From just before 7am yesterday (election day) until 7.45pm Susan and me collected numbers for the Labour Party at the Beeston North ward Beeston Fields polling station. We took in turns to enjoy the company of the two Liberal candidates, Steve and Barbara Carr for every minute of that time.
The view from the bowling green pavilion is lovely and the polling station workers were friendly and supportive, as was everyone who turned up to vote. Only a few voters declined to share their polling card numbers or address with us, but no one was rude or aggressive. It really was a most enjoyable day, especially since we had shelter from the heavy rain which rolled in from the west for fifteen minutes every hour or so.
The only surprise came at 7.45pm,when I was told I could finish, because the Labour Party was going to stop collecting polling numbers. I had expected to be there until 9.30pm at least, later if the election appeared too close to call. I have never ever known number collecting to stop so early. The person who came to tell me was just the messenger. He did not know why. I toyed with the idea of staying on, but it would have been dishonest to take numbers when they were not going to be used, especially when the post-election marked register would provide the same information in more detail.
I have always rated number taking at polling stations as being important for a number of reasons. Information gathering, welcoming potential voters and just being at every polling station to show that you care. Steve and Barbara Carr clearly know this and if the number of voters who stopped to have a chat was anything to go by, then they were already winners, whatever the result. I also liked Steve's campaign badge, which simply said 'Carr x 2'. His posters around Beeston Fields just read 'Carr' printed in black on orange paper. My own poster for the two Labour candidates in Beeston North (see my post dated 25 April) also just had their names. All too often candidates and councillors allow themselves become ciphers and forget they are individuals, able to have their own opinions and to be independent.
Back home I received a telephone call and was told that the Labour Party had been knocking up since the morning and didn't seem to need the numbers. I think one could assume from this that the person in charge was confident of the outcome and expected to win (why else would you pull volunteers off number collection at polling stations). All the Labour workers we saw on the day were upbeat, but I wasn't so sure. There were no Conservatives or Greens to be seen anywhere in my part of Beeston Fields and UKIP made a brief appearance, then disappeared again. There was just the Carrs, Susan and me.
Last December in my second ever post, I drew attention to the Toton and Chilwell Meadow by-election result and said 'I am sure that Labour will have noted that whilst both the Conservative (+2.6%) and UKIP (+15.9%) share of the vote went up, Labour's went down (-5.9%). You ignore any election at your peril'. I added that I wanted Labour to win.
On Tuesday this week I drew attention to this and added:
Based on the last Toton & Chilwell Meadow by-election (My second ever post last December referred to the Toton & Chilwell Meadows by-election result, which you can find on the Broxtowe Borough Council website athttp://www.broxtowe.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=14189), I suspect the Liberal vote in Broxtowe is more centre-right than centre-left, which should be to the advantage of the Conservatives. Then there is the UKIP factor and, somewhere on the edge, the Greens. I want Nick Palmer to win, but I suspect that I will wake up on Friday morning to a number of surprise results.
The unspeakable, which I feared, happened. This incomplete summary below shows voting numbers for the Broxtowe parliamentary elections in 2010 and 2015:
I am of the view that numbers tell you more than percentages ever do. I think the above summary proves my point. I have not been able to find the no. of spoilt/rejected ballot papers for 2010, but the no. of votes voted in 2010 was 51,305 and 53,640 in 2015. In other words, more people actually voted in 2015.
In terms of actual votes cast, Labour and the Liberals were the only losers. The Greens, Conservatives and UKIP all increased their vote.
The Toton & Chilwell Meadows by-election last December has turned out to be a good projection of what happened in the parliamentary election yesterday.
This time there can be no blaming the Greens. I suspect a good few folk like me voted Labour and helped them by delivering and taking numbers as I did, to try and bring about a Conservative defeat. We did not succeed.
Historically, when general and local elections have happened on the same day, the winning party tends to do well in the local election. Later today we will know. I am fearful. As I have blogged in a recent post, Labour's local election campaign has been pitiful, with all the effort going into getting Nick Palmer elected, assuming that Labour councillors would be elected as a consequence.
The Greens argued that we should follow our beliefs. Next time I will.
Susan was gutted when we woke up to the results this morning. Her actual words were: 'I warn you now Robert. I am going to spend the next five years in a state of underlying depression'.
I have no views on what the Labour Party nationally should do. They lost my support in 2013 because I believed then, and still do, that they were wedded to a right-wing agenda. I am sorry for Nick Palmer, but if he has taken local council candidates with him, then they have will have been the authors of their own demise by allowing the Broxtowe Borough Council elections to be buried — something else I have blogged about recently.
I will write about the local elections next week.
The Conservatives have taken control of Broxtowe Borough Council and Kimberley ward is so close that there will be a recount on Monday evening. You could argue that Anna Soubry and her colleagues snuck up on Labour and have given them a nasty bite on the bum. She looked genuinely shocked to have won. I don't like Conservative politics, but experience has taught me you have to come to some kind of accommodation if you don't want to drown in a sea of negativity.