This time tomorrow, failing any unfortunate accidents or natural disasters, I’ll have voted. Twice in fact: a friend’s out of town for work, so I’ll be proxy voting for her too. I’ll be voting Ken first, Jenny second. at no point have I even considered voting for Boris.
I love voting. By a happy accident, I’ve lived somewhere there’s been an election every year since I was 18 and voted in the 2005 general election. I’ve always woken early on polling day, taken my card to the school, church hall or scout hut that’s been commandeered for the day, and purposefully put my cross or numbers next to my preferred candidate. The stiff ceremony of those five minutes never dulls: knowing that the mark you make with the pencil provided is your physical mark on our democracy is uniquely pleasurable. Then there’s the slight anti-climax you feel once you’ve posted your slip into the ballot box, tempered by wondering how those walking in as you leave will vote.
I love the election campaigns too. Yes, they’re exhausting and by election day, you’ve heard every party member spout the same sound bites until they’re hoarse. But it is exciting. No more so than when you see candidates visibly rattled by their gaffes and stories the press have unearthed. That’s democratic power, right there.
It was only when I was cycling home this evening, thinking about the Chartists mural in my hometown (it’s still there, though they’re destroying it, criminally) that I paused to think that however much I hate this government, however disenfranchised I feel by the fact we elect MPs by the unrepresentative First Past the Post system, I can still vote. I’m a woman, I don’t own property and I’m working class, though have now done quite a bit of vaulting in the social mobility stakes. I can vote, when women and men in some parts of the world still can’t. So do get out and vote tomorrow. Because every time we vote, it feels like we’re moving forward.
The government’s Your Freedom site has attracted a fair amount of interest since its launch yesterday, and is the second high-profile public consultation since the formation of the coalition government. It’s an interesting concept, but despite the initial public interest, I suspect it will be as low impact as the consultation on cuts. Much as the spending cuts consultation framed the debate so that cuts were portrayed as inevitable, Your Freedom posits that scrapping legislation is the only way to secure civil liberties. This is patently not true in all cases: repealing the Human Rights Act, as a case in point. But essentially, that’s besides the point. The government have decided which laws to repeal or modify: they are using this exercise as a savvy way to give the impression of public inclusion in law-making. One contributer on the site described himself as a:
Long time voter; first time legislator.
depicting the manner in which the public are intended to view their role in this exercise. But contributing doesn’t make you a legislator: you’re not in government. Most of you probably didn’t vote for them either. The site is tokenistic, poorly designed and serves only as an exercise to make the government seem liberal and concerned with civil liberties whilst they refuse to intervene in the forced eviction of Democracy Village protesters that can be seen from MPs’ windows.
As much credibility could be gained, surely from looking at laws that garnered particularly intense backlash in the media and through protests, such as the extension of detention for terror suspects, certain SOCPA powers (especially regarding photography), the Digital Economy Bill and, I don’t know, the fact that several thousand people stood outside the coalition negotiations telling Nick Clegg not to give up on the prospect of electoral reform for a little power.
The site isn’t all bad though. Two people have called for the repeal of Sod’s Law and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The government may be stronger than we suspect if they can pull that off.
Photograph by Lewishamdreamer used under Creative Commons Licence.