I like being angry. I like the feeling of my hackles raising. I like having my ire piqued. And yesterday morning I was angry. I was angry at the electorate for voting out of self-interest and fear. I was angry that people genuinely felt they were being tactical by voting tactically. I was angry that we are going to have to face the reality of a Tory run government for a long time yet. Yesterday morning I was able to wallow in my anger, and that made me happy. 

By about lunchtime yesterday, I was feeling sad. I don’t like to feel sad.

The more I think about the result, the way the numbers add up, this was the worst possible outcome whatever your politics. I had wanted a hung parliament, but a hung parliament with a strengthened third party. This would have ensured that enough pressure could be exerted to ensure that electoral reform could be implemented and then the country could be asked what they really thought. A hung parliament with a weakened third party, effectively means that the third party can be neutered before going back to the country.

I fear that yesterday’s result could spell the end of three party politics. I worry that yesterday was not just a bad day for the country, but a terrible day for democracy.

The media are getting excited about the role of Clegg as kingmaker, and how this is a just reward for the brilliant way he managed to raise the profile and hopes of his party and policies. This is not a position of power, this is simply a position that enables Clegg to decide which way his party will perish. Side with Cameron and I can’t help but feel that he will be kingmaker in the same way that Thomas Becket was kingmaker for Henry II. You cannot pawn your principles, as the cost of buying them back is destruction.

Lib Dem activists surely don’t choose their party as a cheap ticket for the gravy train. Power has always been a distant dream for them. They have not chosen their party because they are slavishly following an inherited dogma. It is very unlikely they are following the path of their parents, class or culture. They have made a reasoned decision based on policy and ideals. I cannot believe that in the discussions this weekend they will be happy conceding on principle. I have a terrible feeling there will be a lot of desperately unhappy party activists. How can deep thinking, reasoned people hop on a kneejerk reactionary platform founded on fear and hatred? For a party based on principle before power, I cannot believe that their vociferous grass roots support will be able or willing to support Tory measures. As for its MP’s, it will take a Tory machete rather than a Tory whip to get votes through. Clegg might be a fine leader, but ultimately parliamentary votes are made by individuals.

Should Clegg and the party side with everybody against the Tories, the dead-tree press with have their final reckoning. The people will be convinced it is undemocratic, and the anger will be palpable. Plus, it requires every single vote. No MP could rebel, none could be ill, and none could abstain. Impossible. Go back to the country like this, and people will be rattled and will ensure a Tory overall democracy. Every party will be damaged.

Enter into another election without electoral reform and without allegiance, the voters will view the Lib Dems as having had a plucky stab at being a viable option, but ultimately having failed. I think it is very unlikely they won’t lose more votes. Come autumn, people will be hankering after stability and like women that keep returning to their abusive husbands, the electorate will take a better-the-devil-you-know attitude.

So what to do? Short of the queen stepping in and imposing PR, I think we are completely screwed. We have put pragmatism above principle. The people want electoral reform. The people want their vote to count. I believe that bizarre voting patterns of Thursday demonstrated this. But the system has won. Because we voted with our heads rather than our hearts, we have ensured that our hearts, our hopes and our deeply held convictions don’t have to be listened to. In trying to break the electoral system, we have made it stronger. Labour should be pleased with the way the votes played out. The Tories will take power, they will make Labour look good. The LibDems have no viable options. I feel this interregnum period will be the last hurrah of a party I have come increasingly to believe in.

I remain sad.


We want extraordinary people to run our country, but we are continually expecting them to show us how ordinary they are. We want them to work tirelessly on behalf of the country, but we expect them to be up to date with Eastenders. We appoint them to deal with all of our children’s education, yet we feel they should still be popping out to Tesco to do the family’s weekly shop. They should be finding a way to end the war in Iraq and stop us losing any more young soldiers, but they must also be on Spotify listening to MGMT’s (rather marvellous) new album. This demand for our politicians to show how in touch with the common man they are is just as ridiculous as expecting Rooney to work his way through Proust. . . . Oops. I just evoked Wayne Rooney . . . how silly.

I don’t want to go out for a drink with any of the prospective leaders. In fact, I don’t care about any of them as people any more than I do any civil servant. I just want them to do a good job of attempting to run the country.

