I cast my vote for the first time in the 1979 General Election when the Conservatives led by Margaret Thatcher ousted James Callaghan’s Labour Government.
I’ve not missed a vote since – parish, district, county, Parliamentary and European elections have all seen me turn out to make my mark on the ballot paper. I’m quite proud of that. I’ve always argued that if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the policies and decisions of the winner.
But next Thursday may see me break that sequence when the election is held for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC).
Lord Blair, the former Metropolitan Police chief, has urged people not to vote as a form of protest against the imposition of PCCs. I don’t agree – the time to protest has passed, this is policy and it is going to happen.
No, my indecision is based more on the basis of how can I possibly vote on something I know so little about? It could be rebranded the ‘secret election’.
This is a major shift in the way police forces are run, but information from the Government about the change has been minimal. At home, we’ve had one very half-hearted leaflet which posed more questions than it answered.
I had to resort to the internet to try to answer some of my queries, which in itself seems unfair – what if I didn’t have access to a computer? What’s democratic about that?
An afternoon trawling through choosemypcc.org.uk, homeoffice.gov.uk and aboutmyvote.co.uk did little to diminish my puzzlement about the role itself or allay fears over accountability, but I did find out a bit more on the election process (it’s not first past the post).
Of course, I already knew the names of the candidates and what they stand for (thanks to last week’s Bury Free Press), but can one person really represent the interests of nearly 730,000 people?
Having said I’ve voted in every election since 1979, I have to admit that not every choice has been ‘informed’, especially in European elections when really you have no idea who might get in because of the party list system. So perhaps next week I’ll maintain my record but make my choice by taking a pin and closing my eyes – at least then I’ll be able to complain about the winner.