So, it's Hung. As I type the backroom deals are going on, Brown is clinging to the doorknocker at No.10 and policies are being dumped and adapted. There is uncertainty but nobody can say that people weren't informed about the problems of Hung Parliaments; this is clearly the will of the people, so we have to deal with that. I think that Mr Cameron's challenge to the LibDems to join him in coalition was bold, statesmanlike and grasps the nettle; we may have a government by Monday if everything goes as planned. Personally I'd prefer a minority Conservative government with a "memorandum of understanding" - maybe one with the LibDems and another with smaller groups such as the Unionists.
I can't deny that I am not gutted with the result - both nationally and locally. There were great moments (Opik and Smith, for example) but the results lacked consistency and too many marginals were missed by the Tories. However we ought to remember that Cameron had an electoral mountain to climb; gaining 100 seats is an impressive achievement and he did score more votes than Blair did in '97. Brown, although hammered in the popular vote, did actually hold up the number of Labour seats rather well. It was probably Mr Clegg who had the most disappointing night, seeing "Cleggmania" (whatever that is, or was) disappear to the point where they actually lost seats at the election. Quite why the opinion poll ratings never translated into votes could be the subject of a whole dissertation! Where were the RATM facebook group when you needed them?
Locally the LibDems picked up Norwich South with a wafer thin 310 vote majority. I have to say that the City scene will miss Mr Clarke's knowledge and experience - Mr Wright has large shoes to fill. Nothing in our canvassing - or that of Labour or the Greens - picked up this LibDem "surge" and so it came as a genuine surprise to most, if not all, of the people at the count. The LibDems had thrown a large amount of money, locally and nationally, at this campaign and done so in a largely negative and aggressive way. Clearly, it paid off.
I loved the campaign and thought we managed to strike a positive and constructive note. It was great that policies were once again the order of the day in British politics. I also thought the turnout was a great sign too; for once, the British people realised the solution to a discredited political system is by voting for change rather than staying away from the polling booths. Polling Day itself was great fun and zoomed by; we had probably the largest and most effective polling day operation in Norwich South for a generation.
And although the LibDems walked away with the prize, I believe that was much for us to be pleased about. We were the only major party to have a swing to us (yes, the LibDems won the seat despite getting a lower vote share than in 05), and managed to put on nearly 3,000 extra votes since the last election. That's 3,000 real people who now voted Conservative that didn't a few years back; we put over 1/3rd onto our vote. This is the first time that the Tory vote has risen in Norwich South since the 1980s. And with the 3 parties now all 3,000 votes apart the next election is shaping up to be a cracking contest - "a 3 way marginal with a strong Green interest", as one TV presenter put it!
I learnt 2 major things in this campaign; firstly that debate is still at the heart of our political system and people are ready to engage about ideas. The second, sadly, is that negative campaigning really does work. I thought this campaign would show that people want to vote for something rather than against something else, but I am not sure I can. The LibDems proved that with enough money and enough negativity you can achieve success. I hope this isn't a lesson other parties learn but I am sure they will.
So, I wish Simon Wright well in his new important position and hope he is able to stand up and speak up effectivly for our City. My feeling is that - like the LibDem Council here in Norwich - he will have one chance at this, because local people don't tolerate failure from their MP. Mr Wright has a largely supportive media and goodwill in the City; we look forward to seeing what difference he can make.
And as this is my last General Election post, a final word of thanks to the hundreds of people who helped in various different ways to my campaign. It is a great honour to think that people give freely of their time and energy to see me elected to parliament. And a big thank you to the c.11,000 local people who voted for me - some will have never voted Tory before, some will be stalwarts and some will be friends who put their trust in me when their political beliefs said otherwise. To each and every one of them, I say "thank you"l you faith in me made the whole campaign worthwhile. Roll on 2014?