Monday, 10 May 2010


Between the hours of 9am on Wednesday and 2am on Saturday last week, I accumulated just seven hours' sleep. But it was worth it, as I followed and reported on a fascinating General Election. Now the most undemocratic part of the whole business is taking place as the three main parties decide how a coalition will be formed to govern the United Kingdom. Will it be a ‘Con-Dem-Nation’ (great headline) as the Daily Mirror announced? Or are we set for a Lib-Lam tie-up? From a policies and electoral reform point of view, it would seem sensible for Nick Clegg to side with a new Labour leader, now Gordon Brown has stepped down. But a common policy programme is possible with David Cameron that would get an emergency budget in place and overall be more popular with the electorate.

There have been many debates raised over the last few days about whether our electoral system is fair. Suffice to say, it is fair in individual constituencies where the person with the most votes will represent their area in Parliament. But then you look at the percentages of votes and see that if we had Proportional Representation the Lib Dems would have 99 seats (Alternative Vote), 123 (Alternative Vote Plus) or 163 (Single Transferable Vote). No surprises that they favour the latter.

The main argument against PR is that it doesn’t lead to strong governments as there is no clear majority. But, of course, that is exactly the situation we now find ourselves in after election day delivered a hung parliament. Electoral reform is certainly needed, however, as a situation where a 6 per cent point difference in votes leads to 201 more seats for Labour against the Lib Dems certainly does not sound not very democratic.

It was almost unbelievable when the exit polls were released, that the Liberal Democrats were forecast to suffer a net loss of seats. Shadow chancellor Vince Cable laughed it off and I thought they must have got it wrong too at 10pm on Thursday. But as the night continued, the exit poll was proved to be almost spot on. In fact, it was being generous as they got even less.

One of the big winners were the Green Party, with Caroline Lucas gaining a seat in Brighton. She is a very clever woman with radical ideas who I’m sure will add something to the House of Commons. We also saw some excellent gains for the Conservatives in my home county of Essex, such as Castle Point and Basildon South & Thurrock East. In fact, Essex is now exclusively Tory apart from Colchester, which is Lib Dem.

I’m currently producing a radio feature on ‘northerness’ for my degree, and one of the factors used when you define a 'northerner' is that of voting patterns. It’s clear to see looking at the electoral map of England that there are serious differences in voting, which is of course very much traditional. But it’s interesting that the Tories simply have no chance in some areas, however well they’re doing, as many northern working-class areas just feel Labour will always do more for them.

As a general rule, you have the south-east and midlands dominated by the Conservatives, south-west by the Lib Dems, and then the picture is a lot more mixed in the north, with Labour having a much bigger presence. It’s important to note that in England the Tories seem to cover a much larger land area than any of the other parties put together, but this of course counts for nothing, as it doesn’t necessarily represent a much larger population voting for them.

Well that’s all interesting stuff. I think I’ll go to bed tonight and wake up next week to find out who’s in charge.

* * *

Back in the day, the policemen who drew the short straw to cover Milwall, Leeds United or Cardiff City games shuddered in their black boots. And to some extent they still would today. But over the last few weeks we’ve seen three new sets of fans come through the ranks of hooliganism to give their teams a bad name. Violence and crowd trouble caused by Sheffield Wednesday, Luton Town and Grimsby Town supporters over the last 10 days has been simply unacceptable.

It doesn’t matter if your team has got relegated or failed in their promotion bid - this is no excuse for getting onto the pitch and putting players in danger. If you play professional football - or, indeed, play at any level - you should not have to worry about your own safety. At the end of Burton v Grimsby, the referee and some players actually ran off the pitch at the final whistle because they seemed so scared of what could happen. And it got nasty.

I have seen Southend United get promoted twice (once live, once on TV) and relegated twice (both live) - yet on only one of those four occasions has there been a proper pitch invasion. And on that one occasion - against Bristol City in May 2006 - I decided to stay in the stand. Not only because it was a criminal offence to get onto the pitch, but also that I wanted to stay with my grandpa up there and get a good view of what was going on. Yes, invasions looks really funny on the cameras, but if you’re in the middle of a melee it’s probably quite frightening, even if the fans are good-tempered.

The only way to solve this problem seems to be to put up fences again, and nobody wants that. There often simply aren’t enough stewards or police to stop fans getting on, and I suggest the Football League commissions a report before the end of next season to see what can be done. As if it’s a criminal offence but thousands of people still get onto the turf, what can you do? It would be a pretty busy Magistrates’ Court on a Monday morning.

PICTURES: Daily Mirror and Daily Mail/Getty