The observant amongst you will have noticed that I’m not at Liberal Democrat Conference this year. I had originally intended to go, but then events (the Tour of Britain on Friday, the Free Festival yesterday and various meetings next week) got in the way and meant it wouldn’t really have been worth my while to go all the way up to Liverpool for just a day or two.

Or so I thought. When I heard I’d been nominated for a Blog of the Year award for co-creating the bizarre phenomenon that was #nickcleggsfault , I thought it was nice to be recognised but there was no way I’d win the award, and I assumed that was the general consensus from the lack of interest there was in volunteering to stand in for me at the awards. It was quite a big surprise, then, to turn my computer on this morning and discover that I’d won.

So, with thanks to Stephen Tall for standing in for me and providing a relevant excuse, here’s an approximation of what I might have said had I been there to accept the award last night:

First off, I’d like to thank Justin McKeating – while I used the phrase ‘Nick Clegg’s fault’, he was the person who put a hash in front of it while blaming Nick for stubbing his toe. However, I don’t think either of us expected it to become as explosively popular as it did.

I also feel somewhat guilty about winning this award as I did basically nothing compared to the hard work everyone else has done – I was one of the supporters of Bridget’s motion to get the Digital Economy Bill discussed at the last Conference, I’ve seen the amount of work candidates like Daisy and Tamora do even before they spend time doing digital campaigning on top of that and I’m still a member of Simon’s Vote Clegg, Get Clegg group and see how it’s continuing to generate interesting – and by the usual internet standards, fantastically polite – conversations months after the election. So, to get this award for typing 140 characters early one morning seems almost as absurd as some of the things Nick was being blamed for and so I’d also like to thank everyone out there who took part in #nickcleggsfault back in April and May – this is as much your award as it mine and Justin’s.

It’s still coming home with me and going on my mantelpiece, though.

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I’ve been nominated in the 2010 Liberal Democrat Voice Blog Of The Year Awards, which probably seems rather odd given how little blogging I’ve done in the last twelve months. And so it would be, if it was for blogging, but instead it’s for the early morning Twitter conversation with Justin that turned into a globe-spanning hashtag that even got mentioned on Newsnight.

Unaccountably, the offers to pay us large amounts of money as experts on the use of hashtags in social media have failed to materialise, and our attempts to persuade people to #SendUsMoney experienced the common Difficult Second Hashtag problem and failed to reach the same level of success. But even if I’m not going to be at the awards ceremony – I’ve too much on here to get up to Conference – I can at least display a meaningless graphic here for a while.

And remember that there’s an open vote for Best non-Liberal Democrat blog running on the LDV site now. I’d definitely urge you to vote for anyone but Tom Harris,

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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…

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Bob Russell (Liberal Democrat): 22151
Will Quince (Conservative): 15169
Jordan Newell (Labour): 5680
John Pitts (UKIP): 1350
Sidney Chaney (BNP): 705
Peter Lynn (Green): 694
Eddie Bone (English Democrats): 335
Garryck Noble (People’s Party Essex): 35
Paul Shaw: 20

So, Bob’s back for a fourth term, with an increased number of votes, majority and share of the vote. I’ve now been up for 24 hours, so any commentary will wait until I’ve slept and got my brain back into something resembling functioning order. Until then, I can only quote the intro to the latest series of Ashes to Ashes: ‘Frankly, your guess is as good as mine.’

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Assuming the clock on my website’s server is right, then as this post goes live, polling will have started in the General Election. And on this day of all days, I’d like to appeal to activists of all parties to think back over the lessons learned during this campaign and come together as one to unite behind the Campaign for Humane Letterboxes.

Right, that’s the non-partisan bit out of the way. You might have guessed by now that the nature of election day means this won’t be like the other election diary entries I’ve made over the past month. As I’m unlikely to get a chance to sit at the computer and write something until Friday, I’ll tell you now what my election day consists of – first, sitting at polling stations taking numbers, then rushing round delivering leaflets before an afternoon and evening reminding people to go and vote. That’s followed by a mass rush to Charter Hall at 10pm for the count, and then a few hours of watching pieces of paper until it’s time for the result. If it wasn’t for adrenaline, caffeine and whatever else you might choose to keep yourself alert, election days would feature a lot less activity.

One thing that people often ask me is why we sit at polling stations collection voter’s elector numbers. It’s not for any nefarious purposes – simply, every party will have a list of the people they expect to vote for them (in the old days it was on multiple sheets of paper spread out in a large room, now it’s all kept on computer and printed off as needed). Every so often, the numbers collected at each polling station are taken to the local base (known as the committee room) and entered into the system. So, when we look at the data later in the day, we can see which of our supporters haven’t voted yet and go out to remind them to do it, with increasing urgency as 10pm gets closer. By giving the person at the polling station your number, you’re making sure that you won’t be disturbed on polling day – we make no assumption that because you’ve given us your number you’re going to vote for us.

