Wednesday, May 05, 2010

If I were to vote Lib Dem tomorrow...

... and I'm not saying I will be (I'm really not saying I will be), but if I were to, turns out it wouldn't be the first time.

In 1983, I was 13. I remember (though these kinds of memories are notoriously unreliable) having a conversation with my parents about voting, and who they were going to vote for. I remember my dad saying that he didn't vote, and me asking him why. He said it was because he worked in local government, and he had to be able to work with whoever was elected, so he stayed neutral.

Now, I'm sure you can have a personal political view, and yet work in a politically neutral way (indeed, all NGO X employees have been reminded that NGO X is not aligned to any political party and we shouldn't shout too loudly on social networks about our own views in the election run-up if we are identifiably NGO X), and I'm certainly sure that you can vote and still work in a politically neutral way, but maybe my dad believed that he should live neutrality as well as work neutrality. It's not the worst argument for not voting I've ever heard. Or maybe he thought 'what's the point, whatever I vote this place has Tory written through it like a stick of rock' (check it out!). Possibly I should ask him again.

But then I asked him if I could have his vote, if he wasn't going to use it, and he said I could. So on election day, we went down to the polling station (which was also my old primary school, so I felt VERY IMPORTANT), and he got his ballot paper, and he gave it to me. I went into the little booth, and decided which candidate I was going to vote for, and put my X in the box. Then I came out, and gave the paper to him, and he put it in the box.

I don't remember if he asked me who I voted for (I should ask him that too, but I'm betting he didn't). And I don't remember if I told him anyway (I'm betting I did). But my decision was this: there was one woman on the ballot paper, and I voted for her. I remember making the decision, I remember why, and I remember putting the X in the box, with the pencil on a string (I love that pencil on a string. I always want to vote like that). But until yesterday I don't think I could have told you which party she represented. For me, she represented something else altogether.

I was telling M this story last night as we were having our daily who-to-vote-for debate of our own*. I wondered again which party I'd voted for. They had the National Front in 1983, and a little shiver went down my spine in case I'd voted for a lady fascist. But a) fascists are not known for their feminism, b) coastal Tory heartlands are not known for their fascism -- even if only because there are no black people to hate** -- and c) I like to think that even at 13 I would rather have gnawed my own arm off than voted NF.

But I can't remember what I thought about politics at 13. I really can't. I can remember getting Rio by Duran Duran, and I can remember smoking my first cigarette, and I can remember hating my hair and wondering if I'd ever grow breasts, and I can remember becoming a vegetarian, but I can remember nothing about the political landscape, though the miners' strike was on the horizon and would change all that.

Still, we have the internet now. I bet you can find out, I thought. And you can (scroll down to Lancashire, Fylde).

Turns out I voted Liberal. Not a bad choice for a properly young person.


* It does feel like there's a proper choice to be made, though we agreed to discount both the man in the Batman outfit and the woman who hates foreigners without further discussion.
** I don't mean to be too damning here. There are worse political landscapes than Domesday Book Tory. Like anywhere with the BNP on the ballot paper.


Blogger Jeremy Dennis said...

Man, all those little notes about the candidates... x described himself as a "blancmange thrower"...

7:52 am  
Anonymous jonathan said...

I can't decide whether to admire the 'laissez-faire' approach of the polling booth officials here, or to condemn them for gross dereliction of duty. On balance I will give them the benefit of the doubt- some sixth sense developed during the long, quiet hours holding vigil over the black slotted box has allowed them to spot your latent political astuteness and make an exception to the usual rules governing participation in the electoral process by minors.

On a similar note our Frankie (6 years old) has come out this morning strongly for Gordon Brown, which is an advance given that until this morning his preferred candidate for PM was 'grandma'.

12:44 pm  
Blogger Duncan said...

That sounds highly illegal to me. Any chance we could get the entire result of the 1983 election declared invalid on the basis of this blog post?

I do approve of the principle of voting for the candidate rather than the party. Sadly this time most of the candidates don't seem to have bothered to send us much in the way of information about themselves. That leaves me to choose between the two who bothered to reply to my Robin Hood tax email (if you don't answer your email you're out of the running). My preference is for the one who managed to get my name correct on the reply.

When Brain Redhead (present of the Today programme on Radio 4) died, I remember one of the stories told about him was the way he voted. Apparently in every general election he voted for his local Conservative MP (who happened also to be a friend of his). He would write on the ballot paper 'this is a vote for ..., not for the Conservative party'. Every election the other parties would ask the returning officer to count that ballot as spoiled but the ruling was always that as the intention was clear and there was nothing on the paper to identify the voter the vote should stand.

At least, that's how I remember the story: I'd love to try the same some time, I think my Tory candidate is actually quite a nice guy, but not quite that nice (plus he got my name wrong).

2:00 pm  
Anonymous cookie said...

I was there at 7.20am on the way to work. Here in the Wrekin, we had a choice of 5. The usual 3 included a Lib Dem, who was hastily removed regarding an historic charge of a sexual nature, & was then replaced by female outsider of presumably impeccable character, but with no connection to the area. The other 2were UKIP ---& scarily, BNP. I'm not sure what that says about the place where I live & work. The results will make it clearer.

8:53 pm  
Anonymous jonathan said...

Hang on, what about this from BBC's live election blog:

1317: Police are investigating how a 14-year-old boy managed to vote in Wyre and Preston North. Lancashire Police said would not have affected the outcome because Tory Ben Wallace won with a large majority

Looks like a sterner line is being taken now, maybe the Lancashire Constabulary have been following your blog!

5:23 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

You should be grateful that you weren't living in Finchley in 1983. Voting for the only woman on the ballot paper in that constituency might well have given your conscience – to say nothing of your credibility – more trouble in future years!

I voted in 1983 too, when I was 17. My sister was at university and hadn't applied for a postal vote so I offered to go into the polling station and vote for her. Amazingly, I was allowed to vote even though the official handing me my voting card was the mother of a classmate.

8:40 pm  
Blogger Jo said...

I think common sense was probably allowed to prevail in polling stations of the North in those days. If they'd decided you were taking the piss they'd have clipped you round the ear and sent you on your way.

I also loved the notes. In John Major's constituency in 1992:

Flanagan described himself as a 'Conservative Thatcherite'.
Buckethead sought election as a 'Gremloids' candidate.
Cockell was a research scientist at Oxford University. He advocated increased British involvement in exploration of the planet Mars. He sought election as a 'Forward to Mars' candidate.


10:49 am  

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