It’s a Thursday afternoon in the spring, and I am thinking about voting. Here comes the spiel:
Have you registered to vote, lovely British people reading this? Here’s how you do it, if not; you do need to post the form in, because it needs your signature, but otherwise it is easy peasy. And you may already be registered if you haven’t moved since the last election, but do check.
I do think everyone who can vote, should. I don’t think you should vote for a candidate if you don’t think any of the candidates are worth voting for, but if you spoil your ballot paper you are part of the turnout, and I think that’s kind of cool. I mean, you could also refuse to do even that, because you don’t wish to engage with bourgeoisie representative democracy, and that would be a legitimate choice and would totally make you unique and special, but on the whole I think voting is great. And not only just for the democratic aspect; I like how polling stations are tiny places, and you vote with a pencil and a scrap of paper, and there is no technology and nothing scary to do. You go in, you vote, sometimes the BBC wave and smile at you on your way out, and all is well with the world.
My problem at the moment is that I don’t know whom to vote for. I am registered in Oxford East, which is an interesting Labour marginal seat; although the incumbent, Andrew Smith, has been in place since 1983, he’s got a good prospect of losing to the Liberal Democrats this time around, which makes it a little difficult for me, considering the two parties I would consider voting for are pretty much the only two real contenders.
I did consider registering to vote by post in Sefton Central, the constituency my parents live in, but at the time I thought Claire Curtis-Thomas was standing again, and she’s about the only MP I hate so much on a personal level that it entirely eclipses her party affiliation (Labour!) and it would be even harder to decide whom to vote for. In addition, Sefton Central is a new seat – I have only voted in a general election once before, and it was from that address, but in 2005 that was the Crosby constituency – so it’s harder to guess what will happen. And in addition to that, I don’t like postal voting! I like going to polling stations on sunny afternoons in May. Every election I can remember has been sunny, although possibly that is just the delicate tint of childhood, I don’t know.
Another thing that bothers me, though, is that I will be voting in Oxford East six weeks before I cease to be a permanent resident of that constituency. And you could argue that the MP elected from that constituency would still be under a duty to protect my interests in terms of national policy – foreign policy, healthcare, education policy, the usual – but six weeks after that I cease being a resident of the UK.
Well, that’s not true. I’ll still be a permanent resident of the UK, and once I return there will still be probably three and maybe four years of the parliament to go, so it certainly still affects me. I just think it’s interesting from the perspective of the principle behind it – clearly people who leave their country of citizenship shouldn’t lose their right to vote, because they’re not (necessarily) gaining the right to vote elsewhere, but it does seem to disenfranchise them in a fairly fundamental way. It’s interesting, but I can’t think of a better way of doing it. I have decided not to vote in any local elections while I’m away – I have no right, really, to do so – and there will be no general elections (unless something really dramatic happens) and no European Parliament elections either.
So that’s that… but I still need to decide whom to vote for. Tonight, there’s the whole glossy American-style debate, which may be helpful, and next week, on April 22nd, there are hustings in Oxford East, which might also be helpful, I don’t know.
Hmm. Three weeks left to decide.
 I remember being told in A-level politics that generally speaking, the personality of an MP doesn’t influence their results much – think up to 500 votes either way. Hi, I am one of the 500, apparently.