This has been a thrilling election. Not just because the outcome is so unclear; but because the depressing dominance of the newspapers has been challenged by new media.
Ok, TV isn’t exactly new media – and there’s no denying the leaders debates have engaged the voters and thrust Nick Clegg into the limelight. But what made the debates interesting for me was the meta-debates happening on Twitter and Facebook as the leaders wrangled on TV. Watching viewers’ minds change in realtime during that first debate was amazing. And reading Malcolm Tucker’s tweets made the boring bits bearable, too.
Since that first debate, most of the press has been working at hard to undermine the Lib Dems, churning out the usual fear-and-smear tricks. I don’t usually mind the antics of the press, but at election times I find the blatant bias sickening. But the web and TV debates have provided a more direct forum for people to make up their own minds without being muddied by the dark motives of newspaper editors and proprietors.
It feels like we’re close to something spectacular: an upgrade to the UK’s operating system.
Which is why I implore you to vote. For whoever you believe in. Do not fear a hung parliament. Welcome it. Tomorrow, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put an end to the disconnected pendulum that continually swings between blue and red (and, with each election, moves a little further away from real life).
In most elections, pretty much every vote is wasted, unless you happen to live in one of a handful of marginal seats. But this time round, every vote matters. Because if there’s no outright winner, the parties will be forced to compromise. And then the size of their mandate becomes important.
Likelihood is, more than half the votes will be cast for parties that advocate a change to the electoral system (if you count Labour’s deathbed conversion, which I reluctantly will). So if and when a coalition is formed, it throws open the possibility that our electoral system will be revamped. And that way your vote will count in every election, not just this one.
I hope the stories of a newfound political engagement among the under-30s are true, even if I find it hard to stomach the theory that it’s spurred by reality TV. The fact that Nick Clegg won the Xbox Live poll of 400,000 gamers backs up the general trend of the torrent of Tweets during that first leaders’ debate (Clegg scored 30% compared to Cameron’s 21% – while Brown’s dashing avatar managed just 18%).
But pressing a button on a gamepad or sending a text to X Factor is very different to going to the effort of walking to your local school hall and ticking a box.
So maybe the Tories will scrape just enough seats to stay true to their threats – and rule with the help of the Unionists, the newspapers and the votes of barely more than a third of the UK’s voters. That’s just the sort of travesty you get with the electoral system we have now. After all, that’s pretty much how the last Labour government got itself elected.
I’ve had enough. Time to reboot, and upgrade.