Now that the count-down to our General Election is getting closer, I would like to appeal to all those angry people on social media who are advocating either spoiling their votes, or plumping, that is, just using their vote for number 1 and no others. I know what it is like to feel that Irish politics is just a charade and changes nothing. If you doubt me cast your mind back over the past century. I have also been tempted to spoil my vote, but I believe that democracy is necessary even though big improvements are needed in the system to make it appropriate and usable in today’s world. [Ed: Now that’s enough of the po-faced introduction! Get on with the message.]
There is a better way and it is a little game that I invented for my own amusement back in the 1970s. It is designed to keep the spirit of democracy alive whilst giving a stiffly raised finger to those who would subvert it for their own sakes. I think of it as:
The Bored Game of Noble Knights a-Pricking on the Plain People of Ireland
A fantastical mediaeval Age of Austerity board game without the gory bits, nor a maiden in distress, and not even a board!
First of all, you must remember that unless your vote is for one of the major parties, under our system of Proportional Representation, you may as well vote on toilet paper, because your vote will have no effect after the first count and you will be the one left with shit on your hand. In a situation such as we face today in Ireland, however, where there is very likely not going to be a winning party with a clear working majority, it is important to vote right down the list if you are to have any effect on the outcome. That is a difficult task, when you look at the list of candidates and see just a bunch of arse holes smiling back at you. This game counteracts the nausea you would feel.
All you need is a legal voter’s card and a borrowed pencil. The game may also be played with the voter’s cards of the deceased, the incapacitated, and the deranged (but these will require a handbag of disguises as provided by the agents of the registered contesting political parties). For the final stages of the game, a flask of soup, a bottle of wine or a crate of beer, and any “thou” beside you giggling in the wilderness having made the sandwiches for you, will do.
A strategic approach:
So if you are like me, and you are pessimistic about the future of Irish politics, then try this strategy. It means that you can at least have fun throughout the election campaign, right up to the end of the entire count, And you will also have had the satisfaction of seeing where your vote trickles down … and if enough voters participate in this game, we could make the eventual winners sweat long enough to make them think again. Of course, if all of the great unwashed electorate participated then we would have a Dáil that might elect a Government that could terrify the Bejaysus out of the EU and have trembling despots on their knees crying for forgiveness. It is a simple game for simple minds and simple natures. It is for the childlike amongst us who know that the Emperor was always starkers.
This game is played in real time. The game starts once the election is called by the Great Panjandrum himself. During the run up to the polling day, you must listen assiduously to every election broadcast and make notes. Collect all election literature dumped in your mailbox. That information will be a source of invaluable information and ribald comment later (see notes below about the night of the count). If you can catch the departing canvasser(s) before they depart and engage them in pointless debate for at least half an hour, you gain “Lustre Points” (calling them “Bluster points” might tarnish the mediaeval atmosphere of the game).
On Voting Day dress well for the outing. Greet all the one-eyed party minions who have been bluffed into canvassing those entering the building, with a gentle but knowing smile and a wink. Then, bestill your trembling heart as you identify yourself to the officials who will provide you with the voting paper. Don’t panic about the pencil, that will be tied to the voting booth. Neither should you forget about the pencil being tied to the polling booth, because in your haste to escape there would be nothing so embarrassing as dragging the booth after you as leave. Then, take a deep breath, contain your laughter, and just vote Number 1 for the candidate on the ballot paper that you believe will be THE FIRST TO BE ELIMINATED, then continue with the next most likely to be eliminated, and so on down (or is it up?) the list, leaving the last candidate standing with no vote (it won’t be needed, and neither probably will they). Do not write or depict your anti-establishment views by scribbles or cartoons, because that will disqualify you. Then fold the ballot paper neatly like every other
sucker (sorry) voter, but knowing that you are actually a revolutionary in disguise, smile at the returning officer, at his/her assistant, at any Guard hanging around, and pop your voting paper in the box. You may, at this stage, wish to try a little visualisation, such as the ballot box going up in flames when your ballot hits the bin, but do so only if you are sure that you won’t give the game away. As you leave, tell all the party ToaDies outside that you gave them a vote, and smile, damn you, smile gently. Hysterical laughing at what you have done will destroy it all. Then go home and treat yourself to your favourite treat and wait for the early results to come in. Be prepared for a Long Knight at the Count. The latter title is again merely to justify using the word “mediaeval” in the title of the game. It may also give someone the opportunity to remark later about the Long Count of the Night.
This part of the game can also be expanded into an Election Count All Night Party if you persuade your friends to join you for a Party of Parties. Those participating in the Party might like to prepare victory / defeat speeches in advance, based upon the party literature mentioned above, to bring some light relief to otherwise banal solemnities. This could even rival Eurovision parties as the last resort of contrarians! Do take care, though, and make sure that all sharp objects are removed before you start and that all drinking vessels are of plastic. You may have a closet Party Member attending and we don’t want to upset them unnecessarily , do we! I do not wish to encourage gambling in an Age of Austerity, but if enough people participated, then the various Turf Accountants in the business might be tempted to give odds. (Note to the unitiated: Turf Accountants are not bog-trotters counting sods. The latter are the current tally-men for the political elite and the former are those who never lose in the long term. And neither is a qualified accountant – or, at least, admits to it).
Above all, have fun. It will be your only chance to have fun at the expense of those whose expenses are guaranteed by making fun of you. And may the Seven Signatories turn over in their graves joining in the laughter.