Hell yeah, we were pumped up. And so we came at last to Sheffield Hallam, the constituency of Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, a national media seeking answers. How many red lines were needed to draw a U-turn? On which party would he bestow the still-glittering orangey-gold crown? The Tories might do better than expected. Or Labour might lock them out. But the one thing we knew for certain was that the Liberal Democrats were going to be the “surprise story” of the 2015 election and nobody would be able to govern without them. Sure, the polls were deadlocked with the party stubbornly entrenched below ten per cent, but when we took account of “incumbency” and “grass roots” and being “dug in deep”, we were looking at between 25 and 35 Liberal Democrat seats. Which job would Clegg ask for? Which job would he get? Could the Tories win enough seats? And, if they did, how was he going to take his two dozen colleagues with him? If Labour, how would the master negotiator renegotiate?
But we were asking the wrong questions. In the wrong universe. What we were about to experience was not the re-appointment of a kingmaker; it was nothing short of ArmaCleggon.
The first we knew of our misunderstanding was (like the rest of the nation) the exit poll at 10pm. In the vast hall of the English Institute of Sport—(here Team GB athletes trained for the 2012 Olympics)—you could hear the sly Smeagol-like sound of British media sucking its collective teeth. But it couldn’t be true, we thought. Not possible—a prediction of 10 seats for the Liberal Democrats! Surely three times that number? That’s what they’d been determinedly telling us on the big yellow bus. And we’d more or less believed them. Meanwhile, in the middle of the indoor running track, hundreds of people sat at old-fashioned desks without computers diligently counting bits of paper as if this was all in a night’s work and nothing had happened in the world since 1985. Security denied us the kind of close up scrutiny that we shortsighted Smeagols like whenever there’s rumours of newsworthy treasure. But, through our…