THE mechanics of newspaper production mean that you, dear reader, know something I don’t know.

In your scary futuristic world of Wednesday, you are aware who has won the US presidential election.

To help preserve the mystique of this column, I won’t reveal exactly when I typed out these words you are reading, but suffice to say that it was dark and lots of things were going bang outside the window.

From my vantage point, sometime earlier this week, I am unaware who has won the race to lead the world’s most powerful country.

So, may I take this opportunity to offer my congratulations to President Barack Obama on his historic triumph in yesterday’s election.

Despite presiding over four years of economic stagnation, it was inevitable the Democrat would win because of the extreme right-wing policies of his Republican opponents.

At the same time, I’d also like to offer my congratulations to President-elect Mitt Romney on his historic triumph in yesterday’s election.

Despite the extreme right-wing policies of his party, it was inevitable the Republican would win because of the last four years of economic stagnation.

Regardless who triumphed, what I can say without any doubt is that this week’s US presidential election was one of the great exercises in democracy as a country of 320 million people chose their leader for the next four years.

Impressive as this is, we should remember that an even more substantial vote takes place when one billion Indians decide who should represent them.

With its young and growing population, each new general election in the subcontinent automatically becomes the greatest exercise in democracy in the history of humanity.

A rather humbler piece of democratic history will be made in West Yorkshire next week when we vote in our first ever police and crime commissioner.

In case you haven’t heard – and there’s quite a good chance that you haven’t – on November 15 every part of England and Wales outside London will elect a sheriff to keep their beady eyes on the boys and girls in blue.

Our new commissioner will be able to give the chief constable the order of the boot, will decide how the police budget is spent and will set priorities for the force. For their trouble, he or she will pocket £100,000 a year.

Police and crime commissioners are one of many wheezes dreamed up by the coalition government to bring power closer to the people.

The old system of police authorities – where councillors from across the region met every month to look at pie charts and discuss reports written in something resembling English – was thought to be too boring.

Can you name the chairman of West Yorkshire Police Authority? Unless you’re related to him, or a bit of a nerd, the answer is probably no.

So it’s fair enough to say that the old system of police accountability didn’t exactly enthral the punters.

But will the police commissioners be any different?

That remains to be seen, but the early signs are not encouraging.

Most commentators are predicting a dire turnout for next week’s vote. There isn’t a good time to hold an election for a position which has only just come into existence. But there is a bad time to have such a vote – and the middle of wet, dark, miserable November is that time.

The consensus appears to be that only one in five voters will bother battling through the gloom to get to the polling station.

But, no matter how small the civic-minded minority is next Thursday, I will be part of it. I’ll be there at Slaithwaite Leisure Centre as normal to exercise my vote.

Why? Because I’m acutely aware of the huge sacrifices made by past generations which allow me to elect those who govern my life – whether they’re MPs, councillors or police commissioners.

To refuse to vote, to moan that you’re “apathetic” is an insult to those who died for your democratic rights. It’s also a slap in the face to the brave people in places like Syria who are this very day laying down their lives for the right to elect their own leaders.

I’m not enthusiastic about the concept of police and crime commissioners. But I am enthusiastic about democracy – and that’s much, much more important.