In the run-up to the general election of May 2010 it was universally acknowledged that whatever the outcome, this was a vote which would start a fresh chapter in British political history, one to rival 1945, 1979 and 1997. But no one anticipated just how fresh that chapter would be. Twists and turns made it an election like no other.
Nick Clegg went into the first of the leaders’ television debates derided as ‘The Other One’ – and emerged as a major player, with ‘I agree with Nick’ the campaign’s unlikely catchphrase. Mrs Gillian Duffy went out to buy a loaf of bread in Rochdale – and happened to encounter Gordon Brown, with disastrous consequences for the Labour cause. David Cameron launched the Tories’ poster campaign with a blemish-free photograph of himself – and graffiti artists turned it into the most mocked image of the election.
But none of the soap opera of the weeks leading up to 6th May could match the drama of the days following the election’s inconclusive result: the positioning, the posturing, the negotiating and the bargaining which eventually saw David Cameron moving into 10 Downing Street as prime minister in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.
Political theatre had been brought to a fresh level – so who better to provide a chronicle of this riveting electoral saga than Nicholas Jones, who as BBC industrial and then political correspondent covered general elections for over thirty years?
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