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Election 2010: For the journalist or the voter?

April 5, 2010

Sometime tomorrow – after 10.00am, I imagine – Prime Minister Gordon Brown will get in a shiny car, be driven out of Downing Street, up towards Buckingham Palace and go and meet the Queen.

There’ll be tourists standing at the foot of The Mall. Their kagouls at the ready, happily snapping at the splendour of the building in front of them. They’ll be totally unaware of the passenger in the car speeding through the gates.

Our imaginations co-eerce us into thinking that the people we elect during a parliamentary vote really have no idea who will secure the necessary majority to make that visit to Buckingham Palace and nod dutifully when asked to form a government.

We like to think every person who participates in the race isn’t entirely sure who will win. That’s the promise implicit in a secret ballot. It’s a level playing field. Everyone throwing their hat into the ring should think the same.

Nobody should feel like it’s a foregone conclusion. Be warned, any PR person who does will only store up trouble for the future. We want the players in the game to feel the same vulnerability. The same hope. The same desperation.

Of course. All of that could be complete bollocks. Sometimes it’s difficult to work out who the election is for exactly. Is it the voters or is it the politicians? Or is it – as I fear it might be – one of those regular events which journalists rub their hands together with glee about when they consider the opportunities such a prospect presents?

The past hour has certainly led me to believe that’s the case. The Guardian had an exclusive at 9.58pm about how the Prime Minister would call the election tomorrow. The Telegraph’s web publishing system followed only 2 minutes after with it’s story. BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson’s blog post about the subject followed a good 20 minutes after. He’s putting that down to a cold. Given my allegiance with The Corporation, I couldn’t possibly comment.

And yes, I’m more than aware that this blog post comes in at around an hour after the event. I’ve missed the boat. Shameful.

The truth is, I am interested in following the election. It’s a competition for those who are participating. For those of us snidey so-and-sos on the sidelines, it’s a challenge. There are creative constraints I have to follow, after all.

I’m not really that interested in the scrum to reveal the ‘news’ first, which is good given that that’s not what blogging is about. And actually, now I come to think of it, the only reason I’m blogging about the election is because I’m feeling swept along by the same excitement all those proper journalists are too.

It’s that seemingly relative desperation which fascinates me, however. When Mr Brown has returned from that short trip to the Palace tomorrow, I’m more interested in what the election means to most of the electorate. At least, what I think it ought to mean to most of the electorate.

When we vote, we vote for a constituent MP. Someone who is meant to represent our local constituency in the House of Commons. And yet, it would be forgivable to admit the shame some of us feel when we shuffle into those bizarre little boothes and let our eyes scan over the voting slip. Who are these people? What do they stand for? Who the hell do we vote for?

The moments directly after we’ve pushed the slip into the box aren’t much better. Did we vote for the right person? Did we vote for the leader? Did we vote for the party? Did we vote for policy? Or did we vote for the constituency?

And if we did vote in the way the system tells us to vote, how will we judge whether the winner – not the party with the majority and it’s government – has delivered on his or her promises?

Who says voting in an election is easy? It shouldn’t be easy. It should be a really difficult thing. We should all take the time to think carefully about which box we put a cross in. Because making sure you’re voting for the right reason and making the right decision is the most challenging responsibility an adult faces. That and bringing up a kid …

Here endeth the (impartial) lesson.

Posted via web from Thoroughly Good

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