A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Why the fuss about election night?

Despite enjoying my telly appearance with him on last year's BBC local elections coverage, I can't get as excited about "saving election night" as Iain Dale is (http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2009/09/save-general-election-night.html).

Anyone who is really active in politics can never watch the election night programmes anyway as they are actually at a count.

Personally the last thing I want to do after 15 hours of polling day campaigning is to immediately spend another 2-6 hours standing up scrutinising equally tired counting staff and arguing with the Returning Officer and other party agents over whether a smiley face is a valid vote or which party's line on the ballot the apex of a wonkily placed cross falls into. I always seem to get stuck at counts that last forever - until dawn and then reconvened the next day in Bristol NW '92, until 4.30am in Aldershot in 2001, until about the same time in Castle Point in 2005, until 8 or 9am in Hackney in the 1998 local elections.

Counting at these times naturally leads to exhausted counters and party scrutineers, and to mistakes being made - votes or bundles of votes placed in the wrong pile or tray for instance. In a close seat it is not impossible for counter tiredness to affect the result.

I've been at a parliamentary count where counter tiredness led to a bundle of 50 votes for the Tories being lost on the floor of the hall, then reappearing and flipping which party won the seat. I've been at a council count where sheer exhaustion and confusion at the end of a 10 hour count meant the agent failed to ask for a recount in a tight ward, and that ward determined control of the borough.

It's better for accuracy of the result and the health of the staff and party volunteers involved to count in the cold light of day on a Friday morning after a good night's sleep.

Seats in Northern Ireland and some in Cornwall and Scotland have always counted on the Friday. 1945 was no less exciting an election result for the count taking place during the day because of the wait for military postal votes. Council counts held on Fridays are altogether calmer and more civilised.

Election counts are not primarily designed as spectator sports or good telly. They are held to accurately record the views of the voters, not as political theatre. Let's hold them in daylight conducted by people not suffering from sleep deprivation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think you're going to have that problem at the general election this time.

Best to start drowning your sorrows at the start of the day and get loaded enough by the close to be past caring - because you're going to get to that position anyway if you remain stone-cold sober.

8:22 pm, September 08, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

If Brown was ditched and John McDonnell was leader then Labour would have a good chance of winning as there would be a distinct difference between Labour and Tory!

Don't give in to those Tory slimes!

I was born on the back streets on the rotten side of town (*)
I never had me nothing just people pulling me down
I'm livin' on the dark side across the rail road track
Leavin' wasn't easy, but I'm never going back

Never surrender (**)
When you're up against the wall
Never surrender
Stand up, fight them all

what was the rest of the song?

9:57 pm, September 08, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I seem to remember John McDonell couldn't get enough votes from the parliamentary party to even challenge Brown for the leadership.

That makes him a potential dazzler in a Tory/Labour face-off, Mark Still News argues.

Poor old Luke. Trying to beat sense into some in his party who he would rather kick out the door.

11:53 pm, September 08, 2009

Anonymous Pat said...

Couldn't agree more- and as an extra I want nothing to do with counting machines, electronic voting, or anything else that 95% of the populace couldn't check for themselves even if given the chance- Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done.

12:27 am, September 09, 2009

Blogger Silent Hunter said...

The "Fuss" is to stop Labour stuffing ballot boxes using their "Postal Ballot Scam" whilst no ones watching.

That's why!

12:29 am, September 09, 2009

Anonymous T_i_B said...

A lot of your argument assumes that the only people interested in the count are party activists.

That assumption is a dangerous mistake. It's not just party activists who are interested in politics. Now I don't know if you've missed this in Hackney but there are quite a few people out there outside political parties who take a keen interest in matters politcal and there is a duty owed to them as well.

8:18 am, September 09, 2009

Blogger Scrapbook said...

Not sure about your arguments about the safety of the ballot.

For every contest genuinely swung by counter tiredness there must be at least one put at hazard by leaving all the ballots "securely" in the town hall overnight.

11:06 am, September 09, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Brown is in the pockets of big business, so the billionaire owned and controlled electronic media & press ensured they would get their man elected, as the moderate John McDonnell stood for the ordinary people, decency with integrity and not the rich filthy slime!

