Prime Minister David Cameron
We’d become accustomed to the intrigue. We’d accepted the rolling news coverage. But now – finally – the process is over. The UK has a new Prime Minister.
The concluding act is peculiarly British. Some reckon it’s brutal. Either way it makes for gripping television even if we all know what the basic outcome is.
Now that Gordon Brown has said his goodbyes to his boss at the Palace and David Cameron has jostled with traffic up and down The Mall, the party is now officially over.
Or is it?
More than any other election campaign, I’ve found my attention squarely focussed on what was going on. The campaign itself didn’t command my attention as much as perhaps those courting my vote might have hoped, but still my news junkie tendencies were fuelled by this election.
More than that however was the results day and – more dangerously – the subsequent horsetrading between parties to get the deal done, Gordon Brown out and David Cameron finally ensconced.
Never before have I been this interested in politics. And right now I’m wondering whether I’ll sustain that basic level of interest in the coming months. Something tells me I will. And I rather like that.
Not since the Mumbai attacks have I slavishly checked and rechecked Twitter, reloaded the BBC’s live updates page and – whereever possible – fired up a web browser to see what the hell was going on.
I don’t consider myself to be politically savvy. I’ve just been consumed by the simple story and perceived battles. Those of us with over-active imaginations adore these kind of things.
Watching the denouement this evening however, I’m struck by how lonely a figure Prime Minister David Cameron looked standing outside 10 Downing Street, delivering what at times seemed like more of a Tory activist rallying cry than a prime ministerial address.
In that moment, stood in front of a sea of cameras and a full array of camera lights, Cameron and his pregnant wife looked strangely vulnerable.
What must they have both been thinking? What has this day been like for them? What is the experience of actually realising what must have been a preoccupation for so very long? What do they do next? Do they sit down to eat? Do they have meetings? Do they watch TV? Does Samantha Cameron have a bath or read a magazine? Does she listen to the Archers like I do before I go to bed? I’m not the only one with an obsession about the minutiae of political life either.
Equally, what is it like for a man used to his role as Prime Minister to go through the downgrading process he went through earlier this evening? What will tomorrow morning be like? What will his sons ask him?
And then there’s Nick Clegg. There’s been more written, muttered and tweeted about him over the past few days than anyone would have expected. He and his party have been at the centre of things for the past few days. What’s he feeling now? Jubilant? Disappointed? Relieved? Or hopeful?
These are the things we will never know. Yes, politicians will write their memoirs in time. But the accuracy of those memoirs – and specifically the emotion – will be subject to the passing of time and to subsequent agendas. Whatever way you look at it, memoirs are to a greater or lesser extent, works of fiction.
These seminal moments – broadcast for us the viewer to lap up moment by moment – don’t convey the very thing we’re left imagining.
That’s why brutal as these moments in political history are, us voters find them too delicious to ignore.