The Elect

God only knows how many UK general elections I sat through with my father, who loved them, even though he had spent most of his life voting Labour in a mainly Conservative constituency and had therefore – thanks to the British first-past-the-post system (as idiosyncratic in Europe as three pin plugs and the pound) – had his life's votes thrown in the bin for decades. Be that as it may, election nights certainly were fun back in the mid-20th century, as the lack of digitalisation meant that everything was improvised. For example, there was the moment – in the 1974 elections, I think - when the camera switched back to the studio from an outside broadcast and caught the presenter swigging a pint of bitter, which he hastily slipped out of sight while trying to put his professional expression back on. And then there was a Canadian 'election expert' who was forever parked in a corner of the studio where he would make occasional predictions – which were only slightly less interesting than televised snooker - of what the night would hold, using a hand-operated dial called a Swingometer, which he sometimes pointed towards Labour, and sometimes towards the Tories: nobody, back then, ever thought outside the two party box. There was, it is true, something called the Liberal Party, which seemed to have been put there on purpose to prove that Britain was a real democracy, but which mainly served to provide unexpected entertainment, such as when its then leader, Jeremy Thorpe, hired a hit man to shoot his lover's dog. However, the 2015 UK elections last month transformed British politics – for the first time ever - into a genuine three-party system, the third being the Scottish National Party, who obtained 50 more seats to add to the six they already had. The morning after, the online editions of the London-based media barely mentioned this sea change, as if their minds were still locked in the two-party past. It was only then I realised that having lived for 30 years in Catalonia, I gave only a relative damn about who won or lost the elections in England, a country which has long ceased to feel like home. But with the Scottish, I felt a sudden flare-up of empathy, now that Catalonia and Scotland really do have something in common: we have both become the elephants in the rooms of the respective states we still find ourselves living in.

Matthew Tree, Catalonia Today, juny de 2015


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