Election Notes 7: It’s easy, go and do it.

Making a pencilled cross on a piece of paper isn’t such a big deal; yet, when I vote, it always makes me feel great. I live in a country where it’s allowed; where it actually makes a difference. Nobody can tell me how to vote. Nobody can know how I voted.

It’s not difficult. Get your polling card (although you actually don’t need it) and go to the polling station given on it. You can ignore the people outside; they are party representatives trying to work out how many of their supporters have voted. (I always politely just say “no” when they ask me.) They CANNOT by law ask you how you vote. Go inside, give your card to the nice person behind the desk. They will give you a ballot paper. Go to the booth, make a simple cross against the name of your chosen candidate with the pencil provided. Resist the temptation to write or draw something rude. Fold the paper, put it in the box. Thank the nice person behind the desk (not obligatory, but it’s a thankless job). Go out, ignore the canvassers again and go for a coffee (not obligatory).

That’s it. Simples. Of course, that doesn’t have to be the end for another five years. You can get involved, write, campaign, etc. More on this later. (No groaning at the back there.)

Oh, and if you still aren’t decided, pick the candidate whose policies you dislike the least.

People died for the vote. I cannot get out of my head the image of South Africans queueing for hours in the sun to vote after the end of apartheid. Don’t let apathy win.

Vote Oblique

Note: There is a good article for first time voters here: BBC News- What can you NOT do in a polling station?

Election Notes 6: The Others

Just for the sake of balance and completeness, here are election pamphlets from the other political parties in the our constituency. We had not yet received them at the time of my post Election Notes 5: Who Should I Vote For?.

None of them have photos of their party leaders, although the independent candidate probably is the party leader.

As usual, I am sitting on the fence until the splinters hurt too much; but a vote for a minority candidate is not a wasted vote; if that person fits your views best, then you have made your views known.

DSCN6746 DSCN6747DSCN6745

Election Notes 5: Who Should I Vote For?

Well, don’t ask me. I am still undecided, and I wouldn’t tell you how to vote anyway.

I have said before that if you don’t know about the issues, it’s your duty to find out. I’m aware that’s incredibly naive of me.

At least you could look at the election fliers that come through your letterbox. They do give some sort of indication of what is occupying the minds of the parties. Here are the ones we have had since the election was announced.

Interestingly, only one uses a photo of the party leader. One uses a photo of the leader of another party. I’ll leave it to you to guess which one. The problem is that I agree and disagree with points in all of them. That’s democracy, folks.

Additionally, at least two other parties which have fielded candidates in the past have not yet posted pamphlets. Does this mean they are not running? Does it mean they can’t afford the cost?

(I did, in my usual anxiety to be fair, place the above in alphabetical order.)

Election Notes 4: Registration

If I sound as if I’m obsessed by this, I do not apologise; I am deeply concerned that everybody should vote, and if I can persuade just one person who was not going to that they should exercise their democratic right and responsibility, then it will have been worth it. If you are a UK citizen and you haven’t been registered, it’s dead easy. Just go on this website:

https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

It takes about five minutes or less and all you need is your National Insurance number. It doesn’t matter if you have already done it- you don’t get two votes! (Yes, if you’ve already got a polling card you don’t need to do it.)

Then you can vote in the June 8th election. You can choose by hair colour, dress sense, personality, political party or even (for goodness’ sake!) their policies.

Just do it. But register before midnight on Monday May 22nd or you will be disenfranchised. Painful.

England, My England

All sorts of odd thoughts abour imperialism, multiculturalism, patriotism etc. Not very entertaining or worthwhile unless you’re a retired teacher with time on your hands.

I started to write this while listening to ‘Impi’, by Johnny Clegg and Juluka, a rousing song about the defeat of British forces by Zulu warriors. It’s stirring, passionate stuff. I suppose that very few would argue that the European armies which invaded Africa and a lot of other places had right on their side. I think however that Jonny Clegg has probably some sympathies with the British soldiers: the ‘poor bloody infantry’.

It got me thinking about all manner of things: what it means to be the descendant of imperialists; what it means to be a white man in a multicultural world; what it means to be patriotic; what it means to be English… or is it British?

In no particular order, then: multiculturalism (whatever that means) is a fact of life in my country. (Just for the sake of argument, let’s call my country England.) No amount of posturing or opposition is going to change that. I think that my children don’t really notice colour or culture. I do, because I am a late middle-aged white middle-class man; but I try to embrace it and not to let my upbringing prejudice me. Multiculturalism brings its difficulties, but also huge rewards.

