Written by Sian Harries

In The News

Why I ❤️ voting

There’s no point risking a pickled egg situation by not voting. Sian Harries learnt that the hard way early on, which is just one reason she’ll be bounding to the polling station on 7 May.

Illustration of a woman casting her vote into a box

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

There’s a man on our street, let’s call him Rog, who talks over me. I’ve tried everything; waiting until he breathes in so I can cram something in between gaps, shouting, even repeatedly muttering the word “bacon” to see if he notices…nothing.

Thing is, I’ve seen him listening to my husband, actively, properly listening, even nodding his head, raising an eyebrow and once – the holy grail – a clap of the hands and a laugh. So to my mind, it must be that old Rog just doesn’t think my woman’s words are worth listening to.

I’m quite used to being spoken over. It’s par for the course when you have a delicate little voicette that can’t even compete with cutlery (I can only really chat in sushi bars) and work in predominantly male writers’ rooms.

Often, I get sucked in, shouting along and clambering vocally over all and sundry like a runt pup trying to get at a teat, because when you’re building funny ideas to deadlines, it’s a case of join ‘em or get beat.

But sometimes, when I can’t be bothered to battle for airspace, I simply jot my ideas down, and hand them over to the producer, calmly, quietly and safe in the knowledge that if they like it, my stuff will get used. It’s why a vocal lightweight like me loves writers’ rooms. And it’s why I love voting.

I bloody love voting, every bit of it: the official A4 paper sign saying ‘Polling Station’; meeting people you never even knew lived in your building; the little pens; the string that guarantees those little pens will be there not just until the polls close, but for future generations. There’s something about it all that just gets me going. I also think there may be biscuits. Are there biscuits? Or is that giving blood…?

My optimism stems from when I was 17 and the deciding vote was dramatically read out at my school declaring Wales had won its own Assembly Government. A fledgling politics student, my mates and I stayed up all night, drinking cans in the car park and watching as our country’s future unfolded – it was the most exciting night of my life. Not least because I got off with a boy who had access to his mother’s Spirito de Punto, but I’d say devolution played a part.

I was too young to vote myself, but the result that night taught me two things: how voting for what you believe in can, against all odds, work; and how not voting definitely doesn’t. Only 47 per cent of Wales turned out, meaning a silent majority possibly didn’t want more independence. But without voting, their potentially powerful voice was inaudible.

“I bloody love voting, every bit of it: the official A4 paper sign saying ‘Polling Station’; the little pens; the string that guarantees those little pens will be there not just until the polls close, but for future generations.”

I understand people’s reticence. We live in a political system of ‘safe seats’, tactical voting and spin-doctors who insist on telling us their candidate won the debate hands down, mere seconds after we’ve watched them flailing around live on air with their fly down.

Not voting, however, isn’t the answer. I learnt that at a young age; I was seven and my mother asked my cousins and I if we wanted to go for chips. I refused because I wanted pizza. I was sulking, making a stand. I’d show them. Only I didn’t, as when they returned I was ravenous, surrounded by the delicious smell of chips – and it turned out they’d popped into the pizza place anyway as the chip shop had run out of beans.

Not only that, one of the younger ones had returned with an entire jar of pickled eggs which I would have most definitely vetoed had I been there, seeing as we were sharing a bed. I learnt a very valuable lesson that day; even if you don’t agree with the system, you can only get things out of it and make a difference if you go along for the ride. Turn your back on it entirely, and rogue pickled eggs will worm their way into your life and stink out your Smash Hits duvet with their rancid odour and racist views.

It may be a cliché, but having a say in how my country is run is a privilege, when I consider the men and women who suffered and lost their lives for the cause and the millions worldwide who remain voiceless through no choice of their own.

It’s why, come 7 May, I’ll bound down to my local polling booth, pick up that little pen and glance around for biscuits. And if old Rog is there, shouting his intentions in the queue, I won’t mind if he’s not listening because I’ll have jotted my ideas down and handed them in. I will, for once, have my say in his presence. And it will count just as much as his.

@sianharries

Monday 20 April is your last chance to register to vote. Do it now: https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

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Written by Sian Harries

Comedy writer. Addicted to tea and weirdly good at catching.