time. Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote system and a majority isn’t easy to achieve. That’s the right way, even if a member might not be elected after counting the votes ten times. The Scottish Parliament, which uses the Additional Member System, combining First Past The Post and a regional list, is supposed to be like that too. The SNP proved that wrong in 2011 and it looks like happening again this time as well.
While I was watching the Irish election results come in on a Sunday afternoon, RTE led with the breaking news that Frank Kelly, who played the very sweary Father Jack in Father Ted, had died. To be fair, that is much more crucial news, laughter trumps politics.
I will no doubt be up all night again on election night, after of course going around to vote on my way home, as has become a tradition. In closing, I would like to remind all Scottish readers to vote on Thursday 5th May. Decisions are made by those who show up, after all. If you aren’t registered to vote, you have until Monday 18th April. It can be done in minutes at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.