election etiquette

A gentleman’s guide to election etiquette

From polling station protocol to who to discuss your political views with, we've got all the answers you need for the General Election. Except who to vote for...

Brace yourself: the election is here. In a whirl of spoilt ballots and angry voters, the immediate future of our frosty, fractured nation will be decided. And, while this untimely, unfestive interruption is a Christmas present we’d all have been happier leaving under the tree, perhaps it’s best that we dive in and tear off the paper as quickly as a proverbial plaster. It may the political coal in the stocking — pouring cold, cold water on seasonal spirit — but hey-ho; here we are, and we must endure the election before we can carry on with our carolling.

So, some ground rules. A general election is that strangest of things; a phenomenon that is at once deeply private but also sweepingly inclusive. We all talk about the fact we’re going to take part, but keep our personal opinions and game plan very close to our chests. It’s like heading to the League Cup final, staying silent during the chants and wearing a very, very neutral-coloured scarf.

But you’ll likely already know who you’re going to plump for when the pen’s in your hand and you’re standing in the booth. Sadly, that’s not the tricky part when it comes to voting. Instead, you must first fight your way through the minefield of social dos and don’ts that this democratic day comes tightly wrapped in. So read on, for we’ve compiled a simple guide to election etiquette — no matter who you’re voting for…

Don’t push your agenda — but do push the importance of voting

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There’s a certain level of pushiness you can get away with during an election — as long as you never, never tell another person who they ‘should’ be voting for. By any means, cajole and kick them to the polling station with you — it’s your duty to encourage your fellow countrymen to vote. But, once they’re in the booth, who they vote for is completely and utterly up to them.

So calm it on the campaigning. That means no cardboard signs staked in your front garden, no posters taped to the inside of your windows and no stickers slapped on the bumper of your car. It means no Facebook posts, no political Twitter rants and no tactical tie choices on the day of the vote. But, most importantly, don’t bring up politics at any social Christmas events. From office bashes to dinner parties, if someone even passingly mentions manifestos, pretend to choke on your beef wellington and hot foot it out of there.

It's important to still do your due diligence

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So ingrained are our political beliefs and opinions that most Britons will be voting tomorrow without casting even a cursory eye over any manifestos or party policies. But, even if acquainting yourself with the promises and plans of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives is unlikely to sway you one way or another, it still pays to take a look.

And there are plenty of places to scan over unbiased looks at the various party’s policies, from Sky News to the BBC and even Gentleman’s Journal’s own coverage. There’s been a lot of talk this time around about tactical voting, so research which issues will affect you on a local and national level, and inform your decision this way. Take this seriously because, even though loyalty to one party may be important to you, there’s always a chance that you’d be better off switching your allegiance.

Don’t be late to the polling station, go before work

A gentleman’s guide to election etiquette

On the day itself, promptness is key. There’s nothing worse than slogging away at the office all day, intending to vote when you clock out, and then stretching your time one spreadsheet too far. With polling stations closing at 10pm, it may seem that you have all the time in the world, but time soon disappears — especially if you work miles away from your local polling station. Instead, we’d always recommend heading to vote before work.

Stations open at 7am, so there’ll be time for a slice of toast and a quick coffee before you head out, and you’ll then join the rush hour crush content that you’ve done your bit for the nation’s future. And, even if you do arrive at your desk a shade after 9am, any boss worth their salt won’t mind. Just don’t be late to vote: get in, get out and don’t faff about.

It’s a vote, not a social media opportunity

A gentleman’s guide to election etiquette

Faffing, for those of you wondering, involves anything with social media. Your trip to the polling station is about voting — it is not a social media opportunity. Whatever powers may compel you, try to resist from taking a camera roll-full of selfies outside the polling station, or bringing your dog with you for an adorable snap and caption of ‘Benji voted Green because he thinks their policies are paw-some! #puglife’. No-one cares who Benji would have backed if he had the vote — or opposable thumbs.

And, finally, although those ‘I voted’ stickers and badges may send the right message, they’re another braggy way to try and popularise and make cool the election. Voting is your right and duty, so don’t pat yourself on the back too hard…

Got that? Now it’s time to sit back and put your feet up — preferably with a good cigar…

Further Reading