Election stories III: polling day and the count

2017-05-05 10.58.26It’s an early start with my alarm set for 0530 because what were eve of poll leaflets last night are now good morning leaflets. It’s a fine morning so I’m off and running by 0600. 

I make sure that I’m back at the polling station by 0700 to say hello to our starting teller. That’s Jonathan Chatfield who’s ever present, does his bit and a source of good advice. There are no other tellers yet and I head off to deliver more good mornings and then have a decent breakfast.

There’s actually not much to do on polling day itself once the good mornings are out and as long as you’re not an obsessive who believes in knocking up continuously from the middle of the morning. Believe me there are some who do that, it’s in the Lib Dem election handbook, and they continue with second and subsequent knock-ups. I don’t.

So during the day I engage in pastoral work chatting to tellers, we have a full operation, and shipping telling slips across to Christine Stapleton who’s in charge of the Committee Room and the Connect operation.

Labour tellers show up during the day and I get increasingly paranoid when so many voters seem to know them but don’t acknowledge me. However one voter says our literature has been so good he’s no choice but to vote for us.

Later in the afternoon I’m chatting to Dot Chatfield who asks me how I think I’ll do. I tell her about my paranoia and that sometimes I think I’ll do badly and sometimes that I’ll do really well. Samuel’s listening and opines that he thinks it’ll be the latter!

1700 and I send an ‘unbranded’ email to my monthly report list reminding/encouraging people to vote.

At 1800 I declare it’s time for knocking up and I’m joined by Martin Cahn, Stuart Lothian and new member Steve Hunt. Jonathan promises me he’ll do a bit later. Actually it’s just displacement activity but I do Mill Lane and it’s all positive. Doesn’t settle my paranoia though.

Finally I’m on teller duty during the graveyard shift at 2100. I’m joined by Huw Jones. We decide to liven matters a little by welcoming people to the polling station and then by thanking them for voting. Then at 2200 it’s all over but there’s more.

For some reason we have verification tonight so it’s off to South Cambs. Verification is when we get to see the polling station boxes opened and to (a) get an early indication of the result, and (b) see if there’s an difference between the boxes (polling stations).

I head off but not before I stop by the Railway Vue for a bottle of Becks and a bag of crisps. The beer didn’t touch the sides as it went down.

There’s a longish queue at South Cambs with cars bringing in polling station equipment and the all important boxes. I drive past it and am allowed quickly into the car park. I’m into the council chamber where the action’s taking place by about 2230 and there’s a lot already happening.

This year the counting process is going to be easier for me. In my previous three elections it’s been a two member division and it’s almost impossible to know how you’ve done but this year with it only being the single member Histon & Impington division I should get some good early intelligence. Will it settle my paranoia?

We’re interested in 4 boxes: King’s Meadows, Orchard Park, Histon and Impington. The first could be a shoe box and I missed it. You barely get a 100 votes from King’s Meadow and I probably would have lost it anyway.

Then it’s Orchard Park but that doesn’t take long either. Maybe 5 or 600 votes. It looks like I shaded that one with a 15% lead over Labour and the Tories a bad third despite the Tory candidate coming from Orchard Park. It’s what I should expect but it doesn’t help with my paranoia.

It’s quite a wait until we get Histon and that’s multiple boxes. But it’s worth the wait as I note multiple Lib Dem votes to every Labour or Tory one. By and large the Labour vote seems to have collapsed and I seem to be getting about 50% overall. There’s a handful of Green votes but it looks like my margin is such that they won’t be an issue. After Histon comes Impington and the pattern is repeated. My paranoia begins to settle.

I head off home and I’m in bed by 0230 but not before I run a quick update on my ‘voting model’. I reckon that maybe I’ll get a 700 majority.

Its been a 21 hour day and Fitbit will later record over 30 thousand steps. I sleep fitfully and wake in time to enjoy my regulation breakfast: croissants, coffee and the Guardian.

John Turner drives me to the count and that’s a lot less frenetic than last night’s verification. My role now is simply to make sure that my votes don’t go into the wrong pile. I needn’t worry. My pile grows and grows and is to prove bigger than all the other piles combined. I get 55% of the vote and a majority of 1100. Something to savour.

Elsewhere the Lib Dems secure all their existing seats and win Linton. This was especially sweet because the successful candidate was Henry Bachelor and it was his father John who lost by one vote four years ago.

But there was also disappointment. We missed Cottenham & Willingham by 2 votes, we came an incredibly strong second in Longstanton & Over (note that these are both new divisions and that Willingham and Over used to be together in one very safe Tory seat), and were close 3rd and 4th in the 2 member Sawston and Shelfords division.

Adding up the votes in total it was 40% each for the Lib Dems and Tories in South Cambs but desperately disappointing that we didn’t get over the line in those other seats.

Elsewhere in the County we successfully defended all of our seats but made no gains. Problem was that the Tories won all the UKIP seats and can now take control of the Council. How we will regret not pumping a little more effort into the seats where we just missed out.

Post script: The Tories have lost no time in becoming the nasty party again. They’ve taken all the committee chairs and vice-chairs for themselves which means that my short period of glory chairing the Health Com will prove to be just that: short. It’ll be into an adversarial council with all of the concensus-based advantages of the committee system consigned to history.

And finally: it was inevitable that I would have some reaction to the end of the campaign. Obviously I was able to relax and enjoy the thrill of its success but then on the Saturday night my body suddenly seized up most notably around my hips and my left shoulder. It was so bad that I had difficulty putting my socks on on Sunday morning. On Sunday night I just could not sleep so resorted to a couple of ibuprofen and suddenly it all melted away. I slept like a baby for the rest of the night and I’ve been largely OK since.

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One thought on “Election stories III: polling day and the count

  1. Thank you, David – an interesting read!

    Whatever our individual politics, we forget all the hard work of candidates who passionately believe that they can do best for their electorate.

    And then, for all but one – it’s over, they get their lives back – but they lost.

    Thank you for your belief and hard work!

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