X marks the spot

I do like voting, and today I made a point of going into the village hall and putting my X on the spot.  I have a clear memory of accompanying my Ma to another village hall several decades ago and watching her vote in a general election when I was knee-high to an opinion.  And then, four years ago, I was able to take someone to vote for the first time ever and see his excitement in taking part in the democratic process.  He expected queues, in a local election, bless him.  But in fact he had the right of it.

Voting matters.

It is the one thing that really frightens politicians.  For that reason alone, it matters.  But it matters for other reasons too.

People don’t believe there’s any point.  The anarchists used to say that if voting changed anything, it would be abolished.  The truth of that was brought home in London in the mid 1980s when Thatcher abolished the GLC and knocked out the only effective opposition, “Red” Ken in the glory days of County Hall.   The only act in recent western history that was worse than the abolition of the GLC was Bush’s theft of the Florida votes in 2000, and for the same reason.  It was politicians pissing on the electoral process.  It was politicians pissing on us.

Voting matters.

If it didn’t, Thatcher would never have abolished the GLC.  If it didn’t, Bush wouldn’t have needed to frig the results in Florida in 2000.

Voting matters.

This year, of all years, all over the world.  Most of the time, I will freely admit, it makes bugger-all difference to anything, but even so it matters because it’s the only way we have of reminding the bastards that it’s us they work for.

Surely this is the most interesting year for elections in decades, with the Obama / Clinton stand-off in the USA, Mugabe rigging the election in Zimbabwe and still failing to win, and our two most bizzarely characterful politicians arm-wrestling for London.

So today I voted, in an empty village hall with the spring sun shining benignly down on an idyllic view.

I voted because women died so that I can vote.

I voted because so many Kenyans were killed because they voted.

I voted because Mugabe so clearly lost, even though he’s claimed a victory.

I voted because that’s how we got rid of Portillo and Kinnock.

I voted because politicians hate elections.

I voted because I can.

11 responses to “X marks the spot

  1. I agree, Aphra. Voting matters and politicians are scared of it. And not voting when one lives in a functioning democracy is such an act of disrespect to Zimbabweans who vote in a desperate attempt to change their society.

  2. I agree, Aphra. Voting matters and politicians are scared of it. And not voting when one lives in a functioning democracy is such an act of disrespect to Zimbabweans who vote in a desperate attempt to change their society.

  3. They reckon there was a 35% turn-out yesterday.

  4. I always feel sad when I hear about low turn outs in elections. There are so many people who sacrified their health, their way of living, their dear ones, their jobs, homes and even their lives to give us the right to vote.

    Being a descendant of people who already in the late 19th century took part in the fight for universal suffrage I just can’t figure not to vote. To not vote would be the ultimate betrayal.

    My maternal grandfather, who most of his life was a Labour movement activist, told me about the struggle to gain rights that we nowadays take for granted. Sadly power corrupts and in latter days of his life he was very disappointed what had become of the Social Democrats, no longer a party for the working classes.

    I agree with him politically, and thus voting is no more an easy task, considering where to put my vote. Still I never ever would refrain from voting, as long as I can get to a poll station, one way or another.

  5. Voting is exciting. As you say, it scares politicians and short of hiding under a bench in the House of Commons and grabbing their ankles, there aren’t many other ways to do that.

    Voting is scary. It’s a responsibility, to place your vote how you truly believe it is best placed.

    Voting is a privilege. Not everyone has it, and it isn’t all that long ago that ordinary men and women lacked the vote.

    As far as I’m concerned, voting is both a fundamental right and a fundamental respsonsibility. I completely agree with Charlotte, in that not bothering to vote (and really, it’s not that hard, what with postal votes and proxy votes and polling stations open at stupid o’clock in the morning) is profoundly disrespectful to the many people who have died this year simply for casting their ballot. 35%? Pathetic indeed. Disgusting.

