The Floating Voter
The General Election was once more
approaching. Having fought in the Second World War, I realise the
importance of democracy, and I always champion this principle by
voting. Nevertheless, in recent times, the cynicism of
politicians and the similarity of party policies have left me
unable to pick a candidate. I have, therefore, formulated a
random selection method for use on ballot days.
As I later discovered, history and computer
science had conspired to make this an unusual election.
Successive governments had redrawn political boundaries to
maximise safe seats and minimise the number of marginal
constituencies. To the surprise of all, however, the computer
software which identified voting intentions of constituents,
revealed that only one marginal remained. Furthermore, the safe
seats were exactly divided between the main parties - the vote
here at Barchester-in-the-Marsh would decide the government.
This explained why three party battlebusses
arrived in our village, though did not explain why they all
parked outside my cottage. Nor did it explain why the leaders of
the parties each invited me to dinner in order to explain the
detail of their policies.
The Prime Minister and I had probably
consumed one too many bottles of claret when he let slip that I
was the only undecided voter in our equally divided constituency
- my vote would therefore decide the government. Perhaps I was
equally unwise to disclose, under pressure from Jeremy Paxman on
the news analysis programme, Newsnight, that my final decision
would be made by Mavis.
Mavis and George live on a small island in
the middle of the river that flows through our village. I have
enjoyed watching their progress over the years. I have taken
almost as much pleasure in the hatching of their cygnets as I had
in the birth of my own children all those years ago. In winter, I
always ensure they have food. Since my dear wife, Florrie, died,
I have thought of them, in some ways, as my family.
Every day I walk to the river to see them.
Sometimes Mavis is on her island. Sometimes she is nearer the
left bank, and sometimes she is nearer the right bank. There is
no pattern, and so her location when I pass on my way to the
polling station dictates my vote. Right for Conservative, left
for Labour and the island for Liberal Democrat.
As I approached the river on the day of the
election, there was clearly some confusion. The Labour and
Conservative leaders stood on their respective banks with their
opposition colleague rowing towards the island - each with a
large bag of cake crumbs. Confusion had arisen as George, Mavis
and one of their older offspring were all present and,
coincidentally, occupying the three key locations. As I walked
away, it was clear that only I knew which had been Mavis - or
Dame Mavis as she now is. I insisted that the new Prime Minister
ensure her a place in the House of Lords - or be excluded from
the next contest.