The power of the pencil

Today is polling day in Britain. It is a fallow year for local elections in the Leeds area as we have a Medieval agrarian voting system of electing a third of the Councillors every year then having a year to recover, such is the effort required. We get to vote for six MEPs though, out of a total of 72 to the twelve EU Regions that make up what we (but the EU don’t) call England.

We had a selection of leaflets through the door from six parties (from Labour, Conservative, Liberal-Democrat, BNP, Greens and UKIP) but on examining the candidate list ont’ ‘interweb I saw that there were actually twelve parties standing with a total of sixty nine candidates (one new party only fielded three names, although it is possible that this is not for financial reasons as apparently the deposit is £5,000 for an individual OR a party).

Anyway, no further leaflets being forthcoming, I thought I’d just do a bit of web sniffing about the various remaining parties, describing themselves as  Pro democracy:Libertas.eu, No2EU: Yes to democracy, Jury Team, English Democrats “putting England first”, Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship” and Socialist Labour Party (LEADER ARTHUR SCARGILL). (Actually, I didn’t bother with the last two, God botherers and Weetabix wearers don’t float my boat).

 As I worked through the sites, it was apparent that none of them were by any stretch of the imagination libertarian. Socialist, or righteous, certainly and often Eurosceptic to some degree, but often somewhat single issue. A look at the candidate biographies was often revealing as well, one lead candidate looked rather shifty to me and hunches are what we use for initial judgement.

I then took a closer look at the Jury Team. I have been following http://wwwthepartysover.blogspot.com on Google reader for a few months now and their view of individuals as independents over political parties is a one that certainly resonates. Indeed I put forward such a position before I stood on Morley Town Council and for a period, the collective individualism was an effective force. (Alas, that was frittered away once a party of independents was formalised and they got the whips out…)

So, having got past the front page, I checked out the three Yorkshire candidates, but alas, I found them wanting in various ways. They weren’t likely to rein in the EU Superstate,  their backgrounds weren’t particularly ordinary, their road maps were certainly not about rolling back the State , they didn’t even appear to acknowledge the iniquitous system, namely the 27 unelected Commissioners who actually made the 75% of law imposed upon us from their star chamber rather than the 785 MEP’s of the Europarl who merely tinkered with it.

My default is generally UKIP for the EU (or not bothering at all) but in many ways they appear to be  a bunch of cowboys who seem to forget their prime mission when the wheelbarrows of SISO cash become on offer once they make it to Brussels (or Strasbourg). It is probably the most pertinent protest vote though (other than the “don’t vote for the big three” or “anyone but Labour” which is more of a British protest vote, not really what Europe is about).

I saw the following quote on Facebook today and thought that the person who said it did have something of a point:

…trying to choose a political party in this country is like choosing which paedophile I’d like to dress as a clown for my children’s birthday party. 

So, visiting the polling station this morning, I was still in two minds. UKIP or Noneoftheabove? Or indeed something else?

On arriving at the polling booth at about 7:25, I noted that I was the fifth person to vote in my Ward. (That might indicate a big increase in turnout, often I’m the first!). The ballot paper was pretty big, about A4 width but A3 length. (I was advised that I had to fold it twice afterwards so that it would fit in the ballot box).

The polling booth had a sign saying something to the effect of:-  “you have one vote- vote for a party or a person”, but I couldn’t vote for a person as they were all grouped together against their party. (Some places today do actually have independents standing but it is a high bar to clear for an individual unless (s)he is very flush).

I looked at the form, appraising the open spaces for writing in the spoilit party. Then I remembered what seems to happen to spoilt ballots at the count. They provide a source of mild amusement to the counting assistant depending on the sophistication of the message. They are seperated off for a cursory look by the returning officer’s sidekick and any possible but ambiguous ones are discussed with the candidates concerned (where the indication of the voter is mostly clear but it might be technically incorrect by having ticks, or perhaps extra crosses with some scribbled out). Otherwise the spoilt papers are counted  and logged then generally unreported by the media, sometimes not even published properly by the Councils unless pressed.

Of course, if vast numbers of people spoilt their paper that would be news…

Anyway, in the end, I held my nose and crossed the bottom box for UKIP.

It turns out that lots of people have been contacting UKIP because the polling clerks have been handing out the ballot sheets folded and the voters haven’t realised that UKIP were on the bit folded over at the back, rather than missing. A bizarre story and the comments over at Iain Dale’s place on this reflect a wide range of opinions, although mostly erring on voter stupidity.

I have to say that my ballot form wasn’t folded at all so I had no trouble finding them, but I don’t think that the clerks should be folding them when they hand them out.

Update: The Beeb has the story (and a picture of a folded ballot paper). Is it just me, or is the way it is folded rather odd? That might be how you fit it in an envelope using a machine, but you either third or quarter it in normal circumstances. I suspect that they might have had to bring out more ballot boxes during the day to some polling stations as well because it would get increasingly harder to get those folded pieces of paper through the slot.

4 Replies to “The power of the pencil”

  1. Antony- well, you would say that, wouldn’t you!

    My first choice would be a Libertarian Party candidate but failing that, a libertarian Tory would do.

  2. I always wondered why that phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” wasn’t replaced by the pencil, at least with the pencil you don’t have to refill

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