On Thursday last week, for the first time since I became old enough to be eligible, I deliberately avoided casting my vote in a national election. By all accounts, I wasn't alone: the nationwide turnout figure for the first election of the Police and Crime Commissioners was something less than 15%. These are the worst figures EVER for a national election in this country. At one polling station in Newport, not a single person turned up all day. Not one.
The easy thing to do - and some people have been doing this loudly - is to point at voter apathy: people didn't vote because they couldn't be bothered. Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but I didn't vote in these elections because I had absolutely no real idea what they were for, who was standing or really what they believed in. Yes, I could look these things up on the internet, and I did at least make the effort to look to make sure that none of the candidates in Nottinghamshire were in favour of privatising the police force - none of them were - but apart from that, these elections meant absolutely nothing to me. I'm sorry, but I wasn't prepared to go out and vote purely on party political lines when I currently feel no engagement at all with any of the mainstream parties. I'm also uncomfortable with people standing on a party political platform for anything so closely connected with the police force. This might be commonplace in other parts of the world, but it just doesn't happen here.
So I didn't vote.
You know what the worst thing is? Those elections - the ones where the government manifestly failed to engage the electorate - cost the country something like £75m - £100m. Just to put that into context, on the day after these elections, large numbers of people spent their time and energy raising money for Children in Need. If you're not British, this is charity appeal run by the BBC, with all money contributed distributed to organisations supporting children in the UK aged 18 and under who have mental, physical or sensory disorders; behavioural or psychological disorders; are living in poverty or situations of deprivation; or suffering through distress, sexual abuse or neglect. It's a really fantastic charity, and as well as a seemingly endless telethon on the BBC all evening, you see ordinary people all over the country sitting in bathtubs full of baked beans, baking cakes and all sorts of other stuff to raise a few quid for a good cause. As usual, I gave up my Friday night to man a phone on one of the call centres until 2am. During that time, I spoke to people from all over the UK, including lots of little old ladies, some very hard of hearing or partially sighted, all of whom had taken the time to ring up and donate £10 of their pension to a charity that had touched them. It's sometimes very humbling indeed, particularly the lady who had lost all her central vision and really struggled to read me her credit card details, but insisted on persevering until we succeeded.
You know how much the total for Children in Need was when the BBC finished their broadcast at 2am? £26,757,446. (The final total will probably be something around £40m).
Think on that.
That's a fraction of the cost of that pointless election. The irony of the timing is horrible. Let's not forget too that this is also a government that is about to take the Disabled Living Allowance benefit away from about two-thirds of the people who currently receive it... perhaps including some of the same people who will be receiving grants from Children in Need and are really struggling. It makes me sick to my stomach and every time I see David Cameron or George Osbourne's smug, Eton and Oxford educated faces on the television, I want to scream.
Credit where credit is due, though.... the Police and Crime Commissioner elections were held separately from any other elections at the insistence of the Liberal Democrat half of the coalition government. Cheers for that Nick Clegg. Good call.
Shame on them all. Poor, pitiful UK.