Having cast my vote a week ago via postal ballot, I can now relax and ignore the rest of the campaign. Indeed, I don’t intend to give the election much further thought until Thursday night, when the excitement of the old swingometer will certainly have our household glued to the telly till dawn.
This early decision doesn’t mean I’m not taking the election seriously. I knew long ago who I would vote for and that my decision would be completely unaffected by the antics of the big three slugging it out on the TV debates. My vote is my own decision rather than an echo of my parents’ political views. And there has never been any danger of my failing to vote at all. I truly value my democratic right, and for this I have my grandmother to thank.
I first became politically aware – or at least aware of the voting system – when I was still at primary school. What child could fail to be won over by the principle of democracy if it meant their school would be closed for the day to be used as a polling station?
From the ages of 5 to 11, I spent every school dinner time with my grandmother. I am perpetually grateful to her for rescuing me from the horrors of school dinners, substituting her proper home-cooked Lancashire hot pot and gooseberry pie for their compulsory beetroot and glutinous rice pudding. Grandma was a huge influence on me, shaping many of my characteristics such as a life-long love of BBC Radio 4 panel games and a killer skill at Scrabble. She was also a patient fielder of my incessant questions.
“So who are you going to vote for, Grandma?” I asked her when the election was brewing.
I was taken aback when my ever generous, indulgent Grandma refused to tell me. Instead she gave me an impassioned lecture about it being a woman’s right to make her own decision and keep it secret. She wasn’t even going to tell Grandpa.
It wasn’t until much later, when studying early 20th century history at school, that I realised why Grandma so treasured her vote and the privacy of the polling booth. Born in 1900, she was old enough to be aware of the Edwardian Suffragette movement. Grandma was an impressionable 13 when Emily Davison was trampled by the King’s horse during her infamous pro-suffragette protest at the Epsom Derby. For Grandma, turning 18 didn’t entitle her to vote: in 1918, only women aged 30 or over were entitled to vote. She had to wait until she was 28 for women to gain the right to vote on the same terms as men. No wonder she guarded her democratic right so carefully.
I’m pleased to say my six-year-old daughter is also taking her political rights seriously.
“Can we have a ‘Win with Webb’ sign for our garden too, Mummy?” she asked, as the orange diamonds started to appear in gardens around the village. (The rather wonderful Steve Webb is our local MP – and long may he remain so.)
Though I have a feeling that if there’d been a party with pink as its colour, she might have changed her allegiance. Now there’s a way to secure the women’s vote. (Not.)
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