With apologies to my Facebook friends who will have seen much of this live-ish on election night. Not everybody is on Facebook.
21:00 -ish Just arrived at the Town Hall for the count. Yes, I know that polling stations don’t close for another hour, but those are the rules. Turned the corner into St Aldate’s to be greeted by the sight Tom Tower framed by the most magnificent rainbow. This is why you should always carry a camera.
22:30-ish Verification starts
Before the count takes place, there’s a process called verification. This involves emptying the boxes and checking that the number of papers in each box tallies with the polling station’s record. There’s a change to the counting procedure this time – instead of putting votes into bundles of 50, we’re to put them in bundles of 10, fastened by a paperclip, and then put an elastic band round 10 bundles of 10. This takes the time. If it doesn’t tally the first time (and they don’t tell you what the “right” number is, then you have to check that each mini bundle has 10 papers in it and that each bundle has 100 mini-bundles. Verification is what takes the time.
Our team had to check one lot of papers twice after the initial count and another once. One of the counters on the team talked incessantly whilst counting – including chatting to the party representatives on the other side of the table (which is against the rules) – and then joked about putting things into bundles of eleven or twelve. Tempted to suggest that we might do better if he kept quiet, but bit my tongue. Not worth the hassle.
12:30 Start count
1:00 Finish count. We now have to wait until the result is declared. Note that
party reps have politically neutral purple wrist bands. It’s important to make a note of things like this if you’re going to be a proper writer.
1:10 Big discrepancy. We check the bundles
1:20 All ok.
1:36 Candidates and agents called up to see Returning Officer.
1:40 Everyone’s crowding in -noise level rising.
1:44 Scrutinizing spoiled papers
1:46 Waiting for the result. Not the least bit bored.
The Labour supporters look quite pleased. The counters just have to stand there – we’re not allowed to clap, cheer or boo. It’s in the rules.
2:20 Catch the night bus. It’s quite plush. Notice that the people who sit in sleeping bags outside shops and cash machines in on the Cowley Road have gone.
2:47 Now, shall I nip out to Tesco’s for something to eat or just fast forward to breakfast? I fast forward to breakfast, watch the BBC New channel and swap thoughts in Facebook.
4:00 Bed. It’s starting to get light.