It’s polling day…

clocktowerAfter all these weeks of campaigning, I can give you news of one confirmed loss from this election campaign – several pounds of weight from me. The election diet plan has had a very positive effect on me over the past few weeks, and there’s definitely less of me than there was in March.

That’s what happens when you spend lots of time either out knocking on doors or delivering leaflets, especially in a ward where it’s much easier to get about on foot or on a bike than it is by car. I’ve knocked on over a thousand doors, spoken to hundreds of people and delivered thousands of leaflets during this campaign, all of which meant that taking a day off from it to walk 14 miles wasn’t too much of a hassle.

Overall, it’s been a great experience to get out on the election trail again. It’s been good to talk to the residents of Castle Ward and find out what they want from their Council and to explain how we as a Liberal Democrat team can help to deliver them. Obviously, not everyone was in agreement with me, but if I am elected tomorrow, I will do as I did before and seek to represent all the residents of the ward as best as I can.

I’m still standing for the aims and values I wrote about at the start of the campaign and the last few weeks have shown me that this is the approach Castle ward and Colchester needs.

I also want to do my part in making Colchester a better place for everyone and carry on some of the work I was doing before. It’s about working on big things like the funding we got for the Castle, or the recent investment in the Mercury renovation but also the small things like improving on street parking in various streets, making waste collection more effective or just helping residents have their views heard on planning and licensing applications.

I’m standing again because I think Colchester needs a Liberal Democrat council to stand up to the cuts being imposed on us from central government, and to ensure that decisions about Colchester are made here in Colchester, not handed over to Essex County Council. We need a council in Colchester that invests in local services, not one that seeks to cut them or sell them off. Colchester is a great town at the heart of a great borough, and a Liberal Democrat-run council can keep improving it, creating more jobs and opportunities for everyone. I want to be part of that again, making sure that Castle Ward and its residents are fully represented and supported.

If you live in Castle Ward, then please vote for me and my colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes today. Indeed, if you’re anywhere in the UK there are elections going on today, so please go out and vote so your voice can be heard. Even if you don’t like any of the candidates, use the opportunity to tell them why.

The votes are being counted overnight tomorrow, so we should know the result sometime around dawn on Friday. Whatever the result, it’s been an interesting time but I am looking forward to catching up on sleep and TV at the weekend.

And then we all have the European referendum campaign to occupy our time for the next seven weeks – who knows how much weight I might lose during that?

2015 Colchester local election results

As I get people coming here looking for them, I’ll post them as I get them so the post will be updated as the evening goes on. Click here for the General Election result.

(These are for the original Colchester in Essex, England – if you’re looking for those for November 2015 in Colchester, Connecticut, click here)

Berechurch: Labour (Dave Harris) 1,958, Conservative 858, UKIP 521, LD 406, Green 152
Birch and Winstree: Conservative (Andrew Ellis) 1,913, UKIP 569, LD 291, Lab 287, Green 145
Castle: Conservative (Darius Laws) 1667, LD 1172, Green 982, Labour 821
Christ Church: Conservative (Annesley Hardy) 964, LD 670, Labour 433, Green 319, UKIP 148
Copford and West Stanway: Conservative (Jackie Maclean) 673, UKIP 177, LD 115, Lab 155, Green 46
Fordham and Stour: Conservative (Nigel Chapman) 2,023, labour 396, Green 336, LD 327
Great Tey: Conservative (Peter Chillingworth) 979, LD 257, Labour 170, UKIP 162, Green 104
Highwoods: Independent (Philip Oxford) 1,592, Conservative 1,192, Labour 479, LD 466, UKIP 395, Green 187
Mile End: Conservative (Ben Locker) 2,101, LD 1,769, Labour 707, UKIP 533, Green 368
New Town: LD (Annie Feltham) 1,289, Conservative 832, Labour 772, Green 631, UKIP 493
Prettygate: Conservative (Will Quince) 2,269, LD 967, Labour 522, UKIP 489, Green 196
Shrub End: Conservative (Pauline Hazell) 1,571, LD 1157, UKIP 757, Labour 736
St Andrew’s: Labour (Tim Young) 1,462, Conservative 715, LD 447, Green 317
St Anne’s: LD (Barrie Cook) 1173, Conservative 976, UKIP 770, Labour 600, Green 241
Stanway: Conservative (Fiona Maclean) 1861, LD 1611, Labour 616, Green 261
Tiptree: Conservative (Margaret Crowe) 1,873, UKIP 1,313, Labour 535, LD 194, Green 129
West Bergholt and Eight Ash Green: Conservative (Marcus Harrington) 1,578, UKIP 370, Labour 306, LD 265, Green 204, Independent 151, Patriotic Socialist 12
West Mersea: Conservative (Patricia Moore) 2,154, UKIP 988, labour 402, Green 330, LD 278
Wivenhoe Cross: Lib Dem (Mark Cory) 668, Labour 328, Green 130, Conservative 271, UKIP 90
Wivenhoe Quay: Labour (Rosaling Scott) 1295, Conservative 1251, Green 325, LD 295

Official details are on the Borough council website here.

