So, after three live televised debates, thousands of minutes of television coverage, millions of column inches and God knows how much frenetic online chatter, we finally arrive at the day of reckoning. Today is General Election day in the UK.
This will be the fifth general election since I became eligible and – due to my mildly nomadic existence with first university and then work – the fourth different constituency I will have voted in.
I’ll be voting after I get home from work this evening. Newbury is a marginal seat with a Conservative majority of just 3,460 at the last election in 2005, when Richard Benyon (the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) overturned a small Lib Dem majority, so my vote does matter.
In previous elections, I have often stayed up into the small hours until the overall outcome is clear. In 2005, that was 4.28am when Corby in Northamptonshire gave Labour the 324th seat they needed to form a majority government. (Incidentally, the Conservative candidate for Corby this year is the chick-fic author Louise Bagshawe – who famously defected briefly to New Labour in the mid-90s – who I know from her time in university politics at Oxford.)
This time round, with two young children and a full Friday schedule, I’m not quite that committed. My current plan is to settle down in front of the TV after I’ve voted, see what the (notoriously inaccurate) exit polls are saying, then wait up to see the first few results before heading to bed around midnight. There I’ll have the TV on mute to cast an eye on how things are progressing during the small hours.
And tomorrow morning we shall see what we shall see. It promises to be the closest election since 1992 – the last Tory win, incidentally – and possibly the first hung parliament since the ill-fated eight-month Wilson Labour/Liberal government of 1974.