On Thursday, Newcastle beat Sunderland for the first time. And it was big news all over England. This had nothing to do with football or a football match.
Instead it had to do with the first constituency to declare its results. Trust the English to make a fuss over something rather juvenile.
But when the Newcastle City Council announced the Labour Party’s Chi Onwurah as their MP just after 11 pm, they became the first to do so, winning the “election derby”, taking the title from long-standing early birds, Sunderland.
Sunderland South had traditionally announced their results within an hour before everyone else during every election since 1992. Funnily enough, it wasn’t just the people of Newcastle and Onwurah who were celebrating their feat, so were a thousand others around England who had gone against the odds and bet on Newcastle.
TV channels including BBC actually showed volunteers at both centres scampering around the room in this race against time to finish first.
Elections in England aren’t quite like the ones in India. There are no loud campaigns and there’s no visible sense of excitement on the streets. Unlike in places like Australia where elections are mandatory, it’s up to you whether you vote or not, something Indians are very used to.
Not many seemed too surprised when exit polls started showing incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May losing significant ground and letting the Labour party ruin her chances of winning the majority she needed for the conservatives to form parliament without coalition.
There were debates on television like in India with MPs, former and current, joining experts to debate the hung parliament outcome. But there were no shouting battles or even tetchy MPs, who’d lost, letting their frustrations out in front of the country. They were partisan but very politely so, with the typically British dry humour coming through to mask underlying tensions.
The most excited person on TV was the MP representing the Northern Ireland Assembly, because the hung parliament meant his constituency for once would become relevant with either party vying for their support to get them on board of a potential coalition.
Friday was dominated with May’s visit to Buckingham Palace and her apologizing to Tory politicians, who suffered defeat even though many among her party were calling for her ouster. Elsewhere her rival Jeremy Corbyn was insisting that he had changed the face of politics in his country and declared that his party were the real winners.
The election mood was probably summed up best by this affable septuagenarian at the Queensway tube station. Pointing at the poster of Churchill, a movie detailing the life of Winston Churchill which releases on June 16, “Not since he was around, have we had such a mad election. Why would someone call for an election if she knew it was only going to ruin her own office? I don’t think they’ll be making a movie about her soon.”