You have a choice today when you go to vote. It’s a simple one: do you choose hope or fear? Do you vote because you’re scared of what the Daily Mail predicts, scared of all those nasty foreign people, scared of changing things that people say have worked for them for so long, scared of your neighbours, scared of those young people with nothing to do, scared of everything somehow going wrong unless the media’s designated strong government in waiting is allowed absolute power to tell you they’re dealing with all these problems while spending your money on finding new ways to terrify you? Or do you choose something else?

Do you hope for a better future, for a country where every vote counts, where the Government works for you, where the world’s just full of other people, not nasty scary monsters who want to destroy our way of life? Do you hope that this country could be run from the bottom up, not the top down, where taxes aren’t keeping the poor down, where you can get a decent education without plunging into thousands of pounds of debt, where you get to say what your hospital should be prioritising, not someone setting targets in London?

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns and and close yourself off, the eyes of love instead, see all of us as one.

However you vote today, do it hopefully. They can only scare you if you let them.

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As the battlebuses pull into their last stops, and the last hordes of activists run through ever-darkening streets to push that one last leaflet that might make the difference through that one last letterbox, the election finally gets handed over to the voters. Yes, at last we’ll get the answer to the question that’s been bugging us for the the past weeks, months, and years – which polling company is the most accurate? Oh, there’ll be something about a new Government at the end of it too, but that’s less important, surely.

Still, if you see your vote as being something more than doing what a random sample of people tells you, have some links. Angry Mob believe that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is telling the Daily Mail where to go. Writing for the Guardian’s Science section, Martin Robbins assesses the evidence about the parties’ science policies and states:

Which leads me to emerge from two weeks buried in paperwork and political promises to find myself at this conclusion. If I were to cast my vote based purely on science, it would be for the Liberal Democrats, for Nick Clegg and for Evan Harris.

It’s the last day of the campaign, so a couple of final digs at David Cameron. Duncan Stott wonders just what sort of interviews he prefers. And David Schneider has a final warning:

And one last video:

And no, when I sent that tweet to Justin a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t expect it to inspire so much.

As for my day, another 350 or so leaflets delivered, which takes me up to 3,800 for the campaign. Was expecting to do even more than that, but after I’d done my assigned delivery, I found out that the rest of the constituency had all been done, so I could relax for the evening. Nice to have so many volunteers, and it should make it good fun tomorrow to have a lot of people around to help get the vote out. I’m up bright and early tomorrow to do the first canvassing shift at my local polling station, and by the time the count has finished, I’ll have likely been up for over 20 hours. Not quite as much as I managed in 1997, but back then I didn’t have to go to another count – for the local elections – the day after.

Blog posting may be understandably light tomorrow, but I will likely be twittering quite a lot.

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Vote music

Right, the man responsible for this – amongst so many other crime against music – has come out for the Tories today:

And don’t let it be forgotten that this man has been campaigning with David Cameron:

And never let this man’s Tory allegiances be forgotten:

Meanwhile, this was created by a Liberal Democrat:

And she agrees with Nick:

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Do you remember four weeks ago? When BBC News spent half an hour showing us live footage of Gordon Brown’s car driving through London, when David Cameron told us he was going to campaign for the ‘great ignored’ and the media didn’t really care who Nick Clegg was?

Yes, we’re four weeks into this campaign, with a little over 48 hours to go, or less if you’re a party leader. Must be great for them, not having to do anything but go out and vote, knowing that there’s no way for them to campaign any more, and there’ll be other people out there doing the knocking up for them on election day. The rest of us will be running up and down streets, looking for someone with a car to take someone to the polling station before it closes and wondering if this is the year that a Parliamentary seat or Council ward will be won by one single vote, so we can claim we made that difference. Though, for anyone doubting the need for work on election day, every election here in Colchester has featured at least one seat where the result could have been different (for every party) if there’d been one more person out knocking up for an hour or two on election day.

Lots of links for you today, you lucky people. Cicero’s Songs is waiting for the Liberal Democrat earthquake and Unlock Democracy has a point to make about hung Parliaments – would you rather be Greece or Germany? Over in Wales, my old friend Daran Hill writes for WalesHome about which seats there might see shock results on election night, while the New Statesman shocks us with the revelation that Ed Balls might just, possibly, be able to countenance the idea of someone voting for a party other than Labour.

Here in Colchester, we had some of the Young Britons’ Foundation leaflets delivered yesterday and The Bureau of Sabotage has some more information on them, including the interesting news that the deliverers of them may not have been doing it for ideological reasons, but purely for cash. I’m sure the YBF’s accounts will show that any payments for delivery were legal and above board, and not cash-in-hand payments dodging tax and employment laws. Changing the subject entirely, a rather shocking report from The Independent on what happened when a reporter attempted to investigate stories of election fraud in the East End.