So does multiculturalism mean that we- or I- can’t be patriotic? I think that we can.

When I talk about being patriotic, I mean that I have a strong feeling for the country I live in. That includes all its multicultural elements. I won’t begin to give examples, because I’m sure I’d offend somebody, or myself. (Oh, alright then. Music, art, food…. and music.) I do not mean my country, right or wrong. As Tim Stanley said in the Daily Telegraph, if you think your country is doing wrong then you have a patriotic duty to correct it. I love my country, but if I didn’t, I would try to change it or get out. (Yes, I know Dr Johnson said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel; he was talking about a particular instance, not the term in general.)

Yes, I am also very aware of my country’s imperial past. A huge amount of what was done was wrong. But it wasn’t my fault! If slavery had been happening in my lifetime and I had been aware of it I would have tried to change it. I did not support the Iraq war; to my shame I did no more than fulminate about it.

I particularly love the tolerant attitude of very many of my fellow countrypersons. Maybe they are even a majority? Most people I meet don’t give a ****** **** about colour, race, religion, or choice of dress, food or music. I realise I live in the soft South; yet Southampton has quite a high immigrant population, and I love sitting in a café and watching mixed race couples or grous of friends wander past with no comment at all. Yes, I know this is a very small piece of England/ Britain…. but this blog has to be about how I see it from my corner of the world.

So, let’s look at that list of issues that Johnny Clegg started….. I see I haven’t covered the English/ British debate. I think I’ll leave that to another time, as it seems to warrant more thought. There is also a hidden issue, that of English song, which I keep avoiding writing about. Look up Johnny Clegg- he’s no relation to Nick Clegg, as far as I know. The music is excellent; what you might call early ‘world music’. I imagine however that he might be quite scathing about my privileged first world musings.

By the way, I am finishing this blog listening to “Drone4Daevid” by various musicians.

Election Note 2

Election notes 2

Briefly: At the time of the last election, I was talking to a young, intelligent woman who told me that she would not be voting because she did not know anything about the choices. I was horrified, but failed to persuade her to vote.

Last night I was reminded of this when a potential voter in the West Midlands was interviewed about the forthcoming mayoral election. She was not aware this poll was happening.

There is no law in the U.K. compelling one to vote. Apparently there is in at least twelve countries, including Nauru and Cyprus. I’m not sure if compulsion is a good idea; ultimately I consider it’s your right to vote or not. However, I strongly believe you should vote.

If you don’t vote, you are letting politicians get away with anything they like. The vast majority are very well-intentioned, but it’s a slippery slope. You cannot moan, grumble or complain about their actions unless you have made your voice heard. Of course, your elected representative may not do what you want, and you may not have voted for them anyway; but you can write to them, campaign, discuss; this is a democracy and still pretty free. (Are you allowed two semi-colons in one sentence? Oblique style is to over-use them, I’m afraid.)

If you don’t know enough about it, go out and find out about it. We should all be involved in our democracy. That’s what makes it still great.

Phew, got carried away. Must go and have a lie-down. No- it’s coffee time!

Election Note 1

Another election looms in the U.K. While I don’t intend this blog to promote any particular political view, I will be voting and I would urge anybody eligible in the U.K. to vote. It DOES make a difference; you CAN make your views known and take action in many other ways, but you have no right to moan if you haven’t voted. (More on this at a later date. If I get round to more election notes.)

Election notes 1One strange phenomenon of which I was first aware during the last election and which has appeared again this time is the staged meet-the-public photo-opportunity. All the party leaders and other prominent characters have been in these. They appear to be speaking to a group of the public; of course, this group is a group of their party members and supporters, all carrying supportive placards and cheering on their leader. In one recent such occasion you could spot the constituency candidate smiling awkwardly behind the main man. (There’s a clue.)

I was musing on this today when a news item appeared on the TV which struck me forcefully with its similarities to the U.K. situation. It was a short clip of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, beaming as he walked along being applauded by a group of his generals.

Now I’m not for a moment suggesting that our political parties and their leaders are in any way like Kim Jong Un and the North Koreans. However, such staged and artificial situations are not worthy of our democracy.

In case you are wondering, I have not yet finalised the Oblique election manifesto. Chocolate may well feature. I am consulting my supporters. Certainly baseball caps worn back-to-front will be banned. The Fashion Police may be given increased powers of enforcement.