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The queue on polling day


  • Communities
  • Institutional reform
  • Social justice

The ceremony of voting is a majestic thing. Those polling stations with the booths, places of solitude where you are faced with your philosophical essence, are all part of the democratic theatre. Every adult walks in as an equal and out again the same.

Already at 7am this morning there was a queue of a dozen or so outside my local polling station. Everyone waited patiently, almost in contemplation. The clerks were busying themselves trying to get things right from the off. We all started filing through.

Then two city workers arrived- a couple. They complained about the wait- loudly. They said to the senior registrar they had a meeting to get to and could they jump in. They were told they couldn't. They then complained that the elderly gentleman on walking sticks was too slow - in his ear shot. They complained that the clerk was too slow - in his ear shot. They complained that everything was a 'shambles'. It wasn't.

There is an oft-repeated lament in the tabloid press about an entitlement culture. They are normally referring to the least well off. Well, it seems to me that the entitlement culture is alive and well. But it's the most privileged who are more afflicted with it.

The point of democracy, no the beauty and elegance of democracy, is that it socially strips us all down. No longer are we rich and poor, well or less well educated, one identity or another, we are all citizens. We are equal and we are powerful. Elsewhere in the world, even in societies such as the US, queues on polling day, hours long, are used to deny and dispossess. This queue was a beautiful reminder of the moment.

So get in line. Savour it. Let your stubby pencil do the talking and give your mouth and entitlement a rest. This is a glorious moment and it's precious; one of the few times in a deeply divided society we can act together. And it's marvellous.

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