When I was a teenager I lived at home with my parents.
Every election I’d watch Mum and Dad go through the same palaver.
Mum would wait until Dad got home from work.
Then they’d walk to the polling station.
Dad would always vote Conservative, Mum would always vote Labour.
Then they’d come home and Mum would make Dad’s tea while he read the paper.
They never discussed politics.
But every year it was the same: Mum voted Labour and Dad voted Conservative.
One year I said to Mum, why do you both bother voting?
All you do is cancel each other’s vote out.
Why don’t you both just stay at home and don’t vote?
It will have exactly the same effect.
First Mum was quiet, then she was angry.
She said “We’ve just had a war where men died for our right to vote.
Because of them we all have a vote where other countries don’t.
That’s why we go along to vote.
We don’t just go along to manipulate the result.
We go along to exercise the freedom those men fought for.
It doesn’t matter how we vote, that’s up to each person.
But what matters is that we do vote.
Because people fought and gave their lives for that.
And if we can’t even be bothered to walk down to the polling booths, well I think that’s a terrible thing.”
After Mum said that I felt quite humble.
I had never seen voting as a demonstration of freedom.
Like most of my generation, I just saw it as a way of getting the result I wanted.
Of manipulating the votes so the right government got in.
But Mum didn’t see that.
For her, the important thing was that, whoever won it was chosen by a free people with everyone having an equal say.
The poor just as much as the rich.
One person, one vote.
Her and Dad didn’t agree on what would be the best government.
But that was okay, so long as everyone had a say in it.
So long as everyone was free to choose.
So long as it was fair.
And every time there’s an election nowadays I think of my mum.
And I think how different it is.
I see The Daily Mail versus The Guardian and all the name-calling.
I see everyone acting as if a vote for the other side is a betrayal of any human decency.
As if the people who vote the other way are ignorant and vile.
And I realise we don’t have democracy in my mum’s sense anymore.
We have football supporters.
My team is perfect your team is shit, in all circumstances.
It isn’t rational, it’s purely emotional.
After the last election I saw a Facebook post from someone I like.
A very intelligent, very senior person in our industry.
It said “If you are a friend of mine and you voted for the vile scumbag Tories, please UNfriend me now. I don’t want to know you.”
I was quite surprised.
This was someone who went to Oxbridge.
Someone who had the best education in this country.
Someone who’s run some of the best ad agencies in London.
But someone who doesn’t want to play democracy unless they get their own way.
My mum never had an Oxbridge education.
But I think I prefer her concept of democracy.