Sunday 9 May 2010

What Day is it?

The last few days seem to have merged with each other. My first post on election day was written before I set out to deliver the last few leaflets. Later posts came from the committee rooms on "Coffee Hall", an estate in Milton Keynes, where I was based for the 15 hours that the polling stations were open.

I went straight from there to the count at Milton Keynes Stadium. It was a long night - and I only got to leave at 8am (Friday). I was back for 9am to be ready for the start of counting in the local elections.

It's a pity that the cameras can't record what happens as the count is proceeding. Staff (many of whom will have been working at polling stations from before 7am) first open the ballot boxes and sort the ballot papers into bundles of 25. This is known as verification. Ballot Papers which have been put in the wrong boxes have to be taken out. (There were two ballot boxes at each polling station - one for the parliamentary and one for the council - but some people didn't separate the papers as requested). Postal votes also had to be added in. Then the number of ballot papers needed to be reconciled with the number of ballot papers given out. On the other sides of the tables representatives of the candidates sat. At this stage most were noting the way people had voted. For each box opened it was possible to "sample" the votes - I was noting how the votes were cast by threes - so if I noted 2 Conservative & 1 Labour - I noted that on a printed sheet. the next sample might show 1 Lib-Dem 2 Labour - and so on. By the time the box had been emptied, I had a fair sample showing how the votes were distributed. So we knew fairly early on what the likely result would be.

Only when the verification had been completed could the counting begin. The unsorted bundles of 25 were now sorted into piles for each candidate. The party observers were watching to see that no votes accidently ended up in the wrong piles - and that when these were counted there were 25 in each new bundle.

Finally the votes were added up - and finally a result was announced.

During the night, the political staff would pop out for a break and to watch the national results coming in. It can be an emotional time - as one learns of the loss of personal friends.

Now the focus has moved to the national scene. I arrived home a little after 2pm on Friday. I had a nap of about 20 minutes - but spent the rest of the time watching the news channels (and prepping for a live-to-air interview I was due to do after 5pm. I finally went to bed about 9.30pm. On Saturday I bought a huge bundle of newspapers - and spent some time watching the TV - but joined my daughter for a relaxing morning in central Milton Keynes (and a couple of coffees at Starbucks as we read and discussed the results). I had another snooze in the afternoon - then lots of chats with friends over the telephone.

Today I am relaxing. In a few minutes I will head off for the Stables at Wavendon, for Jazz Matters. Then Milton Keynes City Pathfinders will be playing American Football in Bletchley. Tomorrow it's back to work - and I hope that the regular pattern of Washminster posts will resume - but who knows what the next few days will bring?

I often put up news stories on Twitter and Facebook.