Ha bloody ha. I just went along to my polling station and was told I couldn't vote!
Several weeks ago I applied for a temporary postal vote, thinking I might be in Paris today. I wrote "6 MAY 2010 GENERAL ELECTION" on my application, and a couple of weeks later was sent a ballot paper for - today's general election. Just the general election, not the local council one that is also taking place. By then I knew that I wouldn't be going to Paris until tomorrow, so I sent in my general election postal vote and turned up expecting to deal with the other stuff on location.
"Oh, no," say the officers, "you were sent both papers, even if only the general election one has been received." INDEED NOT. I bloody was not sent both. If I had been, I would have sent them back together. There's been a mistake, and it sure as hell was not mine. "Well, you'll have to go to Twickenham before 5pm today to sort it out," comes the response.
Since between now and a week's time I'm doing my nut squeezing in 6 articles in 3 days, 2 work trips to France, two hospital appointments and an operation next Friday which will knock me out until the end of the month, I don't much care for this little piece of bureaucratic instruction. I should not have to spend two hours of my day going to Twickenham and back in order to sort out someone else's administrative cock-up that is threatening to deprive me of my right to vote.
Cock-up it may be, but it makes me wonder the following:
1. How many other similar cock-ups have there been, not only here in sunny Richmond-upon-Thames but across the country? And how skewed are the results going to be because of it? Is the entire postal voting system perhaps rotten to the core?
2. Was it really an administrative cock-up? My husband happens to be a candidate for our local council (he's been told that the seat is unwinnable in this ward, but that's beside the point). It doesn't take a genius to work out that I might wish to vote for him (and his two fellow candidates) - we do share an address... How can I be certain that some sneaky adminny person somewhere in the bowels of the Powers That Cock Up didn't like the idea of diminishing my husband's party's votes and therefore deliberately did not send me the council ballot paper?
Just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get me.
I'm hopping mad about this. I demand that the local council election in Richmond-upon-Thames should be re-run forthwith!
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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