I’ve lived in the same area for 37 years of my life. The parental home is just around the corner; the playground noises from the school I attended can be heard from my flat, a few roads away. Older people in the area recognise me, and may occasionally issue reminders of childhood transgressions I have long since, conveniently, forgotten.
As I recall, I have not missed one vote in the 27 years I have been eligible to do so. This was because I failed to register during a brief and fleeting move of habitat to Hove. Voting, for me, is a ritual to be savoured and enjoyed.
During my long years of living here in Queens Park there have been many elections. The polling booth I attend, at my old primary school hall, has always remained the same during that time. It does seem a bit strange entering there every two years, standing to vote in a place I once would sit during assembly, surveying the famous World War I memorial on the wall, and I am always reminded of how small the hall now appears to be.
I have always encouraged people to vote, even if they don’t wish to engage politically. It was an old school teacher who once said to me that you should always attend the polling booth, even if you don’t like any of the options on offer. In that case you should write on your ballot paper the reason why you aren’t voting, an exercise I once engaged in with the Police Commissioner vote- which I believe was a total waste of time and resources. His belief was that people fought and died for democracy-and we should respect that.
Today my partner and I met my father at the family home and walked round there together. I’m glad we did, it gave me the opportunity to notice how unsteady Dad is on his feet nowadays, so as well as getting my rush of self importance in putting a cross on the paper, I was reminded that there were additional considerations closer to home.
Tony Benn, one of my political heroes, once said that that a voter should not consider that they have as much sway as they would like to think, that big business and the media are the true guardians of the nations power levers. I mostly agree.
That said, as much as the empowerment of average Joe is limited by those who have money, and the ability to mass replicate their opinions, voting to me is important. If people fail to register their opinion, then those in power take little notice of the limited impact it has. Despite the crushing unelected authority of this country’s elite, there are times when they do have to stand up and take notice. In this ever closing world of scrutiny and noticeable dialogue, perpetuated through an online connection where our village is our world, it could be argued that things are slowly changing.
I would find it difficult to complain about the authorities who control our country if I didn’t vote. I believe that by voting we are giving consideration to the wider world and our impact upon it, and, despite agreeing with what Tony Benn said, for me it is a positive experience and not an irrelevant chore.