I know I say that I don’t do politics on my blog but today is a bit different. Not even the most politically disinterested could fail to be aware that today’s General Election is arguably the most contentious ever fought. Just as Brexit has, for the past three and a half years meant that politicians’ eyes have been taken off every other ball, so that same behemoth has loomed overwhelmingly large over the election campaigns. News agencies have reported today unprecedented queues of voters, and it is because of Brexit that many of those voters have been more confused than ever about which party to vote for. Leaving aside those whose staunch allegiance has always, and will continue to be, to one of the minor parties, which realistically have exceedingly little chance of winning sufficient seats no matter how laudable their policies, there are a great many more who find themselves genuinely torn between the main contenders and not simply because both Johnson and Corbyn are such Marmite figures. Can a voter overcome a personal dislike enough to vote for a Prime Minister, whom they actively dislike, in the hope of securing the Brexit, or no-Brexit result they desire? What does the hardline Remainer who has long supported the Conservative party and cannot bring themselves to vote Labour do? Similarly, how confusing for the lifelong Labour supporter who desperately wants Britain to leave the EU. I’m sure that there people who really don’t care whether we leave or not and are voting solely on non-Brexit issues, which of course is what we all do in a ‘normal’ election. Many political commentators agree that never has a General Election been quite so unpredictable. One thing is for sure – whatever the outcome, there will be a lot of very unhappy and angry people tomorrow and I fear the result of that anger over the coming days.
Like much of the nation, we will be watching for the 10pm exit poll results, and Husband will stay up until the early hours of the morning (or even the later ones if there isn’t a clear signal that his preferred party will emerge victorious). I could tell you how he voted but a potential £5,000 fine and six month imprisonment doesn’t hold great attraction. It’s true – those are the penalties for revealing (even inadvertently) how another person voted. Talking of election trivia (though one could reasonably argue that those sanctions are anything but trivial), did you know that if you enter the polling station drunk you still have the right to vote. Only if you cause a disturbance or appear incapable can you be prevented. And whilst you can take photos in there (discouraged but not against the law) , you are not allowed to photograph a ballot paper, not even your own – it’s actually illegal under Section 66 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (Metro).
Whilst we’re on the subject of ballot papers, are you aware that you don’t have to put an X in the box for your vote to be counted. You can tick it, draw in it or fill it with anything you like so long as “the voter’s intention is clear on a ballot paper ” (Electoral Commision). The Queen does not need to make her intention clear since she does not exercise her right to vote. She is required to be politically neutral, but I’m sure she has her own opinion on who she’d like to see on the Buckingham Palace doorstep requesting permission to form a Government. It’s been suggested that Harold Wilson was a particular favourite but we’ll never know for certain.
Most polling stations are set up in schools or community centres, others are in portacabins erected specially for the purpose, but there have been some unusual venues – pubs, cafes, a hairdressing salon in Hull , a train carriage and, for the first time this year, in The Granary at the historic Thelnetham Windmill site in Suffolk. Perhaps even stranger are the fish and chip shop in Narbeth, and the laundrette in Oxford ! I guess it must be more cost effective than using more conventional sites, and this has to be a major consideration when the overall cost of running a General Election is estimated to be well in excess of £100,000,000 (one hundred million pounds)!