Wednesday, May 06, 2015

My Last General Election

I am stating here categorically that I was *not* arrested the last time I voted during a general election.

It was May 2010.

I was hot.

I’d spent a day at school making people think - I was just going to continue doing it for a little while longer.

Some say we all wear masks anyway - we all hide our truest expression. Other teachers at my school wear masks: the fearsome; the nice; the tyrant etc.

I just put on a different one.

A Guy Fawkes mask.

Yes, I had just taught all day such a mask. I like the fact it has become a symbol of many things in recent times. ‘V for Vendetta’ and Anonymous have re-appropriated it wonderfully.
It's not Hallowe'en. It's Election 2010 style.

The funny thing is, I didn’t expect it to last. I walked around all day - and not once was I requested to take it off.

My classes found it disturbing that they had no facial expressions to read. I thought it was hilarious.

So by the time I walked into my polling station, I’d was used to it. There were a few stares. But again - nobody said anything.

I was just hot.

Now - if I’d been asked politely to take it off, I would have. I was ready to.

But nope - nothing.

So with a polite and gentlemanly manner, I handed in my polling card - which had my name and address on it - and collected my ballot paper.

I used my best, calm-sounding voice.

I am a grammar-school-educated-middle-class-Surrey-boy after all.

I made my mark, dropped off my ballot paper, and left.

Unchallenged about the mask.

At this point in the story, it gets a little surreal.

I was walking back to my car (tweeting of all things) when a police van pulled up and stopped. I sighed inwardly.

The interaction went something like this:

Policeman: “Remove the mask”.
Me: “Why?”
Policeman: "Take the mask off”.
Me: “Are you going to say please?"
Policemen: “Remove the mask or I will forcibly take the mask off”.
Me: Removes mask. Reveals sweaty face.

They then questioned me (doing their level best to intimidate me) saying that they’d had reports of ‘disturbing behaviour’ in the area of someone ‘intimidating people’. I nodded.

They questioned me about what I had done. I explained what I did. One of them produced a poster I had altered. (I had changed the word ‘candidate’ to ‘liar’ in pencil).

Criminal Damage
It constituted criminal damage which carried a custodial sentence.

They then searched me and found my board pens. And asked what I was doing with them. I explained I was a teacher. I was then informed that if they suspected I was *intending* to cause criminal damage with the pens, that they could arrest me.

They also said they understood that emotions were running high and that they would let me off.

But they did take my name saying that if I ever caused a disturbance on polling day again, I would be arrested.



I did wonder how they found me. When I asked, they said that they happened to be passing by and one of the polling officers  flagged down the van. They had taken a slow drive around the block and chanced upon me walking to the car.

Damn smartphones and Twitter.

The paperwork was completed and I was sent on my way. To ponder the whole interaction.

I am stating here categorically that I was *not* arrested the last time I voted during a general election.