Election Day Fever Redux

Normally by this time on a Friday after a General Election (which is always held on a Thursday,) the Country would know whether a Government has been re-elected to another term of office or whether there would be a new Government with a new Prime Minister.  But what the UK is facing today is a situation that is far from normal circumstances.  For the first time in thirty-four years, no one Political Party has a mandate to govern.  No one won outright.  It is still anyone’s game.

So I am not going to be eating large amounts of humble pie.  After thirteen years of a Labour Government, the Conservatives under David Cameron, failed to get the message across to the Nation and still failed to win the General Election of 2010 (no surprises there, not for me at least). Okay, he was more than three hundred seats in the Westminster Parliament but not the three hundred and twenty-six majority that his party needs to have a working majority in order to fulfil his Party’s Manifesto.  My thoughts about a Tory Manifesto are known from my last entry on the subject so I won’t bother to reiterate it here.

Election Fever was in evidence, however sadly, it came too little, too late.  There have been stories over the past twenty-four hours of people being shut out from polling offices because they had not voted by the 10pm deadline.  Now I am not sure what the full story is here on this particular subject but there were stories of polling offices running out of ballot papers, incompetence in other areas, which the Electoral Commission will be investigating, when they carry out an inquiry and review in what actually happened up down the Country as the situation seemed to be widespread.  One of the things revealed from the above and the General Election as a whole was there was a massive surge in people going out and vote.  This aside, returning to people not being allowed to vote, beggars the question: ‘Why were so many turning up so late in the day to vote?’

I pose this question because the polling offices were open from the hours of 7am right up to 10pm in the evening.  So why with a thirteen hour window, were people turning up so late in the evening to vote?  As said previously about people being unable to vote, there were factors as to why people would be unable to vote.  What puzzles me is why people, who were eligible to vote, decided to do their duty so late in the day?  Why?  Were they so undecided as to who they were going to vote until late in the evening or did they finish work late etc.?  This is all rather puzzling given that (to my knowledge anyway,) nothing like this has ever happened in any General Election.  There have been stories of people queuing up for two hours and by 10pm, were told they would not be allowed to vote as it was now 10pm and the polls were now closed.  This has been the law for local and national elections for many years and has always worked until now.  I went to vote around 2pm yesterday afternoon and on arriving at the designated polling office (at a school that was closed for the day and being used for such purposes,) on entering the hall where the actual ballot boxes were, there were four clerks there (one reading a tabloid newspaper), I handed my details to one of the clerks, they checked my name against the electoral register, ticked off my name, gave me my ballot papers, did my duty, posted my papers in the ballot boxes and left.  What was interesting and was always the case in elections, there was no one else voting!  This was always the case whether I voted in the morning, afternoon and evening. I might meet people leaving as I entered or vice-versa but in all the years I have voted in local and national elections, I have never experienced, let alone encountered the scenes that I saw on television throughout the course of last night.

What I suspect was people (and not all of them,) probably had the time to go out and vote earlier but for whatever reasons, decided not to so at that time and went later.  I am not going to go into all the permutations of what they may or may not have been doing as to why they didn’t go earlier to vote.  The working hours of many people may have been a significant factor in their decision to go and vote later.  I don’t know what the real reasons for what transpired up and down the Country, even if I have given one possible reason.  But even if masses of people turned up to vote later that day, checking names, ticking off names against the electoral register and handing out ballot papers, is not the hardest of jobs so why were people waiting in queues for so long to the point come 10pm, when the polls by Law are supposed to closed and did indeed close?  I just find the whole situation bizarre given the thirteen hour window of opportunity to vote.  No doubt there will be an investigation so roll out the review by the Electoral Commission.

The General Election of 2010 will be long remembered as the Election where no one Political Party won outright, with a working majority in order to fulfil the policies of their manifesto, without a large amount of horse trading going on along the way.  It will also be remembered as the Election where there was a high voter turnout, to the point where people didn’t actually get to vote due to the huge numbers who turned out late to vote.  Did the System fail those who were denied their right to vote? Tough one.  There was after all a thirteen hour window of opportunity to vote during the day.  The situation is not like the problems suffered during the US Presidential Elections in years past.  I would however argue with voter apathy (which I don’t believe in,) reigning supreme for so long, it was probably unexpected that we would have such a huge voter turnout to vote.  This is good for Democracy and a joy to see people exercising their democratic right, privilege and duty.  However, when we fail to exercise these rights on a consistent basis, the scenes I witnessed on television last night could well happen again.  The fact it happened at all still surprises me.  I don’t think incompetence if proved just lies with the polling clerks, those people denied the right to vote, have to share some of the blame.  Again I come back to the thirteen hour window of opportunity to vote. Why choose to vote so late in the day?  Again I await the outcome of the investigation and review by the Electoral Commission, there are legal implications, as those who didn’t get to vote can actually sue the Commission and be compensated for their rights to vote being denied.

Election Fever on Election Day did occur but tinged with elements of madness all around.  But still Democracy was seen to be alive and well, the people have spoken through the ballot box.   No one won this Election.  Whatever happens now, whether we get a deal that sees David Cameron as PM or one that sees Gordon Brown continuing as PM, whatever happens from this day forward, will have to be done in the National Interest.  And for me (despite my personal desire to see Gordon Brown continue in the job,) has got to be good for Democracy. At long last, we will have politicians from all parties, working together to achieve things that are in the National Interest.  I think I can live with that.