More Tory negative campaigning in Colchester

One thing that’s interested me this election is that the Tories appear to not be bothering in the local election in my ward. We haven’t received a single leaflet from them mentioning their local election candidate, but that’s not too much of a surprise when the large majority of Tory propaganda we’ve received hasn’t even bothered to name their Parliamentary candidate.

However, after spending the weekend arsing around with a cardboard cutout of Nick Clegg, I finally spotted our local Tory candidate for Castle Ward on my street last night, and he was actually delivering something. Unfortunately, it yet again failed to mention him or their Parliamentary candidate, and was instead a rather nasty smear leaflet trying to claim that Bob Russell is responsible for all crime in Colchester. Indeed, if you didn’t notice the rather blurry imprint in very small writing, you might think it was something independent and not actually a Tory campaign leaflet. I’m sure that wasn’t intentional on their part, as was the fact it omitted to mention that one of the leading local anti-knife crime campaigners backs Bob’s re-election.

I think it shows the contempt the Tories hold the electorate in by not running on their own record and policies, but instead spreading lies and fear amongst the electorate. Whether it’s fear of crime, or fear of the people of Scotland daring to vote how they want to, the Tory campaign has been a spectacularly unedifying spectacle, seeking to do nothing more than whip up divisions within the country.

Locally and nationally, Tory policies are dangerous, and coupled with a mentality that’s happy to divide society and whip up fear for short-term electoral gain, they don’t deserve to be in power. We all have the power to ensure that they’re not.

Key by-election news

I wrote last week about the odd situation in Gwynedd, where a lack of candidates forced a non-election in one ward, and that ward turned out to be crucial for overall control of the Council.

Nominations for the ensuing by-election have now closed, and the electors of Bryncrug/Llanfihangel sadly haven’t shown a continued spirit of anarchism by refusing to nominate anyone again. Instead, having not been able to find a single candidate a few weeks, this time they’ve found five, including three different independents.

However, it looks like the election won’t be as crucial as originally thought, as Plaid Cymru have now done a deal with Labour to run the Council. I’ll keep an eye out for other updates as this campaign rolls on, though.

Schrodinger’s ballot box – is it empty or full?

A couple of days ago, we had the story of the council ward in Wales with no candidates, and now we have the story of the ballot box in Glasgow that may or may not contain no votes.

It seems that Glasgow Council has just discovered that one of the ballot boxes used for the Langside ward was recorded as having contained no votes, but that, on closer examination (or perhaps just looking in the box) it seems that there were some in there. How many there are, I’m not sure, but from what I can find on Glasgow Council’s site, the polling district in question (Battlefield Primary) contains up to 3434 voters. (The report on polling districts is a little confusing, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s proposing creating one district with 3434 voters, or two sub-districts at the same polling station with 2,405 and 1,029 voters. If the latter is the case, then the box could be for the smaller of the two districts and only be for 1,029 voters.)

The official result is here, and Lallands Peat Worrier breaks it down in more detail here, complete with a graph that makes it easier to see where transferred votes (Scotland uses STV for local elections) have gone. What’s clear from that is that while the number of votes in there might not effect the SNP and Labour candidates who won on first preferences, the battle for third place is very close, and a few votes could change the outcome dramatically. And even with an ’empty’ ballot box, they still managed a 35% turnout.

Beyond the election itself, there are some important questions to ask, starting with just how a box with votes in it got recorded as being empty. However, that then opens up a whole set of other questions, notably starting with how no one raised an eyebrow at a ballot box (and the BBC report refers to it as ‘the’ ballot box for the polling station, not ‘a’) coming back empty. At that point, someone ought to have checked with the staff running the polling station to see if no one had come in to vote during the day. There’s also questions about how none of the agents or candidates spotted that a ballot box wasn’t being counted, too.

Officially, though, that ballot box has no votes in it – that’s what the declaration of result says, and that stands as fact, despite what the evidence might say, until someone gets an election court to say otherwise.

The Gwynedd knife edge

One of the things about having a lot of local elections taking place at the same time is that it’s possible for a lot of rare situations to arise, just by the pure chance of probabilities. And sometimes, if you’re very lucky, two or more of them will crash into each other and create a very interesting situation.

Which is what’s happened in Gwynedd after the recent set of local elections. It all started with a political curiosity back in April, when it was announced that no candidate had stood for election in the Bryncrug ward. It was an odd situation, seemingly caused when an independent councillor decided to retire but no one stood to replace him. So, an odd situation, but one that was likely to emerge somewhere in Wales at sometime, given the sheer number of small single-member wards there where candidates are often returned unopposed.

However, that wasn’t the final twist in this little tale. The voters of Gwynedd had their say last week and this what they said:
Gwynedd election result from BBC News
Yes, 37 Plaid Cymru councillors and 37 others. Perfectly tied, except for the fact that Gwynedd Council has 75 seats, which means that the Bryncrug by-election goes from being an interesting little anomaly to potentially the election that will determine who controls the Council. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll suddenly find hordes of politicians descending on this one small ward in an attempt to root out every last potential voter. There’s almost a potential modern Ealing comedy there – all you need to do is discover some hugely valuable asset that makes control of the Council absolutely vital between two bitterly divided sides, and the hilarity will no doubt ensue.

