Voice of the Paper: Just make a start, just mark your mark

John Francis
John Francis

It’s a frightening admission to make, but tomorrow marks my 40th anniversary as an engaged citizen.

In the four decades since I was first invited to play my part in the democratic process, I haven’t missed a single vote.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an election for parliament, a local council, Europe, a police commissioner or the parish dog-catcher – if there’s a polling station open, I’m there.

I realise that these days, as voter turnout continues to slide and electoral apathy is a growing issue, I am very much in the minority.

And that’s despite the fact that – much like a punter who shells out for a charity raffle ticket despite realising that they will never win – in all that time I have never seen my chosen candidate for any office elected.

I buy a raffle ticket because I support the cause. I vote because I support the system, because it is the universal opportunity for us to have a say in who is trusted to shape our communities and spend our cash.

There are 70 names on tomorrow’s ballot paper, fewer than 10 are from Herts and none hail from Dacorum. Recent research has indicated that, even if we do vote in a European election, few of us have any idea who has been packed off across the Channel to represent us.

Whether those victors include dedicated public servants who only want to put something back or swivel-eyed chancers keen to get to grips with the intricacies of claiming enormous expenses is ultimately down to us – yet in the seven previous European elections held in the UK, voter turnout has never yet climbed above a pathetic 40 per cent and usually racks up a lack lustre total that means around two in every three people who had the chance to vote simply didn’t bother.

Yet you can be sure that many of those who turned their back on being part of the process have griped about the influence of Europe, and all will be affected by its policies.

The established political classes are in a bit of a panic about tomorrow’s European elections – they fear, perhaps with good reason, that newer, shriller voices will grab a share of the vote large enough to ensure their vehement views are taken more seriously.

Their greater concern should be that, in any election except those for parliament, the clear majority just can’t be bothered to get involved. You can take a small step towards putting that right tomorrow.

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