So it emerges that Nick Clegg has been a Samuel Beckett fan all along. I couldn’t help wondering what an election scripted by Beckett would look like:
The stage light slowly illuminates a rocky plateau. Buried in pebbles up to their necks are BROWN, CLEG and CAM.
BROWN. Finished, all finished now. Old Brown’s gone down, down to the ground.
CLEG. The old parties.
CAM. Yes, the old parties, the old times, just as it was back on the playing fields, the old times, boat rocking slowly under Magdalen Bridge, the old times, the old days. Why can’t things be like they used to be?
BROWN. Finished, all gone, a disaster.
CLEG. There they go again.
CAM. The old days, the old times, the old parties, tra-la-la-la-la. Why can’t I be Prime Minister?
All three sink further into the stones. A spotlight reveals a hung parliament, festooned with paper MPs.
BROWN. All is lost. Woe, woe!
CAM. Why can’t I be Prime Minister? I want to be Prime Minister!
VOTERS. Let’s go.
Beckett’s endings provide us with a range of possible responses to electoral outcomes. The novel The Unnameable ends with the resigned but ambiguous ‘you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on’ from the unnamed narrator. This is rather more stoical and less hysterical than the Tories’ ‘We can’t go on like this’. At the close of Endgame, all Hamm can be certain of is his handkerchief – the ‘old stancher’ – which survives. Dry your eyes, Dave. You too, Gordon.
With all the uncertainties of the current political environment, Beckett leaves us, like poor Winnie who still sings while buried up to her neck at the end of Happy Days, to face the music and be grateful. As the wise (or not) journalist said, ‘The only certainty here is that everything is uncertain’.