For the six weeks of the 2015 General Election opinion polls showed the two main parties neck and neck….as this BBC Poll Tracker shows. The result was too close to call. There were nine polls published on the eve of voting day. Eight under estimated the eventual Conservative share of the vote and all nine over estimated the eventual Labour share of the vote.
Everyone woke up on May 7th, Election Day, expecting that the day would end with us heading for a hung parliament or a minority government. This piece on euronews summed up the mood:
When the exit poll was announced hardened political campaigner Paddy Ashdown said he would eat his hat if it turned out to be right. Yet almost as soon as the result was known the same politicians, journalists and pundits who for six weeks had never once questioned the veracity of the polls were now lining up to say that they knew exactly why the Tories had won…..why Labour had done so badly……why the Lib Dem meltdown was so complete.
So it was a real delight on Monday morning to hear the acting leader of the Labour Party – Harriet Harman – taking a rather different position on the Today Programme.
Don’t sigh with exasperation!
Despite being harangued and mocked relentlessly by presenter James Naughtie, Harman stood firm. She would not jump to a snap conclusion about why Labour had lost just 3 days earlier. She wanted time to look at the evidence; see the analysis of the voting patterns in different parts of the country; have conversations with some of those on the ground in different constituencies. Then and only then would she draw some conclusions about what went wrong for Labour.
Thinking is not an activity that is really in these days. Taking the time to ponder and reflect…to cogitate…is seen as strange or weak. Attention spans seem to be getting shorter and shorter. We admire those who make quick decisions; those who leap into action; those who don’t faff about asking questions or checking that they understand the problem…..but just get on and do something….almost anything.
Listening to James Naughtie huff and puff on the Today programme reminded me of this wonderful quote often attributed to Einstein
Thinking of things to do is easy.
Being a busy fool is easy.
Taking the time to understand what has gone wrong….the time to work out exactly what problem needs solving.
Now that can be hard. That can take real courage.