Do you remember watching Tim Henman bravely battling away at Wimbledon, looking like he might actually win, but knowing deep down in your soul that he was going to throw it all away? It's a bit like how I feel at the moment as the votes begin to get crossed off up and down the country: that sense of unease, despite all the optimism, and the memories of what's gone before clouding every thought of what's happening now. You hoped he'd do it; you wished he'd do it; but you knew - oh, you knew - that it was all going to go a bit porridgey sooner or later. A few double faults here, a misplaced volley there, and that would be that.
It was the battle in your mind between hope and expectation - the hope that things might go all right, and that Tiger Tim would finally triumph over his rivals; the expectation that he wouldn't. That's how it feels to me right now, knowing that there's a Conservative Government in prospect, and that it could claim a huge 'mandate for change' despite getting 30-odd per cent of the popular vote, and that there would be nothing anyone could do to stop them. As someone once said "You can't vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in in the first place." It's the feeling that a lot of people who see themselves on the political left, regardless of where on that bit of the left we might position ourselves, might be having around about now. That sinking feeling. That "here we go again" feeling.
But then again.
There's a chance - and I can't regard it as anything other than a chance right now, and I don't want to think of it as anything other than a remote possibility - that it might be David Cameron who's Tiger Tim in this election campaign, the man who would be champion, the Daily Mail favourite who's going to throw it all away. If that happened, the support of 70% of daily newspapers will have failed and Big Society will have stuck two fingers up at him. And it won't have been because of his background, which he can't help after all, but because his policies just weren't attractive enough to the voters, despite Labour's failures and the desire to make a change. Maybe 'change' itself wasn't the be-all and end-all of everything after all.
But... then again then again. Maybe the scares worked. Maybe enough people have piled in behind Cameron to avoid the horrors they've been warned about in terms of a hung parliament. Maybe the rhetoric on immigration has struck a chord of fear. Maybe people really do think that Cameron is some kind of iconic Barack Obama figure, as the Sun has told them he is. Maybe enough people have swallowed the propaganda from their newspapers wholesale, and are only too happy to stride into a Conservative future. It doesn't need to be a majority, after all; it just needs to be enough.
There are those that say that this would be a good election to lose, that the economic problems facing the country will mean whoever gets in power could be labelled as a failure and become terribly unpopular. I'm not so sure. With drastic situations can come drastic policies, and the usual scapegoats could be scapegoated more than ever before. People on benefits, immigrants, the sick, the disabled, the long-term unemployed... they're all in the crosshairs. They'll all be popular targets for the tabloids and tough action against 'scroungers' will be roundly cheered from the sidelines.
At the moment, though, I'm still in that delirious time when watching Tim Henman, hoping that maybe he's going to do it. Maybe he's not going to throw it away. Maybe it's all going to be all right.
Come on Tim!
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