    Not voting does *not* send a message. Or if it does the message is “I don’t care who’s in charge or what they do”.

  6. SonofRojBlake

    Off topic entirely, but I find it interesting that someone as proudly, avowedly literate as you, Aphra, has two blindspots to my knowledge when it comes to spelling. I’m not saying they’re you’re only ones – they’re just the only two I’ve noticed, and I have, as you know, read a LOT of stuff you’ve written in this here internet over the last… let’s see, seven years, is it?

    So, onto the weird and bizarre blindspot you have.

    It’s “weird”, not “wierd”, and, as here, it’s “bizarre”, rather than “bizzare”.

    I tried to think of a word for how strange it is that the two words you can’t spell are words for strange, but strangely, I couldn’t.

  7. The only problem with voting is just how I get when the wrong person wins.

    I am mildly incandescent about Boris being the new Mayor of London, for example.

    And the turnout in London was pretty high. So people just voted _wrong_.

    Stuff democracy, I think I should just be in charge.

  8. SonofRojBlake

    “people just voted _wrong_.”

    I love it when sandal-wearing, muesli-eating, Guardian-reading, Radio 4-listening, organic vegetarian lefty bleeding-heart liberal do-gooders bang on and on and on and on about how *important* democracy is, right up to the point where the stupid bloody proles vote the Tories in AGAIN, or the stupid bloody darkies vote the religious fundamentalists in AGAIN, or the stupid bloody anyone-who-doesn’t-look-and-think-exactly-like-me fail to do as the patronising busybodies think they should with their hard-won X in the box.

    Democracy is a wonderful thing, and the most wonderful thing about it is that it gives you the freedom to give the wrong answer, suffer the consequences if there are any, and then decide, possibly, to do something different next time. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, and the unpleasant fact of the matter is that quite a lot of people in London don’t like the way things are going and think they need something different. Never mind that BJ is probably not the way to get it. The sodding BNP got onto the London assembly – doesn’t anyone think that’s significant? Can you say “protest vote”?

    Apart from anything else, all the same bleeding heart etc. etc. who were howling that TB and NuLab were not held to account for Iraq are now howling that they’re being held to account for the credit crunch and expensive petrol. Hard to know what they want…

  9. Oy, SoRB, you can make your point without stereotyping the people who comment here, and without making ad feminam remarks. Sol’s tongue was clearly in her cheek. That said, the danger with democracy is that it provides a legitimacy and a mandate to loonies when the people vote them in. I’ve not been able to think of a way round it. What infuriated me about the respnse to BNP victories is that it focuses around how bad the BNP are rather than asking what it is about local conditions which mean they get voted in.

    Sol, I’ve been watching the Ken vs Boris thing with amazed bemusement. Are either of them actually real?

    SoRB – regarding my spelling – at least I spell gnormal in the gnormal way.

    Singing Librarian, you’ve put your bookmark firmly on the fact that failing to vote doesn’t “send a message”. Spoiling ballot papers sends a message, but I’ll save that rant for the next general election.

    Dragonqueen, what inspiring dragonancestors you have.

    Teuchter, I’ve given up expecting better from local elections, which is odd, considering it’s the locals that affect things that are up close and personal like bin collections and housing.

    “Disrespect” is a good word for it, Charlotte.

    Thanks all, for reading and commenting.



  10. SonofRojBlake

    I wasn’t stereotyping anyone *here*, I was rather referring to the Guardian-readers Sol was impersonating. If anyone here considered themselves a muesli-wearing etc., then I can only say that if the Peruvian goatwool cap fits…

    “the danger with democracy is that it provides a legitimacy and a mandate to loonies when the people vote them in.”

    Some would say that if you win an election, you DESERVE legitimacy, because you HAVE a mandate. And who’s being ad hominem with the “loonies”? Are the BNP “loonies”? At the end of the day, who are you or I to characterise people thus, simply because we disagree with them?

