I have mixed feelings about election days. There is the excitement of the count, the expectation of success, and some pride in being part of the democratic process. There is also some dread about the very long and exhausting day.
Crawling into bed some time after 2am I lay for a moment aware of a number of aches and pains; I had been on the go since getting up at 5.30am the previous morning. I will not claim it was constant motion in my every waking moment, but there was quite a bit of work nonetheless. I wish some of those who denigrate politicians would come and find out just what is involved. Polling day is just the summit; holidays aside I reckon I am doing something political every day of the week, and sometimes this will be the hard-lifting that is canvassing and leafleting for hours and hours.
In truth, what one feels on polling day is governed by the result. A good result seems to banish all weariness.
I had some involvement in the Rochford South campaign for the Essex County Council elections. Not won by Labour since 1993 it was always going to be a difficult seat to win, but we were hopeful. Our hopes were raised by some good canvassing returns, and we were certain that we would improve on the 2009 result, if not actually get very close indeed. Some of us even dreamed of victory.
It seemed that despite there being four candidates it was actually a two-horse race – only us and the Tories appeared to be doing any campaigning. In the end UKIP attracted a fair number of votes, which suggests that here at least their’s was a protest vote.
In 2009 Labour came fourth, some 1505 votes behind the winning Conservative candidate. Last night that gap narrowed to a mere 80.
You could always look back at any campaign and see where you could have done more. However, I am happy that we fought as well as we could. In the end Colin Seagers was able to persuade more to choose him than Jerry Gibson could for our side, and my sincere congratulations go to him. Jerry was a good candidate, and I hope he will seek a district council seat next year.
One thing that did strike me was the number of people who could not be persuaded to vote. Somehow it has got into the minds of many that these elections mean nothing, they have no chance to change anything, and that nothing changes anyway. It also struck me that many saw voting as inconvenient. I am more convinced than ever that we need to reform our democracy, and this includes using technology. Almost everyone has something to say about the services delivered by the County Council, yet less than a quarter could be persuaded to have their say about it via the ballot box.
The final result:
Colin Seagers – Conservative – 1085 – 36.4%
Jerry Gibson – Labour – 1005 – 33.7%
Peter Van De Vyver – UKIP – 804 – 27.0%
Angela Robinson – Liberal Democrat – 89 – 3.0%