Dr. Haider Shah

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance (Plato).

OVER A COFFEE: Voting in the UK elections, The Daily Times, May 16, 2015

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The issue of extremism needed tougher policy initiatives, which one could expect more from a firm leader like David Cameron rather than a lacklustre Ed Miliband
On election day, when I collected my 14-year-old son from his secondary school he asked me about my choice of candidate. I asked for his preference as I had not yet gone to the polling station. He recommended voting for the Conservatives. I enquired about the reason for his opinion and he said, “Labour has wrecked the economy while Conservatives are more prudent.” Despite my left leaning past, I also had similar views about the handling of the economy by Labour and the Conservatives. The Labour government, starting with a surplus budget of £ 0.7 billion in 1998, ended up with £ 156.3 billion when it was ousted by the David Cameron-led coalition in 2010. The deficit has been brought under manageable control with spending cuts to £ 91 billion with a surplus target by 2018-2019. In desperate economic circumstances, difficult decisions have to be taken. To me, the Labour party lacked the capacity to make such decisions as it aims at making everyone happy with ever-increasing spending. Similarly, the issue of extremism also needed tougher policy initiatives, which one could expect more from a firm leader like David Cameron rather than a lacklustre Ed Miliband, the Labour leader who resigned after election defeat.
After dropping my son home, I drove to the railway station at 5 pm to collect my wife who had gone to London to attend a dentistry course. The polling time was till 10 pm so we both decided to drive straight to the polling station. The election office of the local authority sends a polling card to all registered voters, which informs them about the polling station where they can cast their votes. We had also received the letters but had misplaced them so were not sure about our polling station. As I had seen a polling station notice outside a nearby local community hall I drove straight there. There were a few cars parked outside and some men and women could be seen taking the polling card inside. We were greeted at the door by a lady who directed us to go inside the hall. In the centre of the hall there were two tables on which the election staff, comprising two men and two women, was seated. We told them that we did not have the polling card so they enquired about our address. We were told that we had come to the wrong polling station. One of the people from the polling staff happily helped us find the right polling station after consulting a list of address-wise polling stations.
The correct polling station was at a walking distance from our residence. When we reached there, the situation was not much different. In a very quiet environment, one presiding officer sat with a lady clerk. We were asked about our names and address. The presiding officer checked his voters’ list and, after finding our names, put a tick against them and asked the clerk to give us the ballot papers. The lady wrote down the serial numbers of our ballot papers on a list with a pencil and gave us three ballot papers of three different colours. We took the ballot papers to a nearby table where a notice advised us to put a cross against the name of the candidate that we wanted to vote for. When I opened the three ballot papers it transpired that the white one was for parliamentary elections while the other two were for local authority elections. I must confess that I had no idea I would be voting for local authority elections as well. I put a cross first for the parliamentary candidates’ ballot paper and then put crosses on the other two ballot papers as well. After marking the ballot papers I put them inside the ballot box that was lying in front of the presiding officer. The whole process took about five minutes and, interestingly, no one asked us for proof of identity of any kind.
While walking back home my wife told me that she had also voted for the Conservative candidate as she thought that a Conservative government would be better for hard working professionals. Election time ended at 10 pm and within minutes television channels declared Conservatives to be the winner with a clear majority. I could not help but think that just as Imran Khan had accused a private television network of rigging the elections, the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, could have staged a dharna (sit-in) in London accusing Sky channel of rigging as it had declared the result even before a single constituency result had been officially compiled. The social media hype made many believe that Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) would lay the foundation of a naya (new) UK. In the end, his party only got one seat while he lost to a Conservative candidate. Nigel too could stage a dharna in London.

Author: Dr. Haider Shah

Academic, Researcher and Writer

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