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Polling Day: How Democracy Works

I’ve just come back from the polling station where I cast my vote for the London Assembly and Mayoral elections. I feel very strongly about voting and I’m not really sure why, except that we are all the sum of our parts and my life experiences have led me to a place where I feel privilege, power and gratitude every time I vote.

I have the privilege of a dual cultural heritage, by virtue of being born in one country to parents of another, so I have a dual perspective on life, which I think is quite unique.  This might be why I feel so strongly about exercising a right to vote, because I have experience, directly and indirectly of places where this right does not exist and the people there are willing to die to get it.

Since I feel strongly about voting, I tweet about it and write about it and so it was that yesterday I tweeted a sort of reminder for people to go out and vote. Most of the responses to the tweet were positive, commending me for addressing the issue of the predicted low turn-out. There was one simple response however that made me think about why I feel strongly enough about voting to tweet about it.

The response was simply, ‘Why?’

My response was, ‘Because as a resident, taxpayer and parent you have a civic responsibility to your local area to have your say about who and how the local area is governed. Also, people gave their lives figuratively and literally for women and black people to have the vote!’

Then I got a comeback: ‘Oh I understand and know all that dear. How does having a London Mayor produce positive changes to the community and our current economy. They have only managed to increase the gap between the rich and poor thus far. Increased expenditure with minimal or NO increase in income. When no candidate fits MY bill as FIT to do job, what do I do with my vote. Waste it or??’

This comeback is an argument many people put forward for not voting, but I think, as I intimated in my response (and in the continued discourse) that the responsibility to participate in democratic process by voting requires a choice, even if it is a difficult one otherwise, a few people become the governing minority and there is the danger of ending up with ‘tyranny of the minority‘.

Democracy in action means, as many people as possible must participate, otherwise, it’s no different from any other political system, such as a dictatorship or monarchy where only the ruling class make decisions on behalf of the majority.  I fear that in this country, where democracy has been the norm for centuries, we are in danger of taking it for granted, to the point where it becomes a caricature of what it is supposed to be.

For those of us who are in the minority (or lack as much power because, let’s face it, it’s a man’s world) it’s even more important that we participate because the decision-makers can’t always understand the needs of different groups, unless that group speaks up.

In a democracy, there are many ways of doing this, but the least of those, is to vote. So as the polls close on this polling day, let it be that in those to come, we all participate, by doing the least we can….. put a cross in a box.


About Gillian King

Passionate about being black, British, Christian and a Londoner,(not necessarily in that order). Other passions flow from this, football, politics and smiling! I write what I'm passionate about.


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