Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

It's the Drama that Counts

You have to feel sorry for MP's - no sooner do they have their expenses seriously curtailed and several carriages lopped off the gravy train than another of their institutions is under threat. That long election night of adulation and attention from hyped-up party faithful and the media could be a thing of the past.

Some killjoy returning officers were actually having the audacity to to begin counts the following day "for their own convenience". Well, what a nerve!

Never mind the distance the ballot box has to travel and the welfare of people counting votes into the early hours, forget the rising staff costs and the potential inaccuracy of exhausted tellers working by artificial light; all that matters, it seems, is the 'excitement and drama' of election night.

Honourable members from all parties stampeded to support Jack Straw's amendment to the Constitutional Reform Bill to ensure that votes are counted by tired people in the early stages of sleep deprivation.

To be fair, some have also raised the spectre of market uncertainty (not a new idea; Anthony Trollope's Palliser novels refer to it), which is an area I prefer to leave to experts, but the main thrust of their argument has been that they, and by extension the public, would miss out on a lot of drama.

This, I assume, is the same kind of drama they claim we all enjoy in PMQ - we enjoy it so much, it seems, that the whole experience has to be broadcast live on BBC Parliament and News 24 and Sky News. Simultaneously.

And some of us are sick of it. Sick of their schoolboy jibes, the triumphal paper-waving and jeers, the whole Yah-boo! Nyah-nyah! Punch-and-Judy lot of it. For goodness' sake, just get on with running the country rather than spending hours in advance closeted with your advisors thinking up new and exciting insults!

(A particular aspiring politician from my student days springs to mind; in Union debates, he would consult a small notebook containing alliterative insults filed alphabetically by college/birthplace/political orientation in order to bring out an appropriate jibe once he found out his opponents' affiliations.)

I'm sure there are members of the public who do enjoy the spectacle of election night (and a lot of happy news crews on time-and-a-half), but to give the last word to David Monks, head of the returning officers' organisation, 'We are not in the business of entertainment'.

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