Britain needs to get over the notion, fostered by the Tory press and paranoia about everything foreign, that coalitions are necessarily unstable. All the might and pomp of the television channels were rolled out for this event. God knows how much the exercise must have cost. And God knows how much sleep was lost. Was it worth it? It was not. They told us the news that mattered at the beginning: According to the exit polls, there would be a hung Parliament in Britain. At that point, I should have switched off the television and gone to bed. Then the first actual results came in. They showed massive swings from Labour to the Conservatives, more than enough to give the Tories a safe House of Commons majority. The horde of pundits employed for the occasion seized on them, saying that they had had their doubts about the exit polls all along. Another couple of results. Erratic swings, without any evident regional or other pattern. The pundits were delighted. While some presenters seemed to lose confidence, I began to lose the thread and reflected dreamily on the events of the last month. Especially those debates that were supposed to change everything. Nick Clegg won the first one by a distance. It wasnt just the style, as his detractors alleged. He was confident. He knew the answer to almost every question. But how much of this arose from the fact that he got away so lightly? The standard of actual debate was dire, especially on the economy. Brown and Cameron talked nonsense. One said that 6bn in spending cuts would wreck the recovery, the other that the proposed jobs tax would have the same effect. Nobody, then or in the other two debates, told the British people just how bad things really are or how much pain they would have to endure. More surprisingly, Brown and Cameron were equally restrained on defence. Britain needs a replacement for the outdated and useless Trident missile system. The one proposed would cost 10bn or 100bn or 200bn over a period of 10 or 20 or 50 years, you know the kind of thing. Clegg wanted something better and cheaper which could be used against terrorism. Nobody asked him how you can fight terrorism with nuclear weapons. And nobody suggested doing something more useful with the money. Still, everybody reckoned the debates a great success and said they have changed things forever. Certainly, they have changed two things. We will always have similar events in Britain and other countries, including this one. And fewer and fewer people will watch them as time goes on. Clegg came to the ordeal, as it were, fully fledged. Cameron had to catch up, and to his credit he did. He actually won the last debate. Brown was, quite simply, awful: so bad that some people felt pity for him. I wouldnt go so far as that myself, but I wondered why he could not speak on television with the passion and apparent sincerity he can often deploy in the world outside. But never underestimate the resilience of a veteran politician. In the last days of the campaign, he made two speeches that were simply magnificent, full of earnestness and aimed at the Labour heartland which he had studiously neglected for so long. Would it have made any difference if he had campaigned that way throughout? I dont think so. The voters were tired of him. Not that they were keen on the other lot either. The Tory percentage crept up in the opinion polls, but not enough. And so we came to the denouement. The exit poll had got it exactly right, almost down to the last digit. Yes, there is going to be a hung Parliament. There was always going to be a hung Parliament. The voters of Britain were always going to say that they did not much like any of their choices, including Clegg. They think Brown should retire, and they are not sure about that other nice young man. Now Cameron and Clegg can form an alliance: Not a minority government but a coalition. Britain needs to get over the notion, fostered by the Tory press and Tory paranoia about everything foreign, that coalitions are necessarily unstable. This one, the economic horrors notwithstanding, has just as good a chance of succeeding as any other. And Labour can go back to their favourite sport, internal bloodletting, until they get sense and set about winning the next election. And I have vowed that I will never again stay up all night watching election returns. Until the next time. Irish Independent