I don’t want the average politician knowing the price of a pint of milk just to show that they occasionally do the shopping. I would rather they were compiling a report on the impact of the price of milk on the average family, the farmer, the village shopkeeper, the supermarket, or even the cow.

I don’t want them to be pretending to like any of the things I do. That is patronising and stupid. They need to remember, as the makers of the laws of this country and the imposers of taxes that they are effectively our bosses. There is nothing worse than a boss who pretends to be your friend. Except that is, of course, for the company workers who pretend to be friends with the boss.

We, the electorate, need to stop trying to mould our leaders in our own image. We should stop wanting them to be better than us as moral beings. We need to want them to be better than us at what they do. If our leaders are just like us, what right do they have to lead us?

As Nigel Slater, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, and even the Church of England tirelessly extol the virtues of allotments, nobody seems to be asking why little parcels of our country should be packaged up and given away to green-fingered members of Middle England for virtually nothing.

The social necessity that engendered the creation of commonly available plots for growing sustenance crops is now no longer fulfilled through urban gardening. Nowadays allotments are nothing more than a convenient place for daddy to recycle the horse manure of his precious little cherub’s pony. Okra, lychees, damsons and Japanese quince are hardly going to reduce the weekly food spending of the average struggling family, yet these are now typical amongst the exotic crops which our council tax goes to support.

There was a time when allotments were the natural successor to common land. They were established in the wake of the nineteenth century Enclosure Acts as a way of ensuring that landowners made some provision for the landless poor so that they could, in times of hardship, continue to feed their families. During the war, they gave an opportunity for large families to supplement their meagre rations. In a series of honourable and well-intentioned Allotment Acts between 1887 and 1950, councils and land-owners were obliged to provide a number of plots at rental prices that any ‘reasonable man’ might be able to pay.

This obligation still exists on the statutes. Of course, larger landowners conveniently ignore the legal expectations. As far as I can ascertain, our Prince Charles, the aristocratic voice of all things green, currently offers none of his 54,424 hectares of Duchy of Cornwall land to the ‘reasonable man’ in order to grow gooseberries on. So it is left to our councils, and our council tax, to meet the demand for a virtually free garden for anybody who wants a little bit of extra space.

This little bit of space adds up. There are currently around 297,000 allotment plots in the country. With an average allotment covering 260 m² (10 rods in the traditional measurement), my rudimentary mathematics suggests that 77 km² of public land is given over to lucky individuals. This is the same area covered by the city of Leicester which provides homes, parks, civic amenities, shopping centres, recreational sports areas, as well as the odd allotment for its 294,000 inhabitants. Therefore, each allotment plot represents the entire personal and public living space needed by an urban-dwelling individual. However, we grant these to any interested party at a nominal fee.

So in this densely populated country what price do we put on renting all the urban space a person needs? On average about £30 per year.  At its extremes the disparity is laughable. The average property price in Camden is £604,640, yet for the princely sum of £52 per annum you can have yourself a prime piece of London to grow potatoes in. If you can afford to live in Camden, should you really be granted extra land by the council, especially when that land is amongst the most valuable in the country?

Were allotments fulfilling their original purpose, I would wholly support the maintenance and expansion of the programme. Were they helping families who needed to supplement their income, this would be something that councils should plough resources into. But the ‘reasonable man’ for whom they were created has long since realised that it is much more economically viable to shop at Iceland than to grow your own peas on a plot of land.

If I enjoyed fishing, should I have the right to petition the council to give me a stretch of coastline that is exclusively mine to fish? Of course not. Allotments are public land which is effectively given away to private individuals for the purpose of gardening. These people are increasingly middle class and Middle England. The dispossessed in this country struggle to feed themselves, while allotment owners take pride in how pretty their Harvest Festival displays look in the local church each September.

When Dr. Rowan Williams suggests that “More people ought to have allotments. It’s part of reconnecting — the sense of connectedness to natural processes,” he genuinely believes that allotments can allow us to “Dig for victory against climate change.” This naively ignores the fact that allotments simply help to assuage the guilt of Middle England, and to convince them that they can run a Chelsea Tractor and fly off on three foreign holidays a year and still believe they are doing their bit for the environment. All they are doing is draining resources from the people who really need them in order to feed their kids home-grown, home-made fondant cassava.