A Beyond the Sphere election special post.
It’s General Election day in the United Kingdom today. They come around more frequently than Leap Years in modern times, and are just as much fun.
We’ve had hours of promises and counter-promises, proper gander and hip hop rap, heartfelt apologies for previously bringing in the wrong thing whilst in a previous government, and sincere promises that this time they’ll do better. We’ve been threatened that one thing will happen if we vote for such a party, and that will happen if we vote for a different one, we mustn’t vote for X because of Y, C can’t stand because of B, W was recorded saying this about Q, P became a block of ice, and blah blah blah…
I’m not politically minded. I can’t stand all the squabbling and bickering that goes on between politicians. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the ‘TV debates’ where nobody was interested in what any of the politicians had to say, but most folk were interested in what they had to say wrong.
I didn’t listen to the opinion polls, because I’m not interested in anybody else’s opinion. I did notice, however, how subtle messages the like of ‘you must vote this way’ came through in the oddest of ways; for example a TV programme review flipped itself round to one of the politician’s interests. I just stopped reading the review there.
But tonight I did my bit and went and cast my vote.
I walked down the dimly lit alley to the polling station. I pushed the door which needed to be pulled to open – they’d covered the ‘pull’ sign with the ‘polling station’ sign. I walked across a vast empty room, to a row of desks that were arranged in an L shape at the far side of the room. A man and a woman sat on the left, and two other women sat behind the tables directly ahead. The polling booth was over to the right.
“Hi” said the man, as I approached the table he was sitting at, not knowing whether I needed to go to him or not. I handed him my polling card as I said “Hello” in return. He asked me to confirm my full name, and then checked that I had gone to the correct polling station, which, luckily for all of us, I had done. It was the address on the polling card, so I couldn’t really have gotten it wrong.
The man gave a series of letters and numbers to the woman sitting next to him, and she announced that she’d written down a completely different set and questioned why she’d done that. She wrote down the correct series, and the man then handed me my polling slip.
“You MUST mark ONLY ONE X” the woman said, pointing to the polling booth at the other side of the room. “And then you MUST bring it back, and pop it INTO THAT BOX there” – this time she pointed at the ballot box beside the end of the table where the man sat.
I walked slowly across the room, noticing how eerily quiet and empty the place was. I marked my paper in the booth as instructed, and folded it as I walked back the ballot box to cast my vote. My slip was half-way into the slot when the man asked “Er… did you get that ballot slip from us?” I did that three way double-take look you do when you ask yourself if you were being asked the question. I looked around the room, and I was still the only person in there. “YES, he did.” said the woman. “Yes, I did” I also replied, not actually sure whether I should have been speaking at that moment but the correct words formed as I did so, so it must have been alright.
I then left the polling station, walked back along the dimly lit alley and then rejoined what felt like reality. This reality. Tomorrow’s may be completely different. Or it may be the same. Or it may appear to be the same, but really be completely different.
We just don’t know.
And by Jiminy will we be told about it for months to come.