Tom Stoppard’s line: ‘It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting’ is well known, but is in fact closely paralled by a remark of Stalin’s in 1923: ‘I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how’. The importance of counting was recognized long ago: in the early nineteenth century the American politician William Porcher Miles described seeing election banners with the advice: ‘Vote early and vote often’.
The phrase ‘Broken Britain’ is well known to British newspaper readers; it’s a phrase commonly used across the media to describe society’s problems. Here, historian John Welshman traces this identification of a broken society back to around the time of the Second World War, and argues that the real answer is – and was then – to address society’s inequalities rather than ‘Big Society’ and a retreat from state involvement.
“In this pre-election period television plays a big role. On Sky News, at the bottom of the screen, you will see four colours: red, blue, yellow and grey. These represent Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and other. There are numbers in each colour and these represent the latest survey results of voting intention. Watch carefully and the percentages change. The numbers change because they show results according to Mori, then YouGov, then ICM, then ComRes, then Populus. The results are not “true” because they are samples – the only true result would be a full count.”
Professor David Blockely on the lessons he believes the wider world can learn from bridge-building.