Whenever I got into serious conversations with people on the streets it quickly became obvious that economics was going to drive the election. Most people didn't trust the Conservatives because they thought that whatever they said they were highly likely to wreck the NHS. They didn't trust Labour because of Iraq and the promise of an end to boom and bust. So they were waiting for the last minute to make their minds up.
When they got into those polling booths they voted reluctantly for the Conservatives on the grounds that, since the economy was recovering, it was perhaps safest to stick with the devil you know.
I don't blame anyone for doing this. It is a powerful narrative. "We inherited a huge mess. Unemployment is down. The economy is finally growing. Don't change horses."
Anyone who doesn't have politics or economics as they hobby, in other words over 99% of the electorate, would buy that argument. My only surprise was that the Conservatives weren't able to win by more. I checked out the odds on them winning 350 seats and then thought that the odds of 33 to 1 were a touch mean so I didn't bother.
So for me this victory for the Conservatives was not a surprise. Nor do I find it any kind of grounds for despair.
If you win an election on the promise that you have almost fixed the economy then you need to deliver on that promise or you lose out big time. There is now an almost perfect storm of economic problems coming down the track and the Conservatives won't be able to explain why. The problems include:
1. We have a 6% deficit in our balance of payments. This isn't sustainable. Fixing it the Conservative way must slow spending.
2. They plan to stop quantitative easing. £375 billion has been printed and pumped into the economy - when this stop so does the recovery.
3. We have zero inflation and are entering a period of deflation. That always slows spending.
4. We have been openly told that there will be £30 billion more cuts in government spending. That is bigger than the cuts made last time round.
5. The budget for the next five years was made on the basis of a forecast of 2.4% growth per year. That is highly optimistic and growth has already slowed to around 1.2% a year. The shortfall means another huge gap in the government finances. They will try to fix this with even more cuts.
Put all this together and what you have is a real gap between pre-election promises and post election reality. They got voted in because people thought they had almost fixed things and the pain was almost over. Instead the pain is only just beginning.
And that means that their foolish optimism is going to be completely and totally exposed. We will have a deeply unpopular government making horribly painful cuts and having no rational explanation of why this is necessary.
In such circumstances what is needed is for crystal clear opposition and a strong and sustained fight-back. There will be a lot of people trying to argue for despair and trying to convince us that the reason it has all gone wrong is "them damned foreigners, especially those black and Muslim ones who were born here and live in that horrible ghetto down the road. If we just get out of Europe and go back to the 1950s then the immigrants will be kicked out and everything will be fine."
Someone needs to fight for a different vision. Someone needs to stand up and say that the reason we are in this mess is because we haven't built a strong sustainable economy that can compete in a global world. Someone needs to fight for the conviction that the community matters and that we should be supporting each other and providing help when folks are vulnerable. Someone needs to argue that investing in the next wave of science and technology could put us at the forefront of the next wave of the industrial revolution - the move to a low energy, low waste economy. Someone needs to argue that we are all in this together and the answer is to work together to strengthen our society not to hope that the really wealthy will let a little of their bounty trickle down to us from above.
I can't see the Labour Party having that clarity of vision. I certainly can't see the Liberal Democrats leading anything with conviction ever again. I can see the signs of an awareness of what a proper fight-back looks like in some of the policies of the Scottish nationalists, Plaid Cymru and of course the Greens.
The obligation for any of us who believe things can be different is not to enter despair over a disappointing election result. It is to enter fight-back mode and to enjoy taking the argument to the enemy. Because we can explain what is going wrong and they have just shot their bolt by promising what they cannot deliver.
The economy is not fixed. A genuine long term economic plan is worth fighting for. The fight-back starts now!