This morning I voted in the UK's General Election. I proudly ticked the box for the Labour Party MP standing in my constituency. I wholeheartedly want to see Gordon Brown back in Downing Street tomorrow and rolling his sleeves up ready to fix the economy. He is the only man who can repair the damage done (damage that was not, contrary to uneducated misconception, caused by Labour, but by irresponsible lending on a global scale by credit and mortgage providers).
Anyway, I'm not here to bitch about politics. But voting always makes me feel fortunate. With the electoral system in the UK, whereby you vote for an MP of a party, rather than for the leader themselves, it means some votes effectively count more than others. I am in a constituency that would require a massive swing to take it away from Labour - a Labour safe seat and stronghold, so much so that no other party has actively campaigned within it. This means my vote effectively has less power than were I in a constituency where it's a marginal seat and one party only holds it based on a small majority. But Gordon Brown has promised electoral reform if he gets back in, which will mean a fairer system.
Anyway, I'm going off on one again. The point I was trying to make is that I feel fortunate, however flawed the system, to have the right to tick a box and have my say. My son has been watching the election campaign with interest. The leaders of the three main parties were here in Manchester prior to the first televised debate a couple of weeks ago and one was staying close to where we live. My son watched as he stepped in and out of his car, surrounded by police.
"Why does he need all those police, Dad?"
"He's the Prime Minister. They have to protect him."
"People. People who might want to hurt him because they don't agree with some of the things he's done or said."
"But I don't agree when you send me to bed early when I'm not tired, but I wouldn't hurt you."
Anyhow, it was from that day he started to ask questions and I've explained how it works to him as best I can. I've explained to him what it would mean if each of the three main parties won and how they want to change things.
"Well I'm going to vote for the yellow ones," he told me.
"Liberal Democrats, you mean?"
"Why?" I asked him.
"Because they're the one you said want to make people who don't get lots of money from work pay less of their money to the Government."
He's right. He listens. The Liberal Democrats wants to increase the tax free personal allowance to £10,000, meaning the UK's lowest earners and minimum wage earners will pay less or even no tax.
"Ok, good for you," I continued, deciding against telling him about their more flawed policies, just because I am happy he's considering and making choices like this at 6. "But you can't vote."
"What?" He was puzzled.
"You have to be 18 to vote in the UK. You won't be allowed until you're 18."
Now my son has a whole list of things I have told him he cannot do until he's 18 including certain horror movies he's seen trailers for and wants to see and I have told him, "When you're 18." There's a host of other things too and he has them on a list.
"I'm adding that to my list," he said. "It's not fair."
"It's not my fault," I assured him. "It isn't me who says you can't."
"Well who does?"
"It's the law. The Government decided that."
"Well I am going to phone them. It's not fair. I know who I want to vote for. It's not fair!"
I suggested he did not phone them but I am going to let him write. Of course, bringing in the vote for 6 year olds is ludicrous! But I am thrilled he cares enough to want to have his point heard.
In the meantime, I suggested last week to his school that they hold a mock election today and they are going to. They explained in class yesterday a bit about voting and why we vote and then today they get to play their part in a mock election. My boy is excited, but more concerned with the fact he can't vote in the real thing.
"Will you vote the yellows for me, Dad?"
"No, son. I'm voting Labour."
So I explained my reasoning. He agreed that I should vote "the reds," and he went off to start writing his letter to complain about the vote.
As we were leaving the house this morning, I went into the Town Hall to vote. I took him with me. I cast my vote and as we left I told him,
"18 isn't too bad you know. In some countries, like China and North Korea, Cuba, Laos and some African countries, nobody is allowed to vote. They don't get to decide for themselves, the people in charge won't allow it."
He said nothing for the remainder of our journey to my Sister's house, where he goes each morning before school. Before I left him there, he told me,
"I'm going to write to China too, Dad. And those other countries."
It seems my boy is about to embark upon a campaign for democracy in his own little way. I'm rather the beaming Father today!!