Today is Election Day.
I have no idea who will be in charge of the government tomorrow. We might not know for several weeks.
This is what I am sure about. I am sure that there won’t be soldiers on the streets. I’m pretty sure that there won’t be bombs or missiles fired. I’m pretty sure that life for those of us who aren’t MP’s or journalists will go on as normal.
Something extraordinary is happening though, because today, I will go and exercise my right to vote and I get a say in who runs the country.
It’s not something I take for granted. Universal suffrage in the United Kingdom didn’t exist until 1928. The first general election where every adult (aged 21 and over) with citizenship could vote regardless of sex and wealth was on May 30th, 1929. It’s still within living memory, my grandparents were 17 and 15 at that election, so it might seem like something we’ve always had but it’s not. The right to vote, to choose your government is a rare thing, even now and it’s not just the right to vote that we take for granted, it’s the peaceful transfer of power.
Think about all the countries where elections are either non existent, where only some people are deemed worthy of the right to vote, or where an election can kick off into something else entirely. (In no particular order, Saudi, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Libya, Kenya, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Hong Kong, China, Sudan – and that’s just off the top of my head)
People died so I could vote. People are still dying so that they can do what I will do today, decide who makes the laws that govern us.
It’s a rare gift we’ve been given, simply by the circumstances of the place and age we were born into, but the truth is that democracy doesn’t work, unless the voters do.
So if you have the right to vote in this General Election, you can. You can choose not to vote today. You can decide that all politicians are the same and you won’t bother. Or you could go and vote, even if spoil your ballot paper, even if you despair about the state of the country.
Go and say thank you to all the people that came before you and the work they did that made a General Election and the peaceful transfer of power from one government to another, no big deal.