Polling Day

At last we’ve reached General Election day and I’ve just been to cast my vote following the guidance I passed on a few days ago. I was going to go this morning but I had a meeting at 9.15am to go to (which went on until 1pm, in fact) and I didn’t get up in time to visit the polling station, even though it’s in a Church Hall only a few hundred yards from my house. When I eventually got there just after 7pm it was still quite busy and I had to queue to get my ballot paper. It was very different during last year’s European elections, where the turnout is always pretty low. I don’t know what the turnout is like this time, but I hope it’s good. I don’t think there’s really any excuse for not voting.

I’ve already explained why I’m not as caught up in the campaigning this time as I have been in previous years, so I doubt if I’ll stay up late to watch the results come in. Polls don’t close until 10pm and until then there’s a blackout of press coverage relating to the vote so there’s nothing to follow until quite late at night, when I’m usually tucked up in bed with my cocoa.  The latest opinion polls suggest that the Conservative Party will get the biggest share of the vote, but it’s not clear if they’ll win a majority of the seats. Nor should they, in fact, even if they get as high a share as the polls suggest (37%) then that’s still far less than the number that didn’t vote for them. Labour and LibDems are together worth about 55%. The likelihood therefore is a hung parliament, at which point we’ll probably find all parties agreeing with each other to the implement massive spending cuts they’ve been carefully keeping from the electorate. It will still be interesting to see how the horse-trading works out over the next few days, but after three weeks of phoney war we’ll soon have to face up to reality. I’m not really looking forward to that.

Anyway, a comment by Keith Ashman on an item I posted a few days ago reminded me that no less than 13 years ago I was actually in Lawrence, Kansas, on polling day. Don’t ask me why. I’d arranged a postal vote, but had to watch the proceedings from afar on the TV. In fact, Keith and his partner decided to hold a party that night in their house and I went along to drink beer while the results came in. Watching a British election from the midwest USA is a bit strange, but it’s improved by the fact that the polls close in the UK at what is early evening Kansas-time and it’s all pretty much over by midnight.

That election I was swept up in the euphoria generated by the prospect of a New Labour government with its slogan “Things can only get better”. When they won a landslide majority we celebrated in grand style, singing Jerusalem in Keith’s back garden and then tottered not too soberly to a tattoo parlour to have a red rose put on my arm.

We had a great time that night, and the good vibes continued after I returned to London from my short stay at the University of Kansas. It didn’t take long, however, for my enthusiasm to wane. Instead of doing the really radical things their large majority would have allowed, they basically pratted about for four years. I’m not saying they didn’t do any good things, but they were so keen to tie everyone up in red tape that the good ideas often came to nothing except frustration. Then of course Blair took us into Iraq and I vowed never again to vote for the Labour Party until it renounced that decision, which I haven’t.

But I’ve still got the red rose tattoo.

5 Responses to “Polling Day”

  1. Adrian Burd Says:

    Keith Ashman? Now there’s a blast from the past!

    I hope things turn out well in the polls.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Peter Coles. Peter Coles said: Polling Day: http://wp.me/pko9D-1vv […]

  3. Mark McCaughrean Says:

    Not someone I think I’ve ever met or been aware of (different field to me), but following his comment on Andy’s blog this week (about his having become a professional poker player), I googled Keith Ashman and was led to this lengthy article from about 7 years ago:


    Out-of-date, to be sure, but good grief. What a boring life I’ve led by comparison. There are parts I’m sneakingly jealous of (I leave it to you to figure out which) and others, err, not.

    In any case, reassuring to know that such larger-than-life astronomical characters still stalk the world … 😉

  4. Adrian Burd Says:

    Astrophysics…..poker….it’s a natural progression.

    I have a musician friend (http://www.darrylpurpose.com/DP/home.html) who was once one of the top blackjack players in the world. Chatting with him is definitely a treat and an eye-opener! Now his life is far more sedate, and he is a great fingerstyle guitarist.


  5. Ah yes… It was a lot easier to be up for Portillo with the 6 hour time difference.

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