General Election EPIC FAIL, aka WHAT THE FUCK

Posted by Lou. The time is 10.53am here in London, UK.

It is 10.53am on the day after the election and my constituency still hasn't declared, and I am listening to a 39-year-old British man having to have his own election system explained to him. This seems the right sort of moment to take a look back on the last 24 hours have been for me - a New Zealander losing their British General Election Virginity - a great big load of WHAT THE FUCK.

WTF#1 - The Role of the Newspapers
I was shocked to wake up on election day and discover that the majority of the newspapers (ie all the shit ones (ie the Murdoch ones)) had front pages telling people who to vote for. With the exception of the Mirror it was pro-Tory scaremongering; but even with Mirror being anti-Tory they still put the focus on to them (rather than carrying a favourable item for Labour) by showing David Cameron in his Oxford boys' club finery. The mildly Lib-Dem papers (Guardian and The Independent) carried more neutral news type items about the election, reflecting the difference in editorial integrity and news focus with their trashy counterparts. I find this quite staggering - TV is governed by rules of editorial neutrality, but why (in a country where the printed news still carries wide readership and influence) not the papers? Or at least, why not on election day? Which leads me to...

WTF#2 - Election Day Campaigning
Coming from a land where all advertising and campaigning materials must disappear at midnight (with the exception of coloured ribbons) I actually thought I'd walked into illegal electioneering when I found myself being accosted by campaigners as I walked into the polling station, with some actually telling people who (and what) to vote for. Whilst normally you could think people already know who they want to vote for, with high turn-out and a closely fought election race this was one where actually quite a lot of people probably hadn't. And anyway, it just feels wrong to be harassed on your way in to do something as sacred and private as vote.

WTF#3 - The Exit Poll
Starting the night off with a hugely unpredicted and surprising exit poll that had the Tories taking a clear majority of the votes (though not a majority of the House) and the Lib-Dems actually losing seats was a sickening moment.

WTF#4 - Voters Being Unable To Vote
Then the news began to emerge that hundreds - thousands! - of people were unable to vote. This is a democracy. The key element of a democracy is the freedom to vote. This is barely comprehensible to me. This is the biggest WHAT THE FUCK imaginable. There is a key thing I need to explain here: in Britain you MUST vote at a specific polling station unless you have applied to vote by post at least a week in advance (or are a student). So for example, I went to my polling station to be told that no actually I needed to go to a different polling station a block further down the street (?!) (oh, and please note here that there was a queue of 15-20 people and it took about 20-30 mins for me to get to the front). So people who work cannot pop out at lunchtime to vote, they must return home and vote at their specified station. So you'll be thinking what I'm thinking - obviously a lot of people are going to go and vote in the evening after work. You'd think the polling stations themselves could figure this out. But it seems that:
  • people were turned away from polling stations as the 10pm deadline hit and huge queues of people were left without a vote. This isn't people turning up at 9.55pm then complaining that they couldn't get in. Massive queues formed from late afternoon/ early evening with reports of, for example, Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg visiting a local Sheffield polling station at 7pm and discovering that people had been queueing there for 3 hours already. Individuals are reporting that they went back and forth to their polling station but there were always such long queues they just didn't get an opportunity to get in and vote. The videos of the queues that were waiting at this point in the night are shocking - masses of people swarming to get in the doors; queues extending down entire blocks. Knowing how long it took me to queue at a quiet polling station, I can well imagine people having been waiting for hours to no avail. But remember - I said that people are given very specific polling stations at which they have to vote. So why the fuck were those polling stations not set up to handle the number of voters allotted to them? This is an absolute undemocratic disgrace. To the Hackney voters who staged a sit-in, to the Sheffield voters who blocked the ballot papers from being able to leave: I salute you. Stand up (or sit-in) for your rights and loudly fight this for as long and as high as it takes to have this righted. Not to mention...
  • some polling stations ran out of ballot papers. Despite having a fixed number of voters allotted to their polling stations. Apparently photocopying is so extravagantly expensive/ difficult these days that they couldn't even fucking get enough ballot papers handed out. In fact they had so few they had run out by 6pm, a full four hours before the close of voting. I just can't even comprehend this.
  • postal ballot papers went missing. So even when people had registered to vote elsewhere than their specific allotted polling station, they were unable to do that when ballot papers didn't arrive. In areas where there are very close seats. Which is especially what the fuck for me having - with ease - cast my New Zealand general election vote from the UK (let alone from down the street and round the corner) by downloading my papers from the NZ election hub and faxing them (which in itself seemed antiquated at the time). This system is so very backward and very dysfunctional. *Update: Problems with Overseas ballot papers also not turning up
  • "non-resident" students were being de-prioritised. This link contains student accounts of being put into different lines as "non-residents", as if it was their fault that the voting mechanism is so antiquated and inadequate. They were also blamed by the Electoral Commission during last night's BBC broadcast.

WTF #5 - Oh God the Exit Polls are Right
How could the advance polling have been so wrong? Lib-Dems were showing an unprecedented and magnificent surge with polling putting them on a par with/ ahead of/ just behind at various times both the Tories and Labour, and by polling day about even with Labour. And now here they are with - at 11.32am - only 52 seats to Tories' 291 and Labour's 251. But...

WTF #6 - FPP is so Backward!
...Lib-Dem have 22.9% of the vote, but only 8.4% of the seats. This is fundamentally wrong. Which leads me perfectly into my conclusion from all this what the fuckness...

Britain needs - desperately - widespread electoral reform. Of how the voting works both in terms of how seats are decided (bring in proportional representation!), and how votes are made and counted (for the love of god, modernise!). And for fuck's sake - keep that bastard Murdoch in check with rules to govern election day campaigning by the fucking newspapers!

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