I am delighted to report that I have finally voted in my first election here in the UK. I would’ve preferred to vote in London’s mayoral election, however, as I’ve not been resident in London for nearly two years now, that simply wasn’t possible. But I was allowed to vote in the Bristol mayoral election, which was quite exciting.
When I registered to vote I wasn’t entirely sure they’d let me, being as I am foreign. But apparently that’s not a problem since I’ve been living here for long enough. Though, I must admit: I didn’t register so I could vote in the mayoral election, I registered so I could vote in the EU referendum. I’m still not entirely sure I can do that, but at least I’m on the poll list, or whatever it’s called. I’m looking into it though, just to confirm, because that’s the vote that I’m really worried about.
I was, as The Mom rightly attests, quite keen to vote for the guy who wears the red pants. As the Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson was described to me. And in all fairness, in every photo of him I’ve seen (and there haven’t been that many) he’s been wearing red trousers. That’s how people know him here. Guy with red trousers – he must be the mayor. Which I quite like. I like a charismatic mayor. I mean, I know Boris is a bit of a buffoon, and the foolishness he’s been spouting of late regarding the UK being just fine out of the EU is beyond ridiculous, but I have to give him credit where credit is due: he may be a buffoon, but he is entertaining and can always be counted on to say soothing provocative. And you know him when you see him. The crazy hair, on a bicycle, yup, it’s Boris.
Voting is something that’s important to me – it’s something I think we should talk about in Rememberance Day ceremonies. Because I don’t think people take it seriously enough these days. There are people literally dying to come to the UK to take advantage of the democracy here (which is of course not perfect because the Tories are making some terriblee choices, but you know, they’re not dictators) and to me to not vote is to give all the people fleeing injustice, persecution, and the many despots a big two fingers up. It’s our duty to vote, a moral obligation, the price we pay to live in a democratic system (leaving apart the minor bit about the Queen).
And I have to say, I felt I had slightly more skin in the game as a resident of the UK having been allowed to vote this time around. And it made up – sort of but not quite – for the fact that I wasn’t allowed to vote in Canada’s most recent election because the outgoing PM was a bit of a tit and decided that if you don’t live here you don’t have enough skin in the game. There was a time when I felt completely stateless, unable to vote anywhere.
But never mind, that time has passed.
The day of the voting, I proudly showed off my poll card at my office whereupon I was informed that I didn’t really need to take it, advice which was quickly followed up with this: oh, but as you’re foreign probably best take it along. My colleague then informed me I wasn’t going to just be voting for the mayor but also some local heads of police, and some council members. Now, I must admit, I didn’t do much in the way of due diligence. I met the Labour chaps who’d come knocking on my door and they were alright if lacklustre. The Tories, thankfully, didn’t darken my door. Didn’t hear much from the LibDems either. So I was on my own. Mostly I had the sense the Red Pants Mayor hadn’t put the city in ruin, so I felt that would be okay. Since it was my first time voting here, I didn’t want to do anything fancy.
However, when my colleague told me that there would be other questions requiring my opinion I got a bit concerned.
“What will I do?” I asked. “I can’t just randomly pick someone. What if it’s a really close vote and I accidentally elect some UKIP nutter?” That is a very real and concerning possibility.
“Spoil your ballot,” she suggested.
Which is what I did. But I was very proud at having gone — though I think the people who received me were less excited. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have a democratic system in Canada (say what you will about the Harper years).
So I’ve got a bit of time yet to figure out if I’m signed up to vote in the EU referendum and I’ll be studying up properly for that one. I’ve signed up to go to a free lecture and discussion about it. But when I go to vote – hopefully – I shall still be quite proud that I am fulfilling my duty as a good citizen and having my say.