>Virtually Nick Clegg

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I didn’t go to Westminster school, can’t ski, don’t speak Dutch and may not vote Liberal Democrat, but in a very real sense for about an hour last night I was Nick Clegg and, what’s more, I see the 2010 election results come in seat-by-seat and I can tell you all about them. The Lib Dems achieved the electoral breakthrough all the polls have been forecasting on a impressive scale with105 seats – very much at the upper end of what the pundits were saying. Unfortunately, however, the Tories also put in a much better than anticipated performance winning 296 seats, coming close to a majority and, giving a good moral claim to be PM. I

t looks like some kind of Lib-Con pact is on the cards, probably centring on electoral reform, but the Lib Dem hand isn’t as strong as it might of been if Dave can buy off the Scottish and Welsh Nats – who hold a total of 12 seats and the Democratic Unionists. Things look very bad for Gordon Brown – Labour was outpolled by the Lib Dems (26: 25 per cent) and Labour has just over 200 seats. Minor parties did better than anticipated though: Caroline Lucas came through the middle to take Brighton Pavilion, as did Salma Yaqcoob for the Respect party in Birmingham Hall Green. The BNP polled a scary 21% in Barking.

OK, I admit it, I haven’t had an out of body experience, slipped through a time warp, Nor has my wife been sllipping pyschotropic substances into my Nescafe. I was playing Theory Spark’s excellent – if rather belated – update of election simulation game Prime Minister Forever 2010. The game is based on their very successful President Forever game, which simulates US presidential contests (including primaries – it’s incredibly hard to win as Obama, by the way, and boy is Iowa crucial). For computer game buffs, I should say it’s essentially a resource management game with no very flashy graphics and you need to play experimentally a couple of time to get the hang of it, but there’s not too much to keep track of and enough real strategy there to make it intriging challenge for anyone with a serious-ish interest in electoral politics, who fancies themselves an armchair election general.

My strategy as the virtual Nick Clegg was to try to match what has actually happened over the last weeks cencentrating on winning TV debates and building momentum for third party breakthrough, campaigning mainly in marginal seats South and West of England and relying on the Big Mo to secure Lib Dem seats elsewhere, especially Scotland. It was tough: Gordon Brown did unexpectedly well in the first debate, but with better preparation I achieved the same kind of breakthrough the real life Clegg did in debate 1, only in virtual PC debates 2 and 3. Indeed, astonishingly my political timing was, I think, rather better than that of the real Clegg Cleggmania took hold a bit later than it has in real life eaving the Tories little time to bounce back. Gordon’s early momentum burned itself out, you will be unsurprised to hear.

My mistake though was not to campaign in the Midlands, where the Lib Dem electoral surge tended to open the way to the Tories, tranforming them into three-way marginals. The result was a distinctly Pyrrhic victory.

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