After a long day of attempting to simultaneously translate a chronology of the Soviet art world while taking in the BBC’s excellent election coverage at the corner of my screen, I felt the need to release a few thoughts into some kind of vaguely coherent shape.

First of all, this election – mangled and muddy as the results may be – seems to me to genuinely reflect the UK’s public mood and general attitude towards politics at the moment. The current state of total chaos seems almost bizarrely dictated by a flawed yet viciously accurate brand of twisted logic. Is it poetic justice?

Major misgivings regarding both main parties have played out. People were tired of the government, but the opposition didn’t seal the deal. Despite gaining momentum towards the end of the official campaign, the Tories didn’t do a good enough long-term job of promoting themselves as serious contenders. Questions always remained. For months (and even years) on end, they failed to come up with any substantial policies. No amount of glossy PR could hide this lack of substance.

The Liberal Democrats’ recent poll numbers turn out to have flattered them, as people retreated into the arms of their familiar old flames, the Conservative and Labour parties. As much as I wanted it to, this underlying conservative (small c) mentality does not surprise me in the slightest.

While most people on a London bus would not have recognised Nick Clegg before the TV debates, they would even now be equally hard-pressed to name any senior Tory apart from David Cameron. The party is a one-man-band. Why? Because, despite all Dave’s talk of change and a new Conservative image, he never managed to escape haunting accusations of the “Same Old Tories”.

He may have acted quickly on the expenses scandal and purged several heinous MPs, but this makeover is only skin-deep. The Ashcroft affair, Chris Grayling’s comments on homosexual B&B clientele and Philippa Stroud’s religious loony revelation all tainted the polished, cleaned-up aura that Cameron wanted to radiate. There was also this small incident of ethical and procedural violation on the Commons floor.

For all his efforts to present himself in a leader’s light today – and Tory talk of higher seat gains than Thatcher – Cameron has ultimately failed. He has not delivered a majority. He has not decisively defeated a Labour government crocked from 13 years in power, battered by the expenses scandal and led by a man better suited to backroom policy-making than public relations.

To me, the whole bigotgate incident (finely documented here) was almost more shocking for Gordon Brown’s sheer lack of charisma in his original encounter with Mrs Duffy. He stands there, looking down on her, pointing a finger like he’s been insulted and talking in a technocratic, statistic-riddled monotone which made me cringe. Perhaps here, tucked away in Moscow, it’s easy to forget just how un-engaging the Prime Minister really is.

Nick Clegg has indeed emerged as a key figure – but not as triumphantly as so many hoped. Rather than raising their share towards a century of seats, the Lib Dems ended up with fewer MPs. Great expectations have not materialised.

However, Clegg certainly succeeded in energising the campaign. His first two debate performances were a typhoon of fresh air which looked like it could sweep away all the dust and cobwebs as it roared into the House of Commons. But in his third clash with Brown and Cameron, he almost started to sound just like the broken-record rhetoric he’d previously railed against so effectively.

Despite this clearly unrealised potential, the Lib Dem leader is destined to be a mere footnote in history if he fails to use his position to instigate real systemic change. He needs every modicum of the wit and guile displayed during the debates to somehow tease out a transformation of our crippled voting system.

Cameron’s electoral reform “committee” is a no go. Clegg must not relent in his pursuit of proportional representation, no matter how many small concessions are thrown at him. Britain’s archaic system must be brought into the 21st century – especially if the country wants to maintain its reputation as a shining beacon of democracy. Speaking of which, the fact that hundreds of people were denied their right to vote by inefficient administration is simply criminal.

We can only hope the Lib Dems, now presented with the first glimpse of genuine clout in many of their political careers, will not sell out their core values for a shot at power. They need to find the right balance between standing by their goals and acting in the national interest.

Make Dave sweat a little, but not for too long.