So wasn’t that fun? The politicians, the cameras, the bigoted old women? The quintennial great electoral circus is what makes politics fun. English students don’t have a big ‘the British nation chooses its favourite author’ contest every five years, with Martin Amis running round the country swearing at people, and Philip Pullman appearing on TV shaking lots of hands while assuring everyone that he’s much the better choice because Amis went to public school, and is hence so posh that he won’t be able to understand the average British reader’s life.
Science students don’t get a ‘Nation’s favourite scientist’ competition, and voters never go to the polls to choose the country’s greatest historian. (Which is lucky, because when campaigning they’d probably just leave anonymous rude reviews of each other’s manifestos on Amazon). No, this has been the time when politics students get to feel like the biggest beasts in town, as everyone else was desperately asking us for our thoughts on the likely outcome of the coalition negotiations. I actually found myself giving a little lecture to a group of choristers at a college dinner the other day, about the constitutional constraints on a Lib-Lab pact, and the relative psephological merits of Single Transferable Vote, Alternative Vote and Alternative Vote Plus electoral systems. Even better, the tablecloth was long enough that I don’t think any of them noticed the Wikipedia ‘electoral systems’ page open on my iPhone.
I spent most of election night at the Union, watching the OCA boys (and a couple of token girls) strutting around in their suits and bow ties, revelling in their triumph. They were all really rather happy, as, after thirteen long years, they finally sensed the moment of their victory over the despised ‘socialists’ [their word] of Oxford University Labour Club. Whenever a Tory candidate won, they would launch into an impromptu round of ‘God save the Queen,’ while the officers stood on tables necking Champagne out of the bottle. When Oxford West fell to the Tories, Max Lewis, their campaigns officer, was seen to get up on a table and announce to the adoring crowd, ‘it was OCA wot won it!’
Honestly, can you imagine OCA campaigning? Knocking on doors, talking to ordinary people in the streets, dressed in velvet jackets and cravats? At least they’d probably deal well with Gillian Duffy. When asked something like ‘those Eastern Europeans, where are they all flocking from?’, the average OCA member would probably give a sympathetic nod, agree with her that the neighbourhood wasn’t what it used to be, and, when pressed about where all the new undesirables were coming from, sigh and give the only honest answer: ‘Brookes.’