1 EAGLETON NOTES: A Strange Day In The UK



Saturday, 8 May 2010

A Strange Day In The UK

“The people have spoken.  However no-one knows what they said.”  So said Lord Ashdown former leader of the Liberal Democrat Party in the UK after the result of yesterday’s General Election produced a hung parliament ie one in which no political party has an absolute majority of the seats.  It’s 36 years since this last happened in the UK.  It’s quite common in many countries including New Zealand.  Interestingly just as the UK (where, for example, the Liberal Democrats have about 26% of the votes and only about 9% of the seats in the House of Commons) is talking about a revised electoral system, New Zealand (which has a mixed member proportional representation system) is talking about moving towards a first-past-the-post system which it had for many years and which the UK has.  It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the politicians to reach an accommodation and for a government to be formed.

As a former Returning Officer I found the election fascinating more for the system than for the politics.  Until I retired I had been involved in organising elections since the early 1960s and I cannot recall there ever having been a situation in the UK where people were, en masse, turned away from the ballot because there were just too many people wanting to vote at the close of the poll.  That situation occurred in many constituencies this time.  In fact in Liverpool, the city where I started my career, the unforgivable happened and some polling stations ran out of ballot papers.  I imagine that  the Electoral Commission will now be looking very seriously at how we vote in the UK.  The irony is that although it is an apparently antiquated system it is as near foolproof as one can get and I hope the temptation to bring about wholesale change to remedy a one-off happening will not occur.

Whilst all these interesting things were going on I busied myself with the mundane task of mending the outside light.  The weather was beautifully clear and sunny but the single figure ambient temperature made even colder by the bitter wind did take the gloss off having to work outside. 

Gaz and I had coffee in An Lanntair this afternoon.  The new restaurant manager, Paul, has transformed the coffee shop side of things.  Ever since the arts centre opened the coffee has been varied and, in my experience, almost always dreadful.  Pat said that the coffee was now excellent.  And so it is.  Gaz felt that at 3.30 in the afternoon they could at least have offered cake with the coffee.  Speaking to Paul it transpired that they are now selling so much home-made cake they are taking on another person to help the chef.  The reason they had no cake was simply that it had all been eaten.  So that’s been a real revelation to which to return.

Back at the house I thought about the pond (I typed ‘pondered’ but then realised what it sounded like) and the algae.  I have removed so much that I find it hard to believe just how much is still in there.  the bottom is like an algae soup.  I have tried barley straw but it doesn’t seem to be having any effect.  Ah well, I’ll just keep trawling.

DSC08643 DSC08646

When I drove home this evening I realised that the daffodils and narcissi that a neighbour plants along the road into their property were not quite over and I thought you might appreciate a spring picture from the Hebrides.


Gaz is out for the evening catching up with some of his old friends.  I have been re-instating Henry who has been discharged from the computer hospital having had a sound card transplant.  He has made a full recovery and is now back in his rightful place in the Study waiting to have a good day’s work tomorrow.

As I took a photograph of the sun setting late this evening


I realised that there was another job for tomorrow (those pigeons have a lot to answer for)


And now, as Zebedee would have said, for bed.  Night night.


  1. Pondering on your pond - (what's wrong with that?) I think it is the most delicious fecund green I've seen in a long while. Almost makes me want to turn into a.... whatever-it-is that would eat it. A mosquito larva? A rotifer? and nice fat paramecium? No! I want to be a Tardigrade in your pond!

  2. The picture with the narcissi and daffodils is lovely, and so is the one of the sunset. I don't envy you the pond-and-roof jobs... Here too we are having chilly and windy weather. Spring is slow this year.

