Decisions are taken by those who show up. Actions speak louder than words. Talk is cheap – as a glimpse at Twitter, Instagram or Facebook will tell you every day of the year. But today is different. Today is a day in the UK when talking and acting – words and deeds – can come together in the most simple, powerful way.
Taking that piece of paper from one of your neighbours, who are themselves a living, breathing example of Britain’s commitment to democracy, stepping inside the voting booth, lifting a pencil and marking a cross next to a name to choose your MP, your government, your prime minister, your future.
If you are cynical about this take a look at what they do in China when the British or US elections are on; they hold mock elections and election parties; dreaming that one day they would get to hold this power in their hands. Look back at the images from South Africa in 1994 – look at the faces of the black South Africans queuing for hours and hours to vote, over three days, and think again about your cynicism.
I have been voting in elections for 21 years and still find the experience deeply moving. I had the immense privilege of standing for election in 2010 and the humbling experience of people putting their cross next to my name but there is no greater privilege than the ability to exercise a choice, freely and fairly. It still gives me goosebumps.
We have started to make it into a family event – and we’re getting plenty of practise after the four outings we’ve had in two years (two generals, a mayoral and EU referendum). Miss J gets to help fold the ballot paper and post it into the box for “Postman Pat to collect”. It is a little early to talk to her about the sacred responsibility we all have and that she has in particular to honour the memory of heroes like Emily Davison (who died 104 years ago today – as mentioned in my post from Saturday about the Epsom Derby). But it’s not too early to introduce the idea that every so often we get to choose someone to work for us; to help us make our communities a better place; to help other people.
I didn’t grow up in an overtly political house but my parents always voted and we always had the news on and newspapers lying around, even if more often than not it was The Daily Mail! Miss J is growing up in a political house, surrounded by political books, pictures and political chat from two parents who share values if not always the same voting intentions. Two parents who have spent much of their life working in and with Westminster. Two parents who studied politics and government throughout their life.
We take very seriously our responsibility to our little girl that she treats voting and politics with the same respect we do. It is still the place – regardless of all the noise and all the ugliness of which there is plenty – where people can come together and change things for the better. Millions of people will prove that today. They will turn up. They will make a decision. They will make a choice. They will make their voices heard. They will make a difference.