Saturday, May 05, 2007
Not so manic now...
The final couple of days of the campaign were truly hectic, and I don't think I've ever worked so long and hard at anything in my life. The most inspiring thing about the entire process was that plenty of others on the team worked just as long and hard, and that despite the silly hours we were at voters' doors, they still greeted us with smiles most of the time! Even as United were getting panned in the Champions League and we were knocking on doors!
The final countdown began at 6am on Wednesday morning when I arrived at the studios of Manchester's Channel M for a live interview about the Metrolink information campaign. Seeing the centre of Manchester absolutely deserted except for some pigeons and some hardy street-cleaners made me think I'd stepped onto the set of "28 Days Later," until my still-sleeping brain caught up with me to remind me that only a select breed of individual finds himself in the middle of a city centre at 6am.
The interview went well, although the caption underneath me labelled me a "Labour Councillor," and Channel M followed me back home for a second interview at Prestwich Met station soon afterwards. The campaign itself is still ongoing, and the leaflet produced by GMPTE is still not good enough - we want to see prices and a bus timetable now, as well as re-assurance on traffic and road safety issues caused by the many replacement buses necessary. They've had a month since this leaflet to produce a better one. So where is it? But more on that next week.
The rest of Wednesday was spent in a hurricane of leafleting - and for the first time even in this campaign I found myself leafleting the same street twice in one day. My legs are paying the price for it now, but at the time I actually felt remarkably energised. There is something satisfying about watching a pile of leaflets as tall as me dwindle to nothing through the day. And not a single furtive expedition to dump 1000 in a skip... Although I was sorely tempted.
Thursday (election day) started at 6am with my team of helpers including Tamsin and my neigbour Laura. "Baum's Babes" did a sterling job leafleting at that pre-work hour, and I only hope our front-gate-fumblings didn't wake up too many people!
The election day operation for Prestwich Lib Dems really was a sight to see - computers and rushing around... Having voted myself, I went to the other polling stations in the ward and thanked the poll clerks for their hard work. I have been both a poll clerk and a presiding officer in the past, and know that it's a hell of a job.
Election day afternoon was spent "knocking up," reminding our supporters of the importance of the day, and making sure they get out and vote. Thankfully lots had already voted, and I didn't have to resort to threats, hair-pulling and other nastiness to drag them to the polls. A simple promise that the leaflets would stop now seemed to do the trick.
I am told that the primary purpose of knocking up is to ensure that as many supporters as possible make it to the polls. I am of the opinion that in relaity the main purpose of this activity is simply to stop the candidates going utterly insane as the clock ticks down. Anything to keep me occupied, as a mixture of nerves, tiredness and excess Lucozade in my system reduced me to somewhat of a nervous wreck.
The count was, eventually, a joyous affair. Not so much before the declaration, when I was pacing the floor like some kind of angry sentry. I have spent many a long evening beating my friends at squash in Castle Leisure Centre, but don't think I've ever sweated quite so much as I did then! I tried to stay away from the counting itself, but curiosity got the better of me, and my pacing soon ended up with me stood by the table with my opponents and supporters.
I must confess that I didn't realise what was going on - first of all the votes were organised into piles, then taken away to be counted in their totality to check that all the votes cast had made it to the count in one piece. Then they were all brought back for counting out into candidate's piles. Somewhere in all this the postal ballots were added in, but I didn't realise that when the counting stopped and I was in the lead, that was it. I thought there was more to come, and so when I was informed that "I'd probably won by two or three hundred votes," it's no wonder people looked surprised when I said "Yes, but we're only halfway there."
But soon enough the truth dawned, and was confirmed when the returning officer drew candidates and agents together to discuss the proposed declaration of the result. A majority of 322 for us - a remarkable result, and what a turnaround from a few years ago in St Mary's.
When the declaration was made, there were hugs all round, followed a few minutes later by similar hugs for Steve Wright in Sedgley and for Wilf Davison in Holyrood. I rambled something barely coherent to a MEN journalist, and then went back to Vic's for celebrations.
And now the hard work starts...