  3. Second try at commenting! google lost the first- i think - but apolgoies if you get two.
    Like the view from your house - very pretty, although feels very isolated to me as a city dweller....
    Also wanted to say LOVE the flash header on the blog - going to look at that site.
    And funny what we take for granted - been reading your other blog too.
    It was a grey day down here in ChCH NZ, but well above single figures!
    Take care

  4. Hi,
    having been involved in UK elections, you may be just the person to answer my query. As I left the Uk at 21 I never voted there, but seem to remember there is no need for any ID other than your "voting slip", or maybe not even that? Is it just honesty or is there a strict identification method in place ?
    Many of my Catalan students cannot understand how UK citizens get by without an ID card!
    Although I don't comment often, I've been dropping in from time to time since I discovered your blogs - great stuff!!

  5. Well, Katherine, some people have said some lovely things to me in my time (and some not so lovely things it has to be said) but no-one, absolutely no-one I can be confident of that, has ever said that they wanted to live in my pond (especially not as a Tardigrade). Your knowledge never ceases to amaze me - or are you a bioligist? I confess I had to look up the last two.

    Monica. You've just reminded me that I forgot to clean out the gutter. Bother. It's Sunday tomorrow - no outside jobs.

    Hi Fi. I only got the comment once. Thanks for your comment about the header - it came from Heather's blog. It's still sunny but still single figures! I'll have to look back and see what it was prompted your comment about taking things for granted.

    Brian. Your issue is an Electoral Registration issue. I take it you are a British Citizen. As such you are eligible to vote (with certain caveats!). You have to get yourself onto the Electoral Register. As you live abroad you can get a postal vote. If you go to Electoral Registration Form you can find the form you need.

  6. Hi again, and thanks.
    Sorry, maybe I didn't explain myself clearly enough , or at all!!
    I have no wish to vote in the UK having lived now in Catalonia for 20 years. However, I am an English teacher here in Catalonia and my students are bewildered by the fact that there are no ID cards in the UK. One of their queries is how do people identify themselves when voting - I seem to remember that with the polling paper you are sufficiently "identified", is that so?
    I'm sure the answer is out there somewhere on Google but if you can help, I'd be very grateful.
    Thanks again

  7. It's very strange that you should mention Identity Cards in relation to elections and I should have picked that up from your comment. It was something friends, Gaz and I were discussing this afternoon.

    All you have to do at an election in the UK is present yourself to the Presiding Officer and Poll Clerk (the polling card is simply to advise you of the poll and make life easier and quicker for the election staff). There is no requirement whatsoever to prove your identity. If you are not who you say you are you are committing an offence. Proving the offence is, however, difficult. In fact it is one of the few things left in the UK where you don't need some form of identification. Being British of course it would never occur to us to vote as someone else anyway!!

    Those of us having the discussions this afternoon included people who travel extensively for pleasure and/or work and who carry identity (usually in the form of a passport) at all times because in many places it is a requirement. I have even had to produce my passport in France to prove I am entitled to use my Amex card.

    I would never dream of travelling in continental Europe without identity. In fact even travelling within the UK by air is impossible now without identity.

    I have to say that although I realise that a lot of people in the UK are against identity cards those over 60 in Scotland already have an embryonic identity card in the form of an 'entitlement card'. Soon everyone will need one to access the services provided by local and central government.

  8. Oh dear, your pond may have better surrounds than mine but they have the same internal problem. I'll be interested to read your solution, because of course you will find one. I'm afraid, after looking up Katherine's tardigrade, I do not want to one of them in your pond! (Can't have you getting a big head.)
    Your springtime photo is lovely, as is the sunset.

  9. Following the after-discussion on this post I'm fascinated to learn that you still don't need ID-cards i the UK. In Sweden there is hardly anything you can do without ID. Certainly not vote. And you always have to show ID with credit cards unless they have a pin code system.

  10. Thanks again, you've cleared that up for me.
    One student once asked me then if, in theory, you could vote twice, claiming to be two different people - I answered that no one would, as it is already tricky enough knowing who to vote for the first time, let alone having to vote a second time ....
    jokes aside, life here in Catalonia is also impossible if you don't have your ID on you.
    Anyway, thanks for clearing it up, let's get back to the pond, and your wonderful photos.
    Regards, Brian


Comment moderation is activated 14 days after the post to minimise unwanted comments and, hopefully, make sure that I see and reply to wanted comments.