Thursday, 6 May 2010

Cometh the hour

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Whenever I go into a polling booth I think of two things: the Pankhursts and the Velvet Revolution. Emmeline and Christabel are obvious, although I should probably add John Stuart Mill to the list, for his quixotic attempt to introduce women's suffrage to the Second Reform Act in 1867. 1867. There was a man ahead of his time. And why The Velvet Revolution as opposed to any other? It came at a formative time in my life. I was just out of university and still shining with idealism. It was the fact that it was so calm and dignified. It was the sight of the candles in Wenceslas Square. It was that Vaclav Havel was a playwright. (I had just begun writing, and the idea that a writer could actually change the world thrilled me to the very marrow of my bones.) So that is why, however hard I try, I can't get cynical about the democratic process. This is not a glorious transformative election like it was in 1997. I remember walking down a London street the morning after, and the sun was dazzling down on the pavements, and everyone was smiling. It was as if the entire city was en fete, and anything was possible. Whatever happens, whoever wins, there will be tough times to come. But I still cherish the idea that I get to choose.

As I pull up at the polling station, Paul McCartney is singing Band on the Run. When I come out again, Nancy Sinatra is singing These Boots Are Made For Walking. This seems to be a portent of something, but I am not quite sure what.

Inside, everything is very calm. A huge union flag hangs over the hall, as if to remind us that it is, in the end, Her Majesty's government. 'Is turnout up?' I ask one of the election operatives. 'Oh yes,' he says. 'It's high.'

Outside, a gaggle of IPSOS-MORI workers huddle with clipboards. They are too busy gossiping to ask me anything. I am a citizen, I think in sudden dudgeon, don't I count in your exit polls? They are all very smartly dressed. I wonder if they dismiss me because I went to vote in my muddy gumboots.

Our local MP walks by. I have never seen him, in ten years of living here, although I looked up his voting record, which is impeccable. He looks much younger and thinner and more vivid in life than he does on his literature. He is accompanied by the most beautiful man I have ever seen. It is as if Johnny Depp has just arrived in the village. He has raven black hair and dark olive skin, and looks as if he has just stepped off the streets of Madrid. I forget all my dignity and almost crash the car, I am ogling so much. The dogs, unimpressed, yawn and stretch in the back seat.

Down at the Co-op, where I go for election night Guinness (I am going to need the Vitamin B to get me through till dawn) people are making jokes about a hung parliament. The lady at the checkout says: 'You know, all of them have some policies I like.' It is remarks like this that make me think perhaps this is not going to be the X Factor election that some commentators have been worrying about.

'Who are you voting for?' I say.

She puts her head back and laughs. 'It's a secret,' she says.

I get back into the car. I have Guinness for strength, the first English asparagus for a treat, and some salad for health. On the radio, the presenter says: 'Now we are going to talk about bus shelters.' Yes, I think, that's the British way. There's no need to get carried away with high-faluting election nonsense. Enough with the speechifying and the promises and the rhetoric. Let us consider the bus shelters.


  1. I quite like the lady who said it's a secret- it is after all and a hard fought for one- though I keep asking people!

    as for the poll people they always pounce on me as the only young person to have gone in all day (by young I mean under about 65... really) and I always tell them it's a secret and they won't have long to wait

    It doesn't go down well but I can't really see why it matters. Patience is a virtue and the polls are often wrong!

    Today is a bit like the calm before the storm isn't it

  2. L love your writing and this post made me laugh out loud. I shall think of you, along with your Guinness, as the results start to be announced.


  3. I love your election writing lots.

    Today the phlebotmist who was taking ym blood asked me who I should vote for. He outlined his concerns and the things that made him want to vote for a particular party. I said that those are the things that matter.

    It was really good to see.

    I'm still quite scared and not sure I got it right. I was see-sawing even as I walked into the polling booth.

    Never been so nervous, but so glad to hear that turnout is predicted to be high (though saddened that 70% is considered high)

  4. I haven;'t even been canvassed let alone polled this time. I have voted though and am standing ready to get extremely gloom later.

  5. That was very funny and a delight to read. I get so cross if people don't bother to vote. Today was the busiest I've ever seen my polling station (South Hackney and Shoreditch). Turn-out was hugely up which gives me hope. I'll think of you with your Guinness up watching til dawn. I shall be too xx

  6. Did you manage to stay awake?

    I napped til about 12.30, and fell asleep on the sofa with the birds singing. Just waiting now for the last results to come in and the negotiations to start.
    Horrified about the people who weren't able to vote.

  7. Argyll and Bute's result STILL not in. Don't know what's taking so long - there's hardly anyone lives here!

    I keep my vote a secret too. One has so few secrets these days....

    Ali x

  8. I always think of Emily Davidson, and hum Well Done Sister Suffragette from Mary Poppins...


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