And so, after all that, we don’t have a new government at all. Except maybe we still will in a while. Once the most popular party has negotiated with the third most popular. Or if that doesn’t work out, the second and third most popular parties have worked something out. So we could end up with a situation where the winners lose and the two main losers win. But to be fair, the winners only won by a small margin, it’s just that we measure it as a huge margin. Hmm. Yep, I think our elections work pretty well on the whole.
Plenty of people will say plenty of things about this bizarre election in the weeks to come, some of them more eloquently/informedly than me (political journalists and commentators), some of them more amusingly (Have I Got News For You and so on), and some of them, quite possibly, talking over me (certain other shows). So I’ll spare you the 16,000th blog on the strangeness of our democracy. I just wanted to focus on one small cautionary tale that emerged from last night’s often baffling events. (I’ve already mentioned this on Twitter, but like many people on Twitter, I feel 140 characters is a bit restricting for someone of my massive intellect.)
It’s about all these people who missed out on voting because of the poor organisation of polling stations. As you will have seen on the coverage – because it was repeated about every 15 seconds – quite long queues in some places were turned away. Understandably, most of them weren’t too happy about it. Some were even what you would call ‘peeved’.
Firstly, of course this is very regrettable. It’s insane that you could miss out on voting because of what the kids might call an ‘admin fail’, especially given that they have individual ballot papers for every voter who registers, so it’s hard to see how they can run out. It also seems perverse to lock up at 10pm if there are people still waiting. It’s not like there is some harsh time limit on counting up the votes: at the time of writing it’s 24 hours since the polls closed, and some of those poor tired counting people have only just gone home to bed now. It’s pretty clear that the ‘every polling station closes at 10pm’ law should have a caveat that says ‘…unless they are REALLY busy’. As one reader of this blog put it on Twitter, if you make it ‘illegal’ to keep voting open beyond 10pm, it ends up being a victory for bureaucracy over democracy. So, yes. No-one should ever be denied the vote by mere volume of other voters. It’s silly.
But. It seems to me that all those people who didn’t manage to vote fall into two categories:
- (a) People who work very long hours, and had no option but to go to the polling station at the last moment;
- (b) People who LEFT IT TOO LATE.
The most vocal frustrated voter on the BBC coverage was a good example of group (b). She was a lady in Sheffield. She claimed that she had been to the polling station at 6pm AND 7pm but been deterred by long queues. She eventually went back for 9pm, but by that time the line was too long and she didn’t get her paper. Then she got cross and shouted ‘it’s UNDEMOCRATIC’ at camera crews. Now she’s in the papers.
I’m sorry to seem petty, but if you visit a polling station twice and leave twice because of the length of the queues, then you’re not trying hard enough to vote. We all have to queue for things. I calculate that I’ve spent around 40 percent of my life waiting my turn for stuff (and by ‘calculate’, I mean ‘guess, with massive exaggeration for comic purposes’). Having to queue up to vote is certainly very unusual, but you can’t duck out of it, then come back later, find it’s too late, and get angry.
We all know that if check-in closes at 8pm, you aim to get there at 7.30. If you’re likely to turn into a pumpkin at midnight, you take the appropriate precautions at 11.45 and retain your physical form. In short, you get through life by planning ahead. If voting is as important to you as the furious people claimed it was on the news, then you don’t cook dinner and watch some TV first, you get down there at eight and make absolutely sure.
If I sound irritatingly smug and preachy, be reassured that I’ve never planned ahead properly in my life. I’m always late for things. I always organise myself badly. I am the king of leaving things to the last minute. But even I managed to cast my vote around 3pm yesterday. If I can do it, anyone can. Let’s learn our lessons from these thwarted voters and all make a resolution to do things about twenty minutes earlier than we were going to. Deal?
And if you’re one of the unfortunates who didn’t get to cast a vote: hey, it’s OK. If you live in most parts of the country, your vote wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. Funny old world.
…oh, before I forget. The ‘Would I Lie To You’ playoff. The answers were: I have seen Sex And The City (so that was a lie) but never a full Eastenders (so that’s truth). I have not spoken to J-Lo and would not really know what to say to her (so that one was a lie). I haven’t dislocated my shoulder (another lie, there, then – I have broken my arm three times though). I WAS fourth place in a national computer football tournament, in Gwent, when I was 17. (That was truth.) So the winner is, I think, Marie. Name your prize, Marie.
Also, I’m going to start rewarding the people who leave the first comment on each blog. If yours is the first comment, you get to request a word, theme or name to be included in the next blog. So there you go. Pretty exciting, huh! Good luck!