• Imagine your vote counted

    Person voting at a ballot box
    They all count (Photo by Element5 Digital)

    I voted last week. Local elections. Just local people with local issues. Nothing exciting for the outside world. But something unexpected and previously unknown happened… The candidate I voted for won. 

    Guess what, my vote counts

    My candidate didn’t just win – she won by a landslide. In that moment, it dawned on me. All my life, I had walked into polling stations with reverence. I knew how lucky I was to be able to vote. But I never actually thought my vote counted. 

    I have always voted in rural England, a place where politics barely exists. I realised in that moment that to vote in rural England is a bit like voting in Egypt. Yes, you can have a vote. Choose whomever you like. It makes no difference. 

    The Tory will always win

    Because the Tory will always win, I realised that even at the age of 40, I still hold that slightly disgruntled, apathetically accepting peasant’s attitude that someone else will always serve.

    I can get all the education I like. I can be as well-informed about the world as possible. But I will never enact decisions. The Tories do that for me. Them, and occasionally Labour. I’m merely a passenger. 

    What will you do with your power? 

    When the candidate I chose – The Green Party’s Diana Toynbee – won with 531 votes, taking 52.9% of the vote, I had a new sensation. I felt like the Muslim Brotherhood in post-revolution Egypt. Wow. We won? Now what do we do? 

    The act of responsibility, of actually being given the opportunity to make decisions, is a heady one, even by the proxy of representative democracy. When it happened, I realised how much potential is wasted when people like me spend most of their lives assuming they are voiceless. 

    Democracy is a great idea

    I could paraphrase Gandhi here. In England, democracy would be a great idea. If we could move on from the notion that the Tories simply run things – outside a few urban Labour areas – we might stop grumbling about them. 

    More importantly, we might learn the lesson the Muslim Brothers briefly learnt in Egypt. That running things is hard. Much harder than living in eternal, angry, impotent opposition to power. 

    Talking of votes, fancy another one on Brexit?

  • Rural voters rule ok

    Voting day signage for US mid-term elections
    Here comes the rural vote (Photo by Element5 Digital)

    Here’s the received wisdom: rural voters are the neglected, the ignored, the forgotten — but in Western democracies, they are fast becoming the kingmakers.

    How did this happen?

    It seems counterintuitive. Power resides at the centre. Kings, queens, presidents and press barons — they are urban, as are most people in post-industrial states.

    Yet, even as the Democrats take the suburbs in the US mid-term elections — for ‘suburbs’ read ‘urban middle class’ — Republican gains in rural states cement their grip on the Senate.

    It highlights a US electoral system with built-in rural bias. Democrats won the popular vote in six of the last seven US elections — yet two of those times a Republican took office.

    In 1790, when the Senate was conceived, 95% of Americans were rural. Today, around 19% are, yet the Senate was conceived to offer equal representation to all states. The result? A rural vote is now worth much more than an urban one.

    Get off my land

    The British Brexit referendum also saw a stark split between urban and rural voting. London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol, Cardiff — diverse cities all voting strongly for Remain in an election that saw countryside and small town Britain vote 55% in favour of leaving the EU.

    Country people are quick to complain of the too-powerful cities and their liberal elites. Yet recent trends suggest that in fact, the rural vote is dictating the political and perhaps cultural direction to the cities.

    Try explaining that to the urban elites in emerging economies.