The Stubby Pencil: Putting the Lead into Leaders
Elections aren't just about which party you support, which constituency you live in or which leader best eats carcinogenic pork products. There's a hidden story going on right now in 50,000 polling stations across the country, from John O'Groats to the end of that particular geographical cliché. And this hidden story is one of intense scientific and engineering endeavour over countless painstaking years. What you don't realise when you write that little X in that little box is that you're test-driving the very latest in replaceable calligraphic technology, the Stubby Pencil:
Precision-designed for both scriptorial accuracy and administrative resilience, this baby is the real deal. The intuitive combination of reduced length and increased width have been tailored according to Newtonian mechanics to minimise and even halt completely nib breakage issues. Or, in layman's terms, it's built to stop idiots breaking it. Coming in a choice of one colour (None More Black), it's an unheralded stationery masterpiece that screams elegance from the get-go. The icing on the cake of course is the hard plastic encasement complete with flexible theft protection device (or to give it its nickname, "string"). This says two important things. Firstly, and most obviously, it tells voters "Don't nick this, it's not yours, mate. What do you think this is, a f***ing betting shop?" But it also says something more subtle, more nuanced, more important: the double string/plastic motif proves that the electoral administration team are supremely confident that our good friend Stubby will last the whole punishing 7am-10pm shift. It's a mark of confidence, and that's exactly what it's urging you to make when you join it for that intimate moment together - a fleeting grip, nay a clasp - in the voting booth.
Sadly, however, not even this simple romantic image has been immune from political spinning during the campaign, and (in an exclusive revelation) the humble Stubby was weaponised by Prime Minister David Cameron, who told voters to "get out there with your stubby pencil". It's a simple sentence but one that says a lot about the man. On the surface Mr Cameron appears to be showing an awareness of the realities of voting and the crucial technology under discussion here. But dig a little deeper and two uncomfortable truths emerge. Firstly he says "get out there", seemingly unaware that not one UK polling station is an open-air environment (weather conditions render this prospect a non-starter). His earlier West Ham/Aston Villa and career-defining/country-defining gaffes pale drastically in comparison. Mr Cameron then proceeds to refer to "your stubby pencil", not the local authority's. Was this a slip of the tongue? Or does his promised extension of the controversial Right-to-Buy scheme apply not just to Housing Association properties but also to stubby pencils? Many voters will be forced to conclude that the PM has provided a coded but clear warning of the creeping privatisation threatened by a second Conservative-led administration.
The silence with which this issue has been greeted in the mainstream media is a distressing sign of the decay of our national debate, when we should instead be celebrating the wonder of a British design classic. By reading this, and by briefly communing with a Stubby sometime today, you're doing your bit not just for democracy but for stationery too.