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ALASDAIR CLARK: People tell me nothing works anymore – that is why elections matter

They've had their say, now the politicians have nothing to do but wait for you to pass judgement.

The polls open at 7am Thursday.
The polls open at 7am Thursday.

The polls are open.

For those of us used to watching politics happen up close every day, polling day is unlike any other.

The biggest political change for decades may well be underway, but senior figures, insiders and reporters will be trying to sneak a mid-afternoon nap.

Those who make the political news – and those of us who bring it you – cede control for the day and hand over power.

Whether you are Rishi Sunak or an ordinary voter, you’ll have the same say today. Image: Shutterstock

It is humbling. Whether you are the prime minister or an ordinary voter, you have the exact same say over the direction of our country.

And all the indications are that voters are ready to have their say.

Many have suggested a sense of apathy. But speaking to our readers, I don’t believe this is true.

More and more, I hear how people have a sense of feeling like nothing works anymore.

Whether your local school is falling into disrepair or you can’t get a GP appointment, many just feel like those in power aren’t doing their job.

Voters will decide who has the answers

It seems more and more likely that you will head to the polls desperate for solutions.

Who provides the most realistic options and sensible answers will be for you to decide.

For me, 10pm will come around achingly slowly. We will watch throughout the day, with little more than whispers from inside the campaigns about turnout and potential trends.

In truth, we’ll have no idea what is happening. The secret pact between the ballot box and the voter is unbreakable.

The exit poll will be the opening act. It will set the stage for the night ahead as we get the first decent insight into what the results might be and attempt to read the runes.

The drama of election results night

And then the supporting cast will roll on stage.

For months now, some candidates and their supporters will have poured their heart and soul into the effort.

They may have committed huge financial resource to the campaign or sacrificed time with their family to speak to voters. As the tension builds, results night quickly becomes one of high drama.

In Fife, where I will be watching four constituencies being declared, those of us at the count will watch on as hardworking council staff ensure your verdict slips are sorted and arranged.

Each vote will be sorted and counted. Image:

They will meticulously count each vote.

Eventually, the headliners of the night will begin to filter in. They will line up behind the returning officer, who is not unlike the jury foreperson reading out the verdict as the accused stands in the dock.

Unlike what you see on television, and at the risk of breaking the illusion, the candidates are very likely to already have a pretty good idea of what’s about to happen.

Their handlers will have been able to tell them well before they line up.

At the count, eagle-eyed party activists will be watching on as the votes are counted. Keeping a tally before the figures are reported back to HQ.

After a sample of ballot boxes across the constituency is completed, they will have a good idea of what’s about to happen — that is unless the vote is exceptionally close.

Becoming an MP ‘incredibly daunting’

In 2015, when an SNP landslide swept away long-serving Labour MPs, many had to wait hours for their fate to be officially declared, even though they knew what was going to happen.

It may be a special kind of agony felt overnight by some across the UK, with the polls predicting big-name Tories such as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt could lose their seat.

For the winner, a whirlwind is set off. Speaking to one candidate who was previously an MP, they described the moment they come off the stage.

“You are handed a brown envelope and suddenly you are an MP.  You leave the count venue where it’s a new day and your head is spinning.

“I was awake for about 24 hours, but sleep is impossible and very quickly you will be fielding telephone calls.

“Accommodation will be booked in London for the beginning of the week. You’ll turn up and be given a laptop and an email address, but if you’re a new MP you’ll have no staff.

“Some of my younger colleagues might have to suddenly rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe.

“You’re suddenly representing 50,000 people in the mother of all parliaments. It is incredibly daunting.”

Make sure you go out and vote. If you’re still undecided, head to our politics page and find out what those standing in your area are saying.

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