Vote America – but what about Blighty?

My eyes are heavy, craving the sleep denied to them over a busy few weeks.

But they will have to endure another night of the match-sticks.

Not, thankfully, number crunching ahead of the company AGM that wiped out most of Monday.

Instead the delights of the American Primaries with which I’ve become obsessed.

There is something disconcerting, however, at following the fortunes of political figures and parties thousands of miles away in a campaign which – unless they reach the White House – has no consequence for me or anyone else living at Milne Towers.

It is compelling for me, watching the likes of CNN, Fox News and our own Sky News and BBC to get the up to date info.

I’ve also become a new found regular reader of Guardian America.

I don’t know why, it makes little sense other than appealing to my love of current affairs.

Then again, even as a kid growing up in Edinburgh there was always a draw to America be it music, the Superbowl or NBA.

Tonight though it’s all about the politics, and mainly whether Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton can get the nod for the Democrats nomination once and for all because of what history will follow when the eventual victor goes up against the Republicans in November.

And it caps a political heavy few weeks for my head.

I’ve only just finished ploughing through the hugely enjoyable Alistair Campbell Diaries – The Blair Years which gave a fascinating insight not just into the former advisor, but Government itself and the extraordinary lives those within it lead.

And I’m now already midway through Brown’s Britain by Robert Peston to get the flip side of the coin from the opposing camp to balance up the pro Blair spin.

Yet this interest in politics doesn’t sit well with the reality.

The last time I actually voted, the Tories were still in power, I was in my teens and I’m pretty sure I had spikey hair at the time.

I’d like to explain my reasoning as not wanting my judgement as a reporter clouded, but that would really be a lame excuse, no matter how hard I could try to justify it.

But the truth isn’t all that more palatable.

Put simply, none of them convinced me. I enjoyed the aspirations of the Nats but never felt them ready, I believed in the socialist principles of Labour but doubted they could deliver, hated the Tories with a passion and largely dismissed the rest as insignificant.

And over the years, not a lot has changed.

I whipped myself up into a mild concern at proposals by Labour to make voting compulsory with threats of fines and worse for refusing to make my mark.

People died for the right to vote, apathy is killing Britain and so on.

But I contend that it should be a democratic right to register a protest by not taking part in the whole affair if none of the parties has done a good enough job convincing me it is worthwhile, that there really is something worth taking part in.

It should be up to them to make me want to vote.

Which is where a new problem has arisen.

Today Tory leader David Cameron took part in a live blog with readers where he made just that point.

He said: “I don’t believe in compulsory voting – people have a right to abstain if they want to.”

My eyes burned as I read his words, my stomach tied in knots. How could it be possible that we could share anything remotely like the same point of view?

Worse, was I turning into a Tory? Had my business interest turned me?

Gratefully, no.

But something else has actually changed recently. Well, since the last Scottish elections.

Suddenly I actually care again, suddenly I feel there may be a desire to put an X in the funny wee box when the next poll comes calling.

The Nats have reinvigorated the Scottish political scene, Labour have to rebuild and the minority parties are the kingmakers.

There is passion and debate, a re-awakening on political senses dulled for too long across the nation as the reality dawns that come the next election, there really could now be a choice between the status quo or a vote for independence.

Perhaps we won’t see the kind of massive turn outs that we have and will continue to see in America where it seems everyone wants to have their say.

And maybe deciding who sits at Holyrood won’t have quite as big an impact on the global stage.

But the next Scottish elections could yet prove to be the most important in a generation and that’s something surely the most disillusioned of voter will want to take part in.

Categories: Blogs

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