    One avowed loony did win an election once – a Member of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party found to his horror that there weren’t enough candidates in the election he’d entered, so everyone who’d registered as a candidate “won” a seat. He was, according to the Party’s constitution, immediately expelled for winning.

    “I’ve not been able to think of a way round it.”

    There is no way round it, because at the end of the day sooner or later people will be people and allow their venal self-interest to guide their vote. And someone will appeal to that venal self-interest, and win. And those few opposed to venal self-interest will complain – but since we’re in tiny minority, by definition (venal self-interest does seem to be a survival trait…), we should really shut up.

    “What infuriated me about the respnse to BNP victories is that it focuses around how bad the BNP are rather than asking what it is about local conditions which mean they get voted in.”

    Precisely my point. Every single time the BNP even stand for election, all you hear from “mainstream” politicians is rhetoric scolding people who might even think about voting for them, in the sort of terms one might speak to a slow child. And when they WIN, it gets worse – all you hear is how this is a terrible result and how the electoral system is at fault and how the people have been let down etc. etc. et bloody cetera.

    What I would like to hear is someone admitting the uncomfortable truth – quite a lot of people are quite racist, and more to the point don’t see anything WRONG with being racist and most especially don’t like being told by posh people that they shouldn’t be – posh people who don’t have to live in a street where white people are an ethnic minority, or who don’t have to send their child to a school where English is a minority language. Simply discounting these concerns is what lets people like the BNP in. It’s not political correctness, it’s political deliberate ignorance.

    That said – I don’t think we’re on any kind of slippery slope, at least not of that kind. The political landscape in this country has settled into a pattern of centrist tinkering. There are not the great ideological chasms of the 70s and 80s any more. As a result, we have three parties vying for the same clothes. The BNP are in fancy dress just as much as the Socialist Workers Party, and they may score minor victories here and there – but they’re a sideshow, and they’ll remain that.

  11. *Hides her copy of the Guardian behind cushion, kicks half finished bowl of muesli under the sofa and thanks her lucky stars her Peruvian goatswool cap is in the wash…*

    I am torn between looking really forward to Boris’ reign in London in a sort of perverse car crash voyer kind of way and being resigned to the fact he will probably be restrained mightily by the conservative party insisting he gets some decent help and sticks to it.

    Eh well, Ken was doomed when he royally pissed off mobilised Kensington and Chelsea against him by extending the congestion charge and the middle classes by propsing to tax their 4x4s.

    Everyone else just voted for Boris anti bendy bus slogan, which was also very popular. Which just goes to show, since this was almost his only policy until the final month or so, that less is more when it comes to politics. He seems to be reverting to type now by mainly fiddling with public transport again now though. Baning booze on buses and wanting to introduce knife scanners on the underground. Ooops, is that a fare increase I see before me?

    Regarding the BNP. We got a leaflet through our door which gave a run down of all the parties in the race and how to vote and such and the BNP’s main campaign thing was being anti immigration. Obviously. But what I thought was interesting is that it wasn’t immediately clear looking at it that what they probably mean is that by British they actually mean white anglo saxon, and everyone else can piss off, no matter how many generations their family has been there.

    Anyway. I was wondering if, given the tensions in London at the mo, some of the votes actually came from, say, the more established Afro Carribean population, who are as anti some of the newer immigrants like the Slavs and the Somalians as the rest of us.

    Did I tell you that B’s (black) boss made him go the the police to report a (black) customer, who chased him down the street shouting abuse to the effect that B should fuck off back to Poland a couple of months ago?

    Of course that does rather imply that people haven’t been paying proper attention to what the BNP stands for for the last umty tump years, but then people did vote for Boris.

    And finally…

    I saw an item in the newspaper about how Boris and the rest of the London Assembly are planning to gang up on Mr BNP and refuse to work with him. Which I thought was interesting. What would people say if the same were done to someone who was fighting for an end to racial descriminaiton or for women’s rights or something?

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