My, that was an election, wasn't it? Not precisely exciting, as the media kept insisting it was - for that, we'd all have to have felt some deep emotional investment in the outcome; and for that to happen, we'd have had to feel that at least one of the parties was offering something new and different; and for that to happen, we'd have to have felt like they weren't treating us like idiots with their bland prescriptions for "change", their almost affected aversion to any concrete discussion of economic reality, and the party leaders' continual insistence on their affection for Britain. The vacuous irrelevance of that claim was brought home by Sky News's Adam Boulton, who capped a witless on-air spat with Alistair Campbell by whining "I actually care about this country." Quick, a quiz: "Patriotism is the last refuge of ..." — what? Is it a) "an idealistic and strictly impartial broadcaster"; b) "a wronged man, struggling to reclaim his reputation" or c) "a slimy prick"? (The answer is c), although I'm quoting from memory and can't guarantee that Dr. Johnson used those exact words.)
But it was, if not exciting, unpredictable. I was one of those who expected Labour to face electoral annihilation; and while my boyhood allegiance to the party has been loosened, I was relieved that it did as well as it did. By contrast, Andrew Sullivan - who had a terrible election, substituting wishful thinking about the Conservative Party's talents and chances for hardnosed analysis - wrote 10 days before the election: "There is nothing I'd rather see than the demise of the Labour party, the architect of the socialist state and the culture of class-hatred that I grew up in and that Thatcher alone helped partially dismantle." It's true! Before the Labour party sprang into existence, cultivating class-hatred in order to invent an electoral base that otherwise could never have existed, Britain was a harmonious nation whose major public health issue was that vast number of proles with heads scarred and depilated by over-enthusiastic forelock-tugging as the grateful lower-orders strove to express their appreciation of the paternal kindness constantly lavished on them by their betters. (By the way, I infer from that sentence that Sullivan thinks class-hatred is something felt exclusively by lower classes towards their betters - "the politics of envy" is the usual dismissive phrase. If he really does believe that, he ought to spend some time discussing education with middle-class parents in London.)
The oddest thing is how well things have turned out all round. The morning after the election, the consensus was that everybody had lost - the Tories didn't have an overall majority, the Liberal Democrats hadn't capitalised on their leader's supposedly marvellous (in reality, bland and trivial) performance in the leadership debates, Labour had seen its share of votes and seats slashed. A week on, Cameron is prime minister of a government with at least a paper majority; the Liberal Democrats have got a place at the table on surprisingly favourable terms; and Labour - having flirted dangerously with the idea of a minority coalition government of dubious legitimacy - has ended up shot of an unelectable leader and retiring into opposition with clean hands. All we need now is for Labour to shed some of its enthusiasm for markets and regain a little love for civil liberties and we're set.
Also, it would be good if the weather could stop being so unseasonably bloody cold.