After all that, have a break with a quick video:

As for me, it was a bit of a quiet day. Had to go to Ipswich this morning for non-election related work, but had an interesting tour of the Museums there, which are part of the joint Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service – and I’m sure I’ll talk about that at greater length after the election. I came back and went to do some deliveries, only to discover that thanks to a over-supply of volunteers today, there was very little left to do! Yes, today we were delivering things faster than we could print them, something that brings a smile to the face of every election agent. I did find a few things left to deliver, but just 100 to take my total deliveries for the campaign up to 3,450. From my memories of previous campaigns, I might double that in the next 48 hours.

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I should remember to never talk about the weather. Yesterday doesn’t appear to have been a blip in the generally sunny election we’ve been having, and the rain has returned. Typical Bank Holiday weather, of course, including a brief hailstorm, but really scuppers the best laid plans of deliverers and canvassers.

That didn’t stop electioneering from going on between the showers. David Cameron appears to be launching a special Conservative effort to target the insomniac voter, by promising that the Conservatives will campaign ‘through the night’ on Tuesday. I suspect someone’s borrowed an idea from American politics, where there’s much talk of candidates doing 36-hour last-ditch campaign swings, but it makes sense in a country with multiple time zones and many opportunities to sleep on flights between events. It doesn’t really mean much if you’re wandering round Smithfield at 3am trying to get a photograph with someone who’s not covered in too much blood.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown was in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft today with Duncan Bannatyne. Bannatyne is currently hosting a series called Seaside Rescue. Ever get the feeling that their hearts just aren’t in it at Labour HQ, or are they attempting to make lives easier for newspaper headline and caption writers?

Here’s a list of celebrity Lib Dem supporters. Rumours that Armando Ianucci’s there because a) we’re the only party not to have asked him to direct an election broadcast and b) a strong third party and a balanced Parliament creates some interesting plots for The Thick Of It would likely be strongly denied by the party’s press officers.

Today’s linkage gives you the opportunity to see Mark Reckons using the word ‘bunkum’, which just doesn’t get used enough in political discourse, Liberal England bringing us Betty Boothroyd’s views on electoral reform, and Chris Brooke discussing post-election possibilities for the Liberal Democrats.

Elsewhere, Splintered Sunrise collects several Northern Ireland election broadcasts into a single post, showing that one result of the peace process is that Sinn Fein can now make videos that are just as banal as any other political party. However, my personal favourite in that collection is the SDLP’s, which features a number of scenes that look like attempts to enter a competition for the world’s worst Reservoir Dogs-esque walk.

Things I didn’t expect to be posting links to in this election campaign: Lib Dem flashmobs in Trafalgar Square.

They Work For You have created a very good site to help you decide who you should vote for. Linking with the work done by Democracy Club, you get to answer questions on local and national issues and see how they match up to your local candidates, not just national party lists. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my results gave me Bob Russell (Lib Dem) first, Peter Lynn (Green) second and Garryck Noble of the People’s Party Essex third, with BNP and UKIP tied for fourth. And no, I haven’t discovered some latent swivel-eyed loon tendency – that’s far behind in last place because our Labour, Tory, English Democrat and independent candidates haven’t responded to any of the questions.

As for my campaigning, I’ve done about 350 deliveries today, which takes the total up to about 3,350, I believe. Whole lot more to come over the next few days, but none of it is in my house at the moment.

And finally, some music, with Right Said Fred’s ‘Lib Dem anthem’. While it does have a singalong chorus, I can’t see it being requested that much at the next Conference Glee Club:

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It couldn’t last, of course. All bubbles burst, all things that have been feeling so good for such a long period have to eventually drop back down to the norm, and perhaps even below the norm in order to appease the law of averages that govern this sort of thing.

Yes, today was the first day in a while when the weather was horrible and not one that anyone would really want to go out and campaign in. Wet, windy and rather cold, it’s the perfect day for staying in and working on designing and rewriting literature for the last few days of the campaign – as Sara Bedford says: “When it rains, we artwork, so when it stops there is more to deliver”.

One of the benefits of living in one of the driest parts of the UK is that we do lose very few days of election campaigning to poor weather – though a couple of years ago saw the start of campaigning being delayed by snow – and so it doesn’t feel too bad to lose the odd day to poor weather. However, this does prompt a thought for any researchers looking for ideas for projects, how about something looking at the effects of weather on levels of political campaigning and the consequential effects on turnout and results?

Still, the forecast for the week ahead looks like it’ll be OK for campaigning, even if it is going to be a little cold. Sunny weather forecast for Thursday, though I’m a bit concerned at the prediction of the temperature dropping to 2 degrees on Wednesday night. Delivering those eve of poll and early morning leaflets isn’t too easy in gloves.

Seems to have been an oddly quiet day nationally in the election campaign too – possibly because other news has been topping the headlines today, and the media being glad for the chance for a quick break from the election to cover foiled bomb plots, oil spills, Greek economic woes and a rather bizarre story featuring the world snooker champion and News of the World journalists posing as the Ukrainian mafia. Against that background, you can see how ‘Clegg, Cameron and Brown make more speeches in different locations’ drops down the running order – even gay demons don’t get that much air time.

Less than 100 hours to go until the campaign’s all over.

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