On this election day, as well as encouraging those in the UK to vote Conservative, in Northern Ireland to vote Conservative and Unionist and encouraging people in Ireland to wait until tomorrow, I am moved by the lovely and fragrant @sharonashambles on twitter to tell a story about people advising others on how to vote.

I am reminded of a conversation I had, while representing Northern Ireland’s students,  in the offices of some prominent Sinn Féin representatives, around election day. They were waxing lyrical about (thankfull only some of) the old days.  It was a warm day, the conversation was a genuinely warm and interesting one, something for which I had not been quite prepared.

The conversation, after they had established to their amazement that I was not just a Tory, but that the students had  known I was a Tory when they had elected me, turned, with laughter and happy reminiscence, to the trials of election day.  This is the story I was told; it may well have been apocryphal, it may be born of the myth and legend of election day bravado, or it may be absolutely true.

“There was this man who used to help out the party in [such and such a place], and he had a minibus.  He used to pick people up from our list, and give them lifts into vote.  This was pretty common, and other parties did something similar.  Anyway, when we had saturated our list, he started doing speculative runs, picking people up, giving them leaflets and telling them how to vote.

When he came to [such and such a place] he picked up a small group of people, and he was immediately sure there was something wrong.  Five older men and women, and they were obviously, and I mean obviously, not Sinn Féin voters.  He hid the leaflets and let them into the minibus.  He didn’t mind too much, and he had to go to the polling station to pick people up anyway.

One of the old people leans forward and says to him “I haven’t ever voted before, and neither have these ladies.  I know it’s Proportional Representation, but what does that mean?”

Quick as a flash, our man remembers there are only ten candidates in the constituency, and immediately has an idea.

“Well, you see, it’s very easy, it’s like Eurovision.  You have to give points from one to ten.  You give 10 points to the party you like the most, and you have to vote all the way down, giving 9 points to your next favourite party, then eight and so on.”

The man says “I don’t want to give Sinn Féin any points”, and our man says “Sure, if you tell everyone to give them only one point, they won’t have a chance, will they?”

Be careful out there, and Votáil Conservative uimhir a haon.