Polling Day Memories

At last we’ve reached General Election day and I’ve just been to cast my vote in the crypt of St George’s Church in Kemptown, very close to my Brighton residence.  It was quite busy this morning when I got there, and I had to queue to get my ballot paper. I don’t know what the turnout is like this time, but I hope it’s good. I don’t think there’s really any excuse for not voting, although some people seem to prefer to whinge than to vote.

I doubt if I’ll stay up late tonight to watch the results come in. Polls don’t close until 10pm and until then there’s a blackout of press coverage relating to the vote so there’s nothing to follow until quite late at night, when I’m usually tucked up in bed with my cocoa.  The latest opinion polls suggest that the Conservative Party may just get the biggest share of the vote, but it is highly unlikely they’ll win a majority of the seats. The likelihood therefore is abother hung parliament, at which point there’ll be some frantic negotiation behind the scenes. It will still be interesting to see how the horse-trading works out over the next few days, but after three weeks of phoney war we’ll soon have to face up to reality. I’m not really looking forward to that.

On the corresponding Polling Day eighteen years ago in 1997 I was actually in Lawrence, Kansas. Don’t ask me why. I’d arranged a postal vote, but had to watch the proceedings from afar on the TV. Some expat British friends of mine decided to hold a party that night in their house and I went along to drink beer while the results came in. Watching a British election from the midwest USA is a bit strange, but it’s improved by the fact that the polls close in the UK at what is early evening Kansas-time and it’s all pretty much over by midnight.

That election I was swept up in the euphoria generated by the prospect of a New Labour government with its slogan “Things can only get better”. When they won a landslide majority we celebrated in grand style, singing Jerusalem in the back garden and then tottered not-too-soberly to a tattoo parlour to have a red rose put on my arm.

We had a great time that night, and the good vibes continued after I returned to London from my short stay at the University of Kansas. It didn’t take long, however, for my enthusiasm to wane. Instead of doing the really radical things their large majority would have allowed, they didn’t seem to have the gumption to tackle the really important issues. Then of course Blair took us into Iraq and, despite having voted Labour all my life before then, I vowed never again to vote for the Labour Party while it was led by the people that made that decision.

But I’ve still got the red rose tattoo and this time I returned to the fold by voting for Nancy Platts in Brighton Kemptown. I wasn’t initially very impressed with Ed Miliband but I have changed my mind over the last few weeks. I think during this campaign he has behaved with great dignity and strength of character in the face of some pretty nasty personal attacks from his political opponents. Now I really hope that Ed Miliband leads the next Goverment of the United Kingdom, although it will probably only be able to do so in some sort of coalition with the Scottish Nationalist Party and possibly the Liberal Democrats.

For what it’s worth, my predictions for the consituencies in Brighton is that Labour will win both Kemptown and Hove, whereas in Pavilion Caroline Lucas of the Green Pary will hold the seat for the Conservatives.

But whether or not you agree with my political opinions, please get out there and vote. Tomorrow, VE Day, is the 70th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Remember that as you cast your vote, and have faith in the democracy so many gave their lives to defend.

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