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.