Choosing the future

If the extraordinary events across the political landscape of England last week have demonstrated anything, it is that there is no such this as a vote that does not count.

I am not sure if it will ever become clear how many of the ‘Leave’ votes were protest votes, lodged to send the government a message and fire a missile across its bows. What we do know is that the missile landed against all expectations and that has resulted in the PM’s resignation, a vicious betrayal by one of the two leaders of the leave campaign in the subsequent leadership contest, and the total collapse of the opposition cabinet as the party lost confidence in its leader.

Whatever the outcome, it is just possible that once the results from the PM’s resignation in the UK and the up and coming  election in the USA are known, that we will have two female leaders on either side of the pond.

Today was Election Day in Australia. In WA, we have a state election looming, but for today, it was all about the Feds. A few years ago, Australian politics went through a farcical swing door phase, where the prime ministership seemed to be treated like some sort of realty TV show. In a series of events that I thought only possible in Australia, until I watched last week at Westminster, the Prime Minster, Kevin Rudd, who had been elected by a strong majority, was knifed by his party and his deputy who replaced him after a late night coup. Voters do not like treachery, and her star very quickly began to plummet. With an election ahead, the party panicked again and Rudd challenged and was reinstated. Back stab, counter back stab and blood on the floor: voters kicked the party out in the following election despite the awkward leader of the victorious Liberal party, who seemed to open his mouth only to put his foot in it. In just under a year, he was kicked out by a member of his cabinet following yet another leadership challenge. I think Australia has had  five Prime Minsters in the last six years.

So after walking the dogs today, I took myself down the road to the local library to vote. In Australia, voting is compulsory and I normally lodge my vote at the local primary school just over a mile a away. I walk the dogs there, tie them up in the playground with some snacks and water and then do what I have to do.

Today, though, I was worried about my knee and its ability to behave on a longer walk, so thought I would pop down the road to the library, which I imagined was closer and fill out my ballot paper.

My knee started hurting almost immediately after leaving the house and pretty much doubled the 15 minute walk to the library. Lots of people had walked their dogs down to the library, but I am glad I left mine at home as there was nowhere to tie them up within eyeshot while voting. Long queues, how to vote cards and many people, it seemed, like me not one hundred percent certain of who they were keen to support. The electorate I live in is considered a safe seat for labour, and it would be easy to think that my vote would not matter one way or the other, but after making my selections for both the lower and upper houses, and taking the time to vote for twelve individuals in the senate rather than 6 parties, I felt at least I had thrown in my two cents’ worth in.

I used to be outraged that voting was compulsory in Australia. I used to believe it was my democratic right not to vote, and in fact, you can techincally do that by spoiling your voting slip. Maybe because I am older now, or perhaps because I believe there is no point in whining about an outcome your refused to participate in helping to make, I have changed my mind. What never changes, though, is the endless rhetoric and sniping that we have to endure by campaigning politicians who never seem to learn that the public want answers to questions, not monotonous repetition of policies will dodging the issue.

I limped home via the pharmacy, where I bought some strong pain killers and swallowed them down en route with a bottle of water that I also bought. All in all it had taken me just under two hours to fulfill my democratic obligation, but whoever wins today – and by the look of the results coming in from around the country as I type this, it is going to be a close thing – I am going to seriously look into buying a bicycle.


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