…said Churchill, is the worst form of government — except for all the others. I suppose I should be more cynical, but for me there’s always a magic about a general election. It’s the idea of a society collectively making up its mind — Hobbes’s Leviathan in reflective mood.

I voted at lunchtime today. It was a beautifully sunny day. The polling station was the village hall. I was the only voter about at that time of day (most people hereabouts seem to vote either in the morning or after work). Later on, I drove through some other villages, all basking in the sunshine. People were going about their daily business. But everyone I know has voted. And nobody knows yet (this is written at 9.17 pm) what they have decided — though the news media are full of clamorous predictions.

In about three hours we will have some idea how it’s gone. But, despite the tawdriness of some of the campaigning, this democracy is a wonderful thing, and something that we take too easily for granted. I remember wondering, as I watched news footage of people queuing to vote in Iraq a few months ago, how many of us would vote if doing so was dangerous. Or would we value our freedom more if it were threatened by thugs, terrorists and armed bigots?