It’s up to you to make a choice

Lennox Herald - - NOTEBOOK -

The sun may not shine, but the town clock on the parish church steeple will go on tick­ing off the min­utes and hours.

The tide will con­tinue to wash in and out, back and forth from the Leven to the Clyde, lap­ping the walls of Dum­bar­ton quay and the rocks at the foot of the cas­tle. Come Fri­day it will be all over bar the shout­ing – and there will be plenty of that.

I am, of course, re­fer­ring to the gen­eral elec­tion.

The world will not end with the re­sult on Fri­day, no mat­ter how out­ra­geous or un­ex­pected. I am not, how­ever, go­ing to break the an­cient tra­di­tion of pur­dah and start spec­u­lat­ing as to which party will be pour­ing the drams or pop­ping the cham­pagne corks.

Peo­ple are en­ti­tled to a day free of lo­cal po­lit­i­cal opin­ion from the likes of me. I have had my say here and else­where – on BBC’s Good Morn­ing Scot­land – and now it’s your turn.

This down time is most def­i­nitely your op­por­tu­nity to study the poli­cies and per­son­al­i­ties of the can­di­dates. I have had a rake through the po­lit­i­cal ar­chives though, and a few things caught my eye.

The Right Hon Tony Benn used to chas­tise jour­nal­ists who asked about the who in­stead of the what. Ask what we are try­ing to do, he would say, not who is go­ing to do it.

How­ever, he kept pos­ing for the pho­tog­ra­phers and hand­ing out copies of his speeches (and his books) for that nec­es­sary pub­lic­ity. His was a familiar face on ev­ery protest march wor­thy of the name – or of cov­er­age by the me­dia.

This in­cluded one on which I walked with him and cel­e­brated other politi­cians to protest at the clo­sure of the Plessey fac­tory in Alexan­dria. One of Benn’s most fa­mous quotes is: “The House of Lords is the Bri­tish Outer Mon­go­lia for re­tired politi­cians” – New York Times, Fe­bru­ary, 1962. I like that.

Iconic Pres­i­dent John F Kennedy was an­other politi­cian who was sel­dom shy when the cam­eras were around. He was prob­a­bly the first celebrity su­per­star pres­i­dent with a glam­orous wife that news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sion sta­tions adored and feted.

The po­lit­i­cal quote from JFK, which most of us re­mem­ber (and of­ten quote), is: “Ask not what your coun­try can do for you, ask what you can do for your coun­try.”

That im­pas­sioned plea is from his in­au­gu­ral ad­dress when he was elected to the US pres­i­dency in 1961. He added: “We ob­serve to­day not a victory of party, but a cel­e­bra­tion of free­dom – sym­bol­is­ing an end, as well as a be­gin­ning – sig­ni­fy­ing re­newal, as well as change.

“The world is very dif­fer­ent now. For man holds in his mor­tal hands the power to abol­ish all forms of hu­man poverty and all forms of hu­man life.

“And yet the same rev­o­lu­tion­ary be­liefs for which our fore­bears fought are still an is­sue around the globe – the be­lief that the rights of man come not from the gen­eros­ity of the state but from the hand of God.

“To those old al­lies whose cul­tural and spir­i­tual ori­gins we share, we pledge the loy­alty of faith­ful friends. United, there is lit­tle we can­not do in a host of co­op­er­a­tive ven­tures.

“To those peo­ples in the huts and vil­lages across the globe strug­gling to break the bonds of mass mis­ery, we pledge our best ef­forts to help them help them­selves, for what­ever pe­riod is re­quired – not be­cause we seek their votes but be­cause it is right.

“If a free so­ci­ety can­not help the many who are poor, it can­not save the few who are rich. To those na­tions who would make them­selves our ad­ver­sary, we of­fer not a pledge but a re­quest : that both sides begin anew the quest for peace. So let us begin anew – re­mem­ber­ing on both sides that ci­vil­ity is not a sign of weak­ness and sin­cer­ity is al­ways sub­ject to proof. Let us never ne­go­ti­ate out of fear. But let us never fear to ne­go­ti­ate.

“Let both sides ex­plore what prob­lems unite us in­stead of be­labour­ing those prob­lems which divide us.”

Th­ese in­spi­ra­tional words were spo­ken by Pres­i­dent Kennedy dur­ing an in­tense pe­riod of the Cold War 55 years ago. Many of us would like to hear them spo­ken again – but louder this time by mod­ern­day politi­cians.

The Cold War may have ended in 1991, 28 years af­ter Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s as­sas­si­na­tion in Dal­las, Texas, in Novem­ber 1963. But too many of the is­sues raised by the great man re­main to be re­solved.

Our lo­cal politi­cians en­joy the lime­light too, of course. Per­haps they could make use of this speech to take us for­ward.

The past few weeks have seen them at our doors, push­ing their pro­pa­ganda and their pho­to­graphs through our let­ter­boxes. Many of you will have greeted them warmly – or maybe not – as they can­vassed for your vote.

Well, to­mor­row (Thurs­day) is the big day. The choice is yours.

Vote early. Urge your fam­ily to get out and vote and please, please give an ex­am­ple of good cit­i­zen­ship. Go down to the polling sta­tion and place an X on that im­por­tant bal­lot pa­per. It’s your civic duty to do so and your coun­try needs you to­mor­row of all days.

This down time is most def­i­nitely your op­por­tu­nity to study the poli­cies and per­son­al­i­ties of the can­di­dates

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