To finish off my series of election entries, I’ll sum up what happened on the day itself. I’ll write another post later on that looks at what happens next, but this is just about what happened on election day, and the night after…and a little bit of the morning after too.
I was up at 6am as I was first on the rota for telling at my local polling station, so had to be there for 7am. A quiet two hours, but I had a nice chat with the Green teller (the only other party who had one there) and saw that turnout was up during that period. I’ve done the first shift there for a few years now, and (at local elections) it normally takes a full two hours to fill one sheet on the teller’s pad, but this time I filled two in that first hour. After I done that, I met up with one of our local campaign team to get round and do a last delivery to some flats while we could still get into the blocks.
Had fun trying to get into a couple of blocks I haven’t delivered to in a while – pressed the access button to get in and it unlocked the door while the button is pressed. Unfortunately, the button is located in such a position that it’s impossible to hold down the button and open the door at the same time unless you happen to be Mr Tickle.
The good bit about election day is that with the media only able to report that polling is underway, you can forget about the national picture and any campaign dramatics (though the Farage plane crash was the subject of much discussion during the day) and just get on with working on your local campaign. What this means in practice, of course, is spending a lot of the day getting your head down and steeling yourself to do lots and lots of deliveries. Despite the warm up of all the deliveries I did during the campaign, it’s still a very tiring day, and my legs are still stiff today as a result.
After delivering to various points of the constituency, we switched to door-knocking and reminding people to go and vote in the evening which is always fun as no matter how good your polling day operation has been, you know you’re always going to get to knock on the door of someone who’s already gone and done it.
As you might have noticed from my Twitter comments during the night, the count in Colchester took a lot longer than it should have done. Because we had local elections going on as well, we had to start by verifying all the votes from those as well as the Parliamentary election and that took an inordinate amount of time, featuring much waiting around punctuated by sudden bursts of activity as a box was opened and every polling agent descended upon the tables where they being verified to get a sample count so we could have an idea of what was going on. However, this went on until almost 2am by which time the two TVs in the room were giving us a much better view of what had happened nationally.
Given the way the national results went, with every glimmer of Liberal Democrat light (Eastbourne! Redcar! Burnley!) being followed by another failure to take a target seat, or the loss of a held seat, my highlight came early on. I was talking with a couple of people in the middle of Charter Hall and then noticed out of the corner of my eye that the TV was showing a result with a gold bar at the top of the screen, indicating a Lib Dem victory. Moving over towards the TV to see which seat it was, I first noticed that it was Belfast East and my first thought was that they’d been using a yellow-ish colour to depict one of the 57 varieties of Unionism. Then, we realised that it was to signify not just an Alliance victory for Naomi Long, but the defeat of the First Minister. At that point anything seemed possible, and I was sure the exit polls would turn out to be wrong but it wasn’t to be. Some of our losses weren’t necessarily a shock, but some (Evan Harris and Julia Goldsworthy spring to mind) weren’t just shocks, but major losses to the Party in Parliament.
Of course, we didn’t have any problems retaining the seat here in Colchester – and our sample counts of the Council election turned out to be accurate in predicting the gains we got the next day – so we ended with the happiness of having achieved Bob’s fourth term, and I finally got home just after 6am with the sun well up in the sky and the realisation that I had to be back at the count in just a few hours…