As my fellow Nigerians mourn the death of their president, (the first time in our history that a president has died in office of natural causes) I’m here in the UK, contemplating whom to vote for.
It’s a serious consideration this time. In 20 years in the UK, I’ve never voted. When someone asked me why, I replied that I could only vote for myself, nobody else can understand my needs as much as I. Besides, even if nobody else trusts me, I trust myself to deliver whatever I can in my interests. But as someone reminded me recently, I may understand myself more than anyone else, but I can’t do anything about it in the huge national picture. What would my understanding do for the NHS, taxes, economy, … lots of things like that.
So, this year, with only a few hours left, I’ve decided to vote, and as I’m not contesting, I won’t be voting for myself. Besides, it’s a right, though some people talk as though it’s a duty. And why should they not, as the election is so closely fought this year. Everyone’s always telling us to vote, otherwise, we lose the right to complain if things don’t go as we planned. But if we vote for the candidate who doesn’t win, we’re in exactly the same position as though we didn’t vote.
No! don’t come up with those arguments, I’ve decided to vote. Next question is for whom? Once, when I asked a candidate to send me his manifesto in braille, he promised to return and I never saw him again. No other candidate has knocked on my door before or since. And I’ve been here for 20 years. I must just be unlucky, judging by what I’ve heard about door-to-door campaigning.
All I’m relying on is what I hear in the national press, and how does that help? The politicians spend as much time talking about the inadequacies of their opponents as they do giving us more and more vague explanations of theirs. In any case, what are the policies? I’ve heard that you can visit some website, write your likes and dislikes and they’d match you up with a party, sort of like a party dating site. A Christian minister (as opposed to the government one) said on radio how a friend was horrified, when he was matched with the BNP. So, I can’t even rely on those either.
But wait! I have two friends who’ve worked with the LDP in two separate constituencies. Maybe I’ll vote LDP then, just as a sympathy vote for my friends who have worked so very hard. There was a time when the LDP vote was considered a tactical one to keep the tories out … but not anymore. This year, they’re serious contenders for government and Nick is probably ironing his suit for the visit to the queen.
And what about Labour. As a blind person, I know what it’s like to say something and have it unexpectedly overheard. If only Gordon had asked me for advice earlier. Maybe I should cast my sympathy vote for him. Poor guy; after 20 minutes with that lady he’d called a bigot, she still said to some journalist that she wouldn’t be voting for anyone. Bad example to someone like me who hasn’t voted in 20 years and is only doing so this year to break the habit. Maybe my vote will replace hers … oh wrong constituency.
Was it a tory activist who was arrested for electioneering fraud the other day? Maybe I should vote for them, I know something about that. It’s always in the news, back in Nigeria. I know I won’t be voting for the BNP, despite their recent announcement that blacks have now been allowed to join the party. How magnanimous of you guys, especially with the wonderful cover up statements I’ve been hearing you make about this reversal in policy. And the smaller parties? Well, all I know is that they’ve spent a bit of time arguing for greater representation in the national television debates. I heard that from the SNP the other day, no doubt others are saying the same things.
Despite the closeness of the race, I gather that 40% of people are like me, undecided. It’s my fault really. The election has crept up on me. I’m always listening to the news, but strangely, I easily get saturated when a news story’s gone on for too long. That’s what’s happened with the elections. But I’ve only got a few hours to decide. Those who don’t read this often won’t even know my worries till it’s too late. Sometime tomorrow, (or if it’s a hung parliament, much later than that) someone will be announcing policies. Will it be my man? I’m off to vote now.
Just one last thought. A friend told me he’d recently been visited by a party door knocker who had confidently asked “so we can count on your vote on Thursday.” My friend had asked in a conspiratorial voice, “can you keep a secret?” to which the door knocker replied “yes”. My friend had then said, “my vote is a secret, that’s why it’s called a secret ballot”.
God bless you as you vote.
So who will take my vote.