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Monday, 7 September 2009

Election Night Fever - a thing of the past?

The first election that I got deeply involved in the campaign management for was Vince Cable's 2001 General Election campaign when I was his Agent. I remember it like it was yesterday for very many reasons, the main one was that this was very likely to be Vince's wife Olympia's last election. It turned out to be right, she lost her fight against breast cancer just days after Vince's victory.

Anyway Councillor Stephen Knight, who was the literature guru and I didn't finish the printing of the Good Morning leaflets until 2.30am on what was now polling day (Stephen and I made a great team) and then I recall Malinda knocking on the office door at 4.30am to get me out of bed (yes I was sleeping in the office for the final week) and to get the office ready for everyone coming in to start the deliveries.

Then the day continued on until before you know it, it is 10pm, polls are closed and then the count team was off to the college where both counts were taking place, for Twickenham and for Richmond Park. We had issues with Polling Station staff during the day, there was a war of words between the Tory Agent and myself - I won - but it is all part of the day.

This was my first count so I was a little nervous although I had a great and experienced team with me. Both BBC and ITV were trying to get the result first and both were desperate to persuade me to tell them - the BBC won that evening and had the win up on screen a good 5 minutes before any result was discussed with the Agents!

Jonny Oates was in the other half of the college sports hall as Jenny Tonge's Agent, we then all piled back to the Twickenham office to celebrate after Vince had finished all of his interviews and a visit home to see Olympia. Jonny and I then went over to Kingston & Surbiton where Ed Davey and his Agent, Belinda Eyre-Brook had pulled off an amazing result, although I was happy that we had reduced the Tories to their worst result since the second world war.

Belinda, Jonny and I sat in Fishponds Park in Surbiton supping champagne at 8am in the morning and by then we had all been up around 28 hours. We had sat up all night (I drifted off, allegedly) watching the results coming in, cheering the Lib Dem gains contemplating whether we would hold Romsey - we did - and made other gains, plus some losses, it is emotion at its very best.

You maybe wondering what the hell this is all about, well election night is under threat, it is under threat from Councils who feel it is better to wait until the Friday to count the votes, I have never heard such nonsense.

There are already Councils with reputations for being slow, this is taking the biscuit. The General Election result is important for many reasons, whether it be political parties in individual seats or watching the formation of a new government.

It is traditional to have the results announced on Thursday night and can you imagine the news coverage, it would start pre the polls closing on the Thursday night and not end until sometime on Friday lunchtime. Where on earth will the commentators and politicians come from for that length of coverage.

If you support the call to keep the traditional election night on the Thursday and you are on Facebook, join the cross party group now and add your voice.

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