Election Day in the UK

Tuesday the 4th . . . even on this foggy English morning you could feel the electricity in the air, fed by the headlines across the newspapers (except for the freebie Metro which warned: “Britain to suffer from downturn more than rest of EU”) – right through to the crowds massing through the Victoria Station rush hour, on the street outside.

You feel like, with all that’s been going on, this is the beginning of a new era. It may be a frightening era – all that economic bad news has to add up to something and everyone knows the crash in jobs, savings, mortgages, is going to follow the crash in the stock market. Even if Obama, the big favorite here and throughout the world beyond the US, wins, there’s no telling what will happen – or if he’ll live up to even a fraction of the expectations around him. But the most powerful country on Earth will be on a different course . . . and whoever wins, Obama or McCain, and whatever they do once in office, new forces and expectation will be unleashed in the US and around the world.

After my shift at yet another shabby art college, i walked through Hackney to Bethnal Green tube. Mostly black area, everything closed off except the two or three kebab shops per block, yellow signs glowing in the foggy dark. If the black folks on the street felt anything about the possible election of the first black president of the USA, they didn’t show it. All the pubs, and even the street was empty . . . somehow I’d expected something else.

   At Bethnal Green tube, some english guy in a yellow vest and a light beard was screaming at an African guy who kept pushing him out of the way. They were arguing on the side of the road and the traffic behind them was honking furiously and soon it transpired that the African was trying to push the white guy away to get back to his car, which was parked in the middle of the road. When he finally got in, the white guy got in front of his car, smashing the hood with his fists, screaming something about a bike – refusing to get out of the way even when the African guy gunned the engine, edged forward, almost knocked him over, then drove forward with the guy hanging on his hood. Somehow, he got around the guy – who then jumped in front of the truck behind him, leaping onto the engine manifold and clinging on while the trucker drove forward. 

   And all this while a bunch of East End boys stood in front of the pub smoking: “run ‘im over!” 

   So that’s my election night. I’d planned to be in New York for this night, but it was not to be . . .