Thursday, 7 May 2015

In which I feel unexpectedly elated about voting

It's a glorious day today and I just voted in the general election.

I feel unexpectedly elated.

The last time we had a vote - the Scottish referendum - that ended up with me taking two months off work with anxiety.  This time there are no parties I can wholeheartedly support.  I've avoided almost all the coverage because I don't want to get sucked in.  But the little I've seen indicates that very many people will vote for the Conservatives and the SNP, two parties who have led their governments for five years or more and led their countries in awful directions (very different directions for the UK and Scotland but both awful).  

I was always going to vote though, so I went out a few minutes ago.   It's a glorious sunny day here, and I chatted to a neighbour who said she often sees me running and I obviously enjoy it. I walked across the park to the polling booth a few yards the other side of it. 

When I got there I waited a little in a short queue, and then went to a booth, thought for a moment, put down an X, and put my paper in the ballot box (actually couldn't find the slot for a second but did and put it in.) 

I walked home feeling unexpectedly elated.

I'm reading a book called "She-Wolves" about the female rulers of England before Elizabeth. I'm reading now about the Empress Matilda, who had a civil war with King Stephen in the 12th Century.  They wandered around the country besieging castles and trying to take over from other one.  Every once in a while they made the political mistake of not executing the other one. 

20 odd years ago I saw footage of Desmond Tutu voting in the first free South African elections. After he voted, he celebrated by pumping his arms above his head. Not for his party but because he had been allowed to vote.  That came after the white South Africans had voted in a referendum to allow everybody to vote.  I can't find a picture of the celebration, but there is him voting. 

After the election it looks like there will be messy coalition building or minority government forming. There will be backroom deals and frontroom deals and lies told with a straight face to camera.  But none of the leaders will be taking their opponents prisoner, putting them in irons, and deciding whether or not to murder them.  And if Cameron is ousted, he will leave Downing Street because of millions of Xs on bits of paper, not because his castle has been starved into submission. The amazing glory of democracy is leaders willingly giving up power peacefully. 

I was unexpectedly elated, but it shouldn't have been unexpected. I love democracy.

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