So, there we are. The Tories finally fell over the finishing line, and Gordon Brown has gone.
Welcome to the new golden age of satire. It begins today. Here come the riots and the electronic music, the new Spitting Image and Poll Tax. Or something. I don't know. It seems like a bit of a shambles for David Cameron, rather than the smooth coronation he must have felt entitled to; so that's all to the good, then. Nothing like a dose of reality to start life as Prime Minister. Can he really be as hated as Thatcher? I think he'll find it hard, though he might try.
I can't wait to see how things are going to pan out. It might sound odd coming from me, but I hope the Tories do the best job they can - this comes out of a sense of wanting the country I live in not to be ruined, not because of any particular hopes I might have for them. I hope the coalition Government isn't a disaster. And I hope that the Liberal Democrats don't sell (or haven't sold) themselves down the river just for a glimpse of power.
This could be the making of the Lib Dems, or it could wreck them beyond all recognition. I know that many Labour types are angry that people voted Lib Dem instead of Labour, that the Guardian supported the Lib Dems rather than Labour. But people didn't just vote Lib Dem to avoid the Tories; a lot of them also did it to avoid Labour - and an even more significant proportion did it because they approved of the Lib Dems' policies. If Labour think that millions of horrified Lib Dem voters will abandon their chosen party just because they formed a coalition with the Conservatives, then I think that's just plain deluded.
The Lib Dems are not just Labour-Lite or where to put your X if you can't bear the thought of Gordon Brown being Prime Minister; there's an awful lot more to it than that. The 'Vote Yellow, get Blue' Labour fans should try to understand this, if they want to get back into power, and I assume they do.
Having said all of which, I wonder where on earth this leaves the Lib Dems. What kind of concessions have they got and what will they do with them? What kind of Tory policies have they got to swallow, and which more unpleasant pieces of legislation have they put the brakes on? The answers to those questions will determine what small-l liberals think of the Lib Dems' possible coalition.
What will happen, though, is that the Lib Dems will finally be able to show they have experience in Government - forever the taunt at previous general elections was the idea that they were untried and untested, with no experience at the highest level. Well now they're going to get some. Whether that turns out to be a good thing or not, we'll see. The Lib Dems had better hope they don't get used as a handy bolt-on whipping boy for the Tories, whenever things look a little bit shaky. Ah well, the Tories can say, it's them isn't it? Not us. They're the ones holding back all that really important legislation. They're the ones who demanded we jettison all the really important bits of policy; they're the ones who held us to ransom.
It might come to a future general election where the Lib Dem cabinet members can no longer be faced with a charge of "You have no experience" but rather "We now have experience of you, and we don't like it" - from voters and members alike. But that is some way away and there's an awful lot to happen between now and then. I'd particularly imagine, though, that the thought of anyone small-l or big-L liberal being part of a Government will not delight the reactionary forces in Fleet Street, even if it has delivered their chosen golden boy to the top job. Expect Clegg to be portrayed as a ditherer, as wildly left-wing, as a terrible influence, as a bad egg, as a poor politician, as out of his depth... all of those things are waiting in the months to come. It's how they deal with it that counts.
Where do Labour go from here? I hope there is genuine soul-searching and that reasons beyond the simple blaming of the Lib Dems are found; it's not simple enough for Labour to imagine that terrified Lib Dems will come back 'home' to Labour at the next election, because that might not happen. They need to work out why they were abandoned for the Lib Dems (but more often for the Conservatives). I have a horrible feeling that Labour will lurch further to the right, knowing that the Lib Dems are tainted in the eyes of many by their association with the Tories and that, as the only show in town on the 'left' they'll be able to hoover up the loyal voters while targeting even more right-wing and authoritarian policies. I hope that doesn't happen, but it might. It all depends on what kind of Labour Party they want to be.