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Vote? I'd rather pee out the window

Photo by Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

A DEAR old colleague has been fretting on social media over how to physically vote on December 12, given that he works in central London, often finishes late, and has to commute to the Home Counties.

The polls close at 10pm.

I don’t know how this fellow votes, but having spent most of my waking hours sat next to him for two years, I suspect he’s not a Tory.

And that’s a problem, because he lives in the parliamentary constituency of Hemel Hempstead.

The formerly conservative Tory party has held Hemel Hempstead since 1979, apart from a spell in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Labour were in power.

The incumbent, Sir Mike Penning, won 29,000 votes on a turnout of 52,000, beating the next candidate, Labour’s Mandi Tattershall, by about 9,000 votes.

With 55% of the vote, Sir Mike has a stronger claim on Hemel Hempstead than Boris Johnson does on Number 10.

But that’s beside the point for my old chum, whose (we assume) non-Tory vote will most likely count for naught, barring a heroically unlikely swing to the left among the hard-working folk of Hemel Hempstead.

Sir Mike appears unlikely to be unseated.

Where I live - Eltham, southeast London - the story is almost identical, although featuring a Labour incumbent.

Clive Efford won the seat in Blair’s 1997 landslide and has held it ever since.

Last time round, in 2017, Mr Efford won 25,000 votes on a turnout of 46,000 - also a 55% vote share - beating the Tory candidate by a comfortable 7,000 votes.

I applaud Mr Efford’s bold rescue of the Samuel Montague Youth Club, and his valiant defence of the Eltham-Victoria train service, but I shall not be voting for him because, basically, he is Labour and I am a liberal.

Like Sir Mike, no-one seriously believes Mr Efford will lose his seat. There is no political campaigning round here.

I imagine there isn't much campaigning in Hemel Hempstead either.

Sadly, like my former colleague, my democratic interests would be better served by peeing out the window than dashing out of the office early to catch a late train home in order to vote for an election of which we can already predict the outcome.

Millions of people around the country - indeed, most of them - live in similar democratic circumstances.

Politicians fret - well, not Tory politicians - over how to increase political participation and voter turnout.

Yet surely the reason people are disengaged is because if they hold views that diverge from entrenched and complacent incumbents - local or national - then it’s really not worth their while going to the effort of voting.

Why would you bother, faced with the dispiriting reality that British election winners don’t even need a majority of the nation’s backing - or anything like it - to win carte blanche to run the country as they see fit for five years.

They are free to disregard the views and aspirations of most citizens.

I studied politics at university, was a journalist for many years, still read and watch news voraciously, and even I am on the fence about bothering to vote.

Why would those who are much less engaged than me be any more likely to take time out of their busy lives to put a pointless little cross on a ballot paper.

If not voting, what else? Take to the streets? Maybe. At least someone might notice. Or campaign for an overhaul of the system. Safer. I'm plumping for writing about the whole sorry state of affairs.

I shall vote, but only because I already have the day off and it will be a nice excuse to get out of the house with the baby.

I hope it doesn't rain.

My friend ought not to bother, although if he really must, the 20:54 from Euston gets into Hemel Hempstead at 21:20.


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