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Brown Bread

So Gordon’s packing his bags instead of sellotaping himself to a chair at Number 10.

I think we all knew he was going sooner rather than later, but the fact it coincided with the news Nick Clegg has requested formal talks is probably… well… not a coincidence.

Nick Clegg predicting today's announcement with the help of the Echo

It seems the PM throwing himself on the hand grenade of a Tory Government, but whether or not he manages to smother it with his ample form remains to be seen.

The Welsh and Scottish nationals are after a deal with Labour and the Lib Dems. So, will the boys and girls in yellow will go for a “progressive pact”  or clamber under the covers with Cameron?

And so democracy has once again descended into closed meetings and backroom deals.

Talks go on between the Tories and Lib Dems on the future of the Government, much to the disappointment of many voters.

“Will those nice Lib Dems, the heroes of students and Guardian readers the nation over, really prop up those nasty Tories?”

The answer is: “We dunno yet.”

It may seem painful to many folk who went out and voted Lib Dem as a more left-wing, student-friendly, Europe-loving alternative to Labour that they could now become bedfellows with Cameron and chums.

But it’s not to be forgotten that there are two sides to the Lib Dems. Up here in the North East, and elsewhere, they are the aforementioned forthright challengers to Labour.

In other parts of the country, however, they are seen as the humous-eating antidote to the Conservatives in constituencies where few wish to vote for the sweaty-socked socialists of New Labour.

While tour first-past-the-post voting system is cited as the main stumbling block to Lib Dem success, fighting on two fronts and the split-image that creates surely can’t help.

I suspect the decline from Cleggstacy to seat-losses came when Nick ceased his silence on possible post-election pacts.

First he alienated the left-wingers by saying he would not work with Labour if they party came third, then worried the Tories with his hasty retreat: saying he could work with Labour, just not Brown.

And now he has to live by those pledges, making a pact with Labour even more problematic – though putting the losing side into Government would seem a bit naughty to begin with.

(Labour would point out, however, that they and the Lib Dems – “the progressive parties” – won more seats than the Tories.)

The conspiracy theorists among us may also suggest Clegg is breaking bread with Cameron so he can say he tried and failed, so must go with Labour. We’ll see.

But at present, I can’t work out what’s in the best interests of the Tory-phobic.

Some sort of deal with Clegg would put them in Government, but could also shift them to the left a little.

But whatever happens, little Cameron-haters, don’t worry. It seems the Tories are too small in number to do anything too unpopular. Not without the Lib Dem stamp of approval anyway…

Well, it’s almost Christmas morning in Electionland.

There are definitely butterflies in stomachs, and not-so-little boys and girls around the country wondering if voters think they’ve been nice enough to get a present.

Sadly going to bed early cannot be included in the analogy, but to all those who are staying up to the wee hours: we wish you a very merry Election Night and a happy new Parliament.

I’m off to the count in Sunderland now and colleagues are in place around the region to fill you in on tonight’s ballot-related goings on.

It all seemed so odd as I stood ready to make marks on the two bits of seemingly insignificant bits of paper before me.

I’ve spent the past month in the thick of it, meeting politicians and candidates, asking folk in the street what they make of it all, interviewing academics, writing tens of thousands of  words about policies, parties, polls and puff, reading papers, watching TV,  listening to the radio.

But as I meandered over to my old nursery school, polling cards in hand, I couldn’t feel more detached.

Therein lies the problem. I think most people feel detached – at least from the notion that how they vote can actually change the world around us.

We get so swamped by it all: TV leaders’ debates, leaflets through the door, canvassers in the street, election-flavoured crisps and manifesto-responsive cucumbers (apparently).

It ends up more like a football tournament or a war game than a choice on where the country’s going and what it should be doing.

Perhaps a pic ‘n’ mix system would work. Relatively few people actually read election manifestos and know all the policies, so maybe instead of parties we could push these to the fore and let people pick and choose:

“I’ll have some of Labour’s economic policy, a scoop of the Lib Dem’s education ideas and the Tories’ plans to axe National Insurance rises please. Oh, and a coconut mushroom and some rum and raisin fudge please.”

The system would be entirely unworkable of course. But  I am partial to fudge.

Honest Jon

Is this the Honest Jon we’ve all been waiting for? If it is, even he doesn’t think we’ll get him.
 
 

Jon Collings, independent for City of Durham

 
While the main parties are accused of hiding the country’s credit card bill down the back of the settee and focusing on more voter-friendly policies like crime, care and jobs, City of Durham independent candidate Jon Collings is not afraid to speak his mind.
 
After choosing to champion the no doubt important but difficult to digest issues of the fractional banking system (which could lead to our enslavement, apparently) and reforms to the “laws pertaining to land and planning” in his candidate statement, he then goes on to almost relish defeat:
 
“Whilst I hope to get a few votes, I’d imagine my deposit will soon be winging its way to the Home Office. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed campaigning – it’s a good way to get to know Durham a lot better – and the weather has generally been great.”
 
It does answer one of the questions I often ask myself of independent Parliamentary candidates – do they actually think they can, against all odds, win?
 
Many of them do well of course, and even win – Martin Bell and NHS crusader Dr Richard Taylor in Wyre Forest are proof of that.
 
But more of them lose both the seat and the £500 deposit they put up in hope of getting it back in exchange for five per cent of the vote. It doesn’t sound much, but, especially in seats like South Shields where there are nine candidates, it’s a struggle.
 
Off they go, full of confidence against the odds. And good for them I suppose. If there’s no one they want to vote for, it’s better than spoiling your ballot paper, and at least they have the chance to give their views and issues a modicum of limelight.
 
 

Just a quick note to all those who got caught up in the Bank Holiday traffic – I hope you realised it was the immigrants’ fault.

Yes, you’ve got to love right-wing loonyism. One popular argument for dealing with the BNP, National Front and chums is to deny them a platform from which to air their views.

But I’ve never been a non-platformist. It’s only democratic for the media to give them coverage, and I don’t think the antifascist protestors should mind.

Let them spout their odd-ball policies to the world, so voters can see there is more to them than a commitment to rid the country of immigrants – there’s nonsense and gibberish too.

Take that charming chap who appeared on the BBC North East election debate last week. He was the one with the union flag socks and half-mast trousers (which would have been described as “budgies” if he’d gone to our school).

Mike Elliott of the BNP at the BBC North East and Cumbria election debate, Sunderland University

After a discussion about the A1 and rail links, which included an interjection from the Greens on the ridiculousness of talking about cutting carbon emissions widening roads while simultaneously discussing road-widening, our BNP chappy , Mike Elliott, chipped in his two penneth:

“Listening to the three main parties I find it incredible that they’re on about climate change and the effects on the environment and looking at increasing roads and also the amount of people coming into the country and that they’ve all got plans to allow people coming into the country to increase the population – that’s going to put more pressure on the roads than we’ve already got now.

“The road system, the transport system, is already at gridlock. I just travelled past the Metrocentre and it took about 45 minutes.”

So, there’s our insight into the BNP transport policy. And you thought they all just cared about immigration.

Come break e-bread with the man who thinks Sunderland can go Tory.

Lee Martin, Conservative candidate for Sunderland Central, is online for a live webchat at www.sunderlandecho.com from 12pm to 1pm today.