London Notebook

by Anil Dharker

Not by design but by pure chance, I happened to be in Londonduring two important events – the Brexit vote, and now the general elections. The results of both were unexpected and caused much dismay everywhere. Incidentally, this is just an observation : I take no credit for the disruption.
This time around, I was in the UK a full ten days before the election. Travelling in England and Wales, I asked the locals if it was indeed true that June 8 was election day. Yes, of course, they said. ‘ Where then,’ I asked nonplussed, ‘is the frenzy ?’ ‘What frenzy ?’ they replied, equally nonplussed. You can’t blame me for asking : in all those ten days, I saw not one hoarding and not one poster; I neither heard loudspeakers blaring out political messages, nor loud sloganeering through the day and night. Television news, of course, did show politicians campaigning, but even the PM was seen addressing small crowds, sometimes so small that she didn’t even need a mike (Theresa May never needs a mike, unkind critics will say).
On the day of the election, I accompanied friends when they went to vote, one at the morning peak time of 9.30, and the other at the evening peak time of 7 (voting is on till 10 ). Both times, we walked straight in, heading non-existing queues. We were in and out in minutes. Yet, as we learnt later, there was a record turn out, the most in 25 years, with nearly 70 percent of the electorate casting its vote. Obviously , there are advantages in having a small population. Even Londoners voted in large numbers: the turn out figures would have shamed Mumbai. But then, Mumbaikers have more important things on their minds than mere elections.