I've got my ballot paper. It's a postal vote, because we won't be here on 6th May, for obvious reasons. So I've got it. Ready for my cross...
And I'd actually, if the truth be told, rather not have to use it. In fact, I'm rather hoping it might get lost in the move. Last election I was disenfranchised (long story involving another house move and general incompetence) and I was actually entirely happy about it. If nothing else, it was a great way of getting canvassers off the doorstep.
But this is awful. And bad. And irresponsible. And just plainly, simply, wrong. And I know it. Women didn't chain themselves to lampposts or fling themselves in front of horses so that I could sit here with a ballot paper wishing it away.
But it's hard isn't it? I can't help but notice that the blog posts I've read urging me to vote, and impressing on me the importance of exercising my democratic right have mostly been from those who are out of the country; or are here, but aren't from here, so can't vote. British-born-and-based bloggers (of the non-overtly political variety clearly - and I can't say I read many of those) have been remarkably silent on the event that is taking up all the news space and I can't help but wonder if that's because it's not just me that is rather wishing that none of this was happening. Which is interesting given that this is allegedly the "mumsnet election".
Is this apathy? I had a post in my head when the election was called that was going to be entitled "Apathetic and ashamed". But the thing is I don't think I am apathetic. I'm not indifferent to the result of the election. I know how important this is. And that's why it scares me.
Because there isn't a party that will do what I want it to do. There isn't a party that can do what I want it to do. Because I want everything to be fair, and equal, and innocently sweetness and light and skip through the daisies...
Let's accept, for the sake of argument, that this is the "mumsnet election" and that the only issue that matters is the work/stay at home question. Now clearly, I think mothers should have the right to work. I think it's important that women should have time off to have babies and should then be able to go back to work and have the support of their employers in doing so. I think that employers should have to make allowances for the impossible juggling act that is being a working mum. This is, to me, so obvious as almost to not need saying. So clearly I'm going to vote for a party that makes this possible.
But then I also have friends who run small businesses. I have friends who run charities. Who employ working mothers and women on maternity leave. And I therefore understand that the issue isn't utterly clear cut. To be honest, I'm not sure I'd have been very happy employing me over the last three years - although clearly I'm glad they had to...
So how do you square that circle? You can't. Because you can't make everything fair for everyone. Because, as my granny, and my mum, and doubtless me just as soon as my girls are old enough to complain about it, would say: life isn't fair. And wishing won't make it so; and political parties, however well intentioned (and that assumes that you think they are) certainly can't.
Or what about education? The three main parties have lots of interesting options on education. But what none of them is saying is "We're going to make all the schools excellent. We're not going to give you a choice, because you won't need it. Your local school will be excellent, with excellent facilities and spaces for all the local children, whether born here or recently arrived." Because they can't. There isn't the money.
And those are just two of the impossible things I want the party who wins the election to do. And if I accept that the party who can do those things doesn't exist, who then do I vote for? Because I have to vote, and not just because it is my civic, and female, duty. If I, educated (once upon a time) and intelligent (ditto), don't vote, then I'm giving more weight to the vote of someone who might not be either of those things. And who might vote for someone I really don't like.
Clearly what I should do is to download all the manifestos, read them and make an excel spreadsheet (or something) of what they're all going to do, and then weigh up my decision carefully, probably using a ratings system to rank the importance of each issue. With graphs. But I'm not going to. I've got a house move to organise and three children to entertain throughout it. It's not going to happen. Let's be honest, I haven't even watched either of the debates yet (they're taped...what's the betting we won't actually get round to watching them until after the election?!). Even if I could create a lovely spreadsheet, how do I decide whether education is more important to me than health, or the environment more important than flexible working rights?
Anyway, isn't it all about the economy, stupid? But when it comes to the economy, I am stupid. And surely in order to analyse who I think is going to be best for the economy, I'd need to know what I think is going to be best for the economy. And if I could do that, I'd be standing for election myself, and then the decision on who to vote for would be easy.
So my decision will inevitably end up being framed by my perceptions of the parties and what they stand for (almost certainly out of date), the paper that I pretend to read at the weekend (woolly liberal, and anyway, I'm not sure how much help the magazine and the family section are going to be on this one), and a quick skim through the leaflets that drop through my door (mostly local, and therefore pretty irrelevant for someone who is going to be living 400 miles away by the time the election comes round).
And on that basis I stand a pretty good chance of voting for a party who doesn't actually stand for anything I care about. And is that not worse than not voting at all?
Addendum (in order to give credit where it's due) .... the bloggers in question were Heather at Notes from Lapland, Iota Manhattan, and Heather at Eggs, Cream and Honey. Fascinating posts, and awesome bloggers all.
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