The first time I voted was in 1978. I was still the angry young man then. I was still enthusiastic about politics. Years of disappointments with successive administrations hadn’t yet made me cynical of any real change ever happening.
I was in England. It was the General Election when Margaret Thatcher came to power, and the Conservative Party had an eighteen year run in office. I’ve never been what I would call a socialist, but in those days, I did feel that the Government had a responsibility towards the less fortunate in society, before I realized some of the misuse and abuse this creates, so I was very much a campaigning Labour supporter.
After eighteen years of Tory rule, I finally found myself quite excited in 1997 when Tony Blair’s New Labour was elected. My constituency got a Labour MP for the first time since 1951. It was short-lived. New Labour mostly continued the failed policies of the previous Tory administration under John Major. Gordon Brown is about as much use and about as exciting as a wet weekend.
Anyway, I digress. In all the times I voted in the UK, there were, in my experience, ever any long lines. I never waited more than a few minutes.So no-one giving out coffee or food or anything. The polling station was a five minute walk from my house in any case.
There was the opportunity to appoint a proxy, or have a postal ballot, but never any early voting. Polling station opening hours are 7.00am – 10.00pm.
Walk to the returning officer, get a ballot slip, go to a booth, put my cross in the relevant box(es), fold it, walk over to the ballot box (in front of the returning officer) and drop it in. Job done.
The poll watchers aren’t allowed to talk to you on the way in, but I’d give them my name and address on the way out, so they didn’t come knocking on my door later in the evening to get me to go and vote.