With the United Kingdom due to celebrate another General election in a trifle over three months, there has been something of a fuss today over getting people to sign onto the electoral roll. Those not on the electoral role can’t vote. (They also may not be called to do jury duty. There are a few other disadvantages as well.)
Registering to vote can be done at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and as Governments can be – regrettably – sort of important things it is highly recommended that anyone entitled to register does so (over 16 and a suitable sort of citizen being the main qualifications). A helpful information pack on how to get people to register to vote has been produced by the Electoral Commission (which details what a suitable sort of citizen probably looks like on Page 3, in place of the picture of a nude Acting Returning Officer that one of their media consultants wanted to include).
There is also a massive great website at AboutmyVote.co.uk which those who want it all to be nice and simple may prefer to ignore. Particularly since it is nice and simple:
- you register (with 1 National Insurance number, 1 Date of Birth, 1 Name and 1 Address).
- After the election is officially called you get sent a polling card telling you where to go to vote and when plus lots of contradictory and somewhat partisan guidance in various colours on who to vote for.
- Eventually you tottle round to the place mentioned on your polling card at a convenient moment on the day, take a voting slip and put a pencil cross on the voting slip against the name of the person who you think will best represent your interests in Parliament.
- The voting slip is then placed in a box, taken away and spends the night with lots of other slips being counted.
- The person in your area who is most successful at getting people to come out and place crosses against their name wins.
- A couple of days later they go off to Westminster and begin the job of representing your interests, whether or not you voted for them.
If you do not wish to vote, there is no particular need to register to do so – so long as you have no fundamental problem with potentially being fined £80 for non-compliance. (This is one of those penalties that mass failure to comply with won’t particularly affect, as the authorities will simply randomly fine people not complying £80 until everyone gets bored.)
Voting is not compulsory in the UK. Many people do not consider it worthwhile – and, indeed, if you can tick all the options listed below, it is not really worth your while doing so. (If you cannot tick all of them, you may wish to find a political party which agrees with you on a few key points and vote for them. Some people of presumably reasonably normal and open-minded interests have joined UKIP in support of their animal rights policies, such as they are policies and not unintended consequences.)
It does not particularly matter which way your opinion swings on each point – there are enough political parties about now that someone will probably agree with you to some degree on either side of any argument. What matters is whether you might have an opinion or if a Government formed as a result of this election might do something which affects a point of your life that concerns you.
So – these options – tick all that apply:
- You are not planning on travelling anywhere, whether to the Maldives, work or the kebab place round the corner;
- You are not of any opinion regarding how this travelling should be done, if at all, how comfortable it should be or how much it should cost;
- You are not employed or planning to become employed;
- You are not seeking some form of support while remaining unemployed;
- You are not planning, whether employed or not, to go on holiday at some point;
- You are not expecting to suffer any form of injury or ill-health;
- You are not expecting to need any form of care or support for any form of condition, now or in the future;
- You are not concerned about the supply of food or water in this country, where it comes from, who provides it, how naturally and in what way;
- You are not concerned about the availability of electricity, gas or oil;
- You do not worry where our current raw materials for energy production, like coal, gas and oil, are coming from;
- You are not in any form of education, funding anyone who is being educated or reliant on having educated people around;
- You have no particular opinion on the countryside and what we should do with it;
- You are not worried about the affordability of property;
- You are not bothered by planning rules or restrictions;
- You are not worried about what we should, might or could be building around the country in the way of homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals and other key national infrastructure projects;
- You are not worried about how we might wish to pay for any of the items listed under point 15;
- You do not mind if things are paid for, if they are not or if we have any system of money at all;
- You are not planning on buying anything which may in any way be subject to taxation (beer duty, Value Added Tax, petrol duty);
- You do not pay any other taxes;
- You do not mind who else pays taxes;
- You have no concerns about the National Debt, annual deficit or anything else much connected with Government finances;
- You are not interested in all the fuss about banks and what they do with money;
- You are not bothered about the defence of the realm;
- You are not concerned about threats, real or imagined, on either side of the argument, which may be rising up in this part or other parts of the world;
- You are not worried about crime levels;
- You do not mind what happens to people alleged to be involved in crime, what happens to them once they have been deemed to be involved in crime or indeed what constitutes a crime in the first place;
- You are not worried about the operation of the legal system or personal rights and responsibilities;
- You have no opinion on marriage, who should be allowed to get married, under what circumstances and of which genders, if any;
- You have no especially strong feelings on animal rights;
- You have no especial opinion on whether people from other countries should be able to come to the UK, how long they should be allowed to stay (if at all), what obligations should be placed on them during their stay and what should happen should the Government wish to serve them with an eviction notice or if the Government should be allowed to do so;
- You never worry yourself about whether or not we should be funding these other countries, how we should be funding them or what they should be doing with the funding;
- You do not find global warming and the Government’s response (such as it may be) to be a concern;
- You are not worried about wind turbines, fields of solar panels or coal and oil emissions;
- You have great difficulty understanding all the fuss about whether street lights should be on or not;
- You do not mind where things for sale in the shops, in mail order catalogues, in the darkest recesses of shopping websites or to major industries like health and the railways were manufactured or who by;
- You are not interested in attempts to whip up a debate on the European Union;
- You do not watch the television or mind what you watch thereon;
- You are not bothered about internet access, what is available on the internet or how people behave while on there;
- You have no fundamental interest in the radio;
- You are not interested in the origin of this radio, internet or televisual content and whether any or all of it is provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation;
- You pay no attention to the world of music, computer games, films or other such creative media;
- You do not mind what you can read, be it the works of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare or Lawrence Durrell, the third page of the Sun, any other tabloid newspaper possibly containing revelations of certain interest and legality or this blog;
- You do not mind what you are able to say in public, how loudly you are allowed to say it, whether it may be allowed to be derogatory about anyone or what rules and regulations may govern if anyone can write it down and place it on file to be held against you later, with or without you being told if it is being recorded, where or for what purpose and if it is or is not subsequently being held against you;
- You are not interested in history or culture, like bank holidays, religious or temporal festivals and the upkeep of museums, art galleries, libraries or the Royal Opera House;
- You do not mind if you will be allowed to vote in the future, whether or not you are allowed to become involved in any body expressing any thoughts that you may wish to align yourself with, if you are consulted on anything else and, if you are, on what you are to be consulted;
- You do not mind if Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, Yorkshire or Essex decide to become separate countries, whether or not you are consulted on this or what may be offered to them to persuade them not to go;
- You do not mind if the Government increases or decreases its involvement in your life or the life of anyone else;
- You also have no opinion on whether the Government should own or operate key parts of the creative, industrial, banking or transport industries, if there should be a central health service free at the point of use or if Tesco should be nationalised;
- You do not mind if the Government which intends to have the most impact on your day-to-day life is predominantly based in Westminster, Whitehall, Brussels, Strasbourg, the Vatican City, Canterbury, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Washington D.C., your local major city or the nearest town hall;
- You are not overly worried, after due consideration of the current situation in Syria, about the stability of the country vis-a-vis riots, revolts and bin collections.
It would probably be overly offensive to suggest that anyone who can tick all of these options may possibly be dead (and being dead is not always an impediment to a vote being cast in your name should you possibly still have an opinion on something despite being dead). Everyone else should go out on the 7th of May and vote.