Local news and local elections

With the election over, I got to return to one of favourite evening pastimes (after canvassing, of course) – shouting at the TV when Look East is covering politics.

Firstly, they clearly have an issue in getting accurate information about what’s going on. Last night, their political editor reported that the Bedford mayoral contest wasn’t looking good for the Liberal Democrats, about an hour after the result of the first preference votes had been announced, showing that Dave Hodgson was leading the race, and about five minutes after I’d seen the first mentions on Twitter that he’d won re-election by a clear majority.

Yes, there were elections going on all over the region yesterday, but for the BBC’s regional political editor to not be up to speed with what’s happening in the region’s largest local election? That’s really not delivering what I think you should expect from regional political coverage.

But I think that reveals a much larger problem with the way local politics is covered, which follows the lead of their national colleagues in assuming that the elections are merely an expression of people’s views on national politics. Thus, the fact that Liberal Democrats had lost seats in North Norfolk, while we in Colchester held our position was put entirely down to the different attitudes towards the Government of Norman Lamb and Bob Russell. The idea that people might have been voting with regard to local issues wasn’t even discussed as a possible explanation of why the votes might have gone the way they did.

I’m not denying that people’s local votes aren’t influenced by the national political situation – though there’s a long history here in Colchester of results going against the national trends – but surely we should expect that our local news programmes might actually make an effort to discover what the local issues are, rather than just blindly assuming that no one cares who runs their local council and are just having their say about the Westminster beauty contest?

The result

As I’ve already had one phone call this morning asking how I did, here’s the result for Castle Ward:

Nick Barlow (Lib Dem): 1113

Green: 715
Conservative: 583
Labour: 368

Thanks to everyone who voted for me, and I look forward to representing you for another four years.

Elsewhere in Colchester, everything stayed the same with every seat being held, despite Labour and Tory claims that they were certain to take seats off us. For the full results, see the Council’s website.

Why vote for me today?

First, I want to thank the voters of Castle Ward for giving me the chance to represent you as one of your councillors for the last four years. Representing the oldest part of Britain’s oldest recorded town has been a great honour, and I hope you’ll give me the opportunity to do it again for another four years.

I don’t claim that Colchester is perfect, but I do think the Lib Dem-led administration that has run Colchester Borough for the last three years has got things on the right track. By initiating a series of Fundamental Service Reviews when we got into power, we’ve been able to identify lots of efficiency savings that have allowed us to minimise the effects of the cuts on Colchester, while protecting jobs and front line services.

We’ll introduce new neighbourhood teams for street cleaning and street services, which will mean that Castle Ward has a dedicated team working to respond to residents’ complaints and problems. Our policy of cleaning all graffiti has already started making Castle Ward look better, and under the new system, the ward will have its own team.

I work hard to make Castle ward a better place for everyone, and I regularly report issues to the street services team to get them cleaned up. I also make sure I follow up on reports I make to ensure we get action – I’ve lobbied the County Council to get our potholes fixed quicker, and we’re finally seeing action there.

We’re investing in the town centre, and working with local businesses to make it better. One of the first decisions I made as a Cabinet member was to get our new Christmas lights, and working in partnership with businesses and other organisations means we had a great array of events running to compliment them – and there’ll be even more this year.

I want Colchester to be a place that attracts visitors. That’s why I pushed for us to spend money fixing the Roman Wall, and if I’m re-elected I’ll work to get a proper protection and management plan for it, so we make the most of it. I want to promote our other heritage sites, and will look to arrange a Heritage Summit to get all groups working together on a strategy to really make the most of our history.

I’ll also work to get more jobs in Colchester, and ensure the Council continues to support our small businesses. This year, we’ve opened the new Business Incubation Centre at Severalls, and now we need to work hard to get the funding for the Creative Business Hub in the town centre that will bring in new jobs and new investment for the St Botolph’s area.

I’ll also continue to work on making the Town Centre a better place at night. Colchester’s not alone in suffering the problems caused by the night-time economy, but we need to act to stop those problems spreading – I opposed the plans for a massive nightclub in Crouch Street, and will oppose the plans for late-night opening every night of the week at the old Hippodrome. I led a group of councillors from all parties looking into these problems, and I’ll make sure that the work we did isn’t forgotten about, and find ways to get a wider variety of events in the Town Centre at night, making it attractive to everyone again.

I’ll work to protect our nationally recognised arts venues, and ensure that the Council keeps funding and working with them to make a better Colchester for everyone. A large number of people in Colchester work in the creative and cultural sector, and it’s a vital and growing part of our local economy that we need to protect and nurture.

Finally, I promise to keep up what I’ve been doing for the last four years, and work to make life better for the residents of Castle Ward, championing your issues and resolving your problems. Along with my colleagues Bill Frame and Henry Spyvee, we’ll keep reporting back to you through regular Castle Focus newsletters about what we’ve been doing, and will always be accessible to you.

Castle ward is my home too – I’ve lived here for almost fifteen years, and want to make it a great place for everyone. Please give me your support today so I can keep doing that.