11:39 am, September 09, 2009

Anonymous tim f said...

Agree completely with both Luke and Pat on this.

To those paronoid conspiracy theorists who think Labour will somehow stuff ballot boxes while they're locked away at the council - you're nuts. But if that really was a concern, perhaps the total number of votes could be counted first, on the night, as is current, then checked against the totals, as is current, at the end of proceedings following the count the next day.

12:24 pm, September 09, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

I think if you look at some of the good work of the traditional Labour MPS then a change in PM might have a positive effect. The problem is you have left it very late.

Looking at the way the conservatives are developing their policies, based on their confidence of wining next year. I must say I'm now a little worried. I think there are still too many hard right tories in the cabinet and on the back bench. Lots of scary talk regarding the NHS and yet more privatisation.

I'm slowly swaying back to Labour because there are no alternatives. My big problem is the lack of progress from the Labour party....but we are starting to see tiny shoots of traditional Labour thinking appearing in policy.

I think Labour will lose the next election but only because they failed to support those who voted Labour in. Too little too Late.

7:36 am, September 10, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

I will vote Labour only because they are the best out of a bad bunch and I have an excellent Labour MP. The party is not progressive and failed to take full advantage of the support it had in 1997.

We have seen over borrowing and astronomical housing inflation that's not unique to Labour, but it was the party that said watch my lips no more boom and bust!

Now strenuous efforts are being made to re inflate the housing market and kick off all this disasterous borrowing again. Astronomical hyper Housing inflation was the real cause of the credit crunch leading to a long recession-yet they are trying to get out of a recession with inflation and borrowing?

An Alcoholic drinks to lift depression, but the alcohol is the cause of his depression this is the madness of how our economy is being run!

We need radical people to ensure the status quo does not prevail!

11:18 am, September 10, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Please see this link on House price control, it explains the damage of astronomical housing inflation and the importance of regulating the housing market.

This campaign is worth supporting!


11:26 am, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's Tories who rig elections and stuff ballot boxes.

Where did 1.5m extra voters come from for John Major in 92?

I can't work out if your tory commentators
a)have had memory wipes,
b)are utterly venal and dishonest or
c) are thick as bricks.

I do know the answer actually sadly. It's B.

2:04 pm, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

John McDonnell?

Only made sane when compared to Terry Dicks.

2:43 pm, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who cares?

You don't need to carry a bomb in a brief case.

Next time you get an invite to Downing Street, go with Chianti and cheese and make sure that lame brain eats or drinks one of the other.

He's so drugged up with a certain class of anti-depressants that cheese or wine will almost certainly make him hypertense leading to arythymia and heart failure.

3:25 pm, September 10, 2009

Blogger opus said...

Agree with the comment that these progs are not for the political classes but for the benefit of the voters (such as my humble self) who fund the whole game.
The first election night special I stayed up all night for was 1979 and I think there is a sense of occassion commensurate with the changes that will inevitably occur. Staying up all night till the job is done sort of goes with that.
Where is the excitement in going to bed with a cup of cocoa not knowing whether you've won or not?

4:03 pm, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Rich said...

Personally I think Cameron will have real trouble with his back benchers and most of his cabinet if he wins next year. He won't be able to prevent right wingers destroying what is left of our state system. I have to admit I was completely wrong about New conservatives they are just like they were 20 years ago.

I heard today from a senior tory talking about running councils like budget airlines. You get the basic services, rubbish collection, police and fire and anything extra you have to pay for on top. How ridiculous.

This will probably mean an end to local authority run leisure centres, community adult education etc etc.

The problem with cutting back services is that is will in the end force more people on the dole. There isn't the jobs in the private sector to accommodate millions of redundant council workers.

Britain should be more like France. High taxation and brilliant public services. What the conservatives want to do is turn Britain into republican America.

If Labour want to stand a chance of winning next year they need to reassure the voter the NHS is safe and work hard to protect British jobs.

7:26 pm, September 10, 2009

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most council staff are little more than premium welfare claimants.

It's just the bins, a bit of planning, some roads and a few parks.

When they've got involved in schools, health, housing, social service, they've almost always screwed up.

Action this day. Shoot the lot.

8:17 pm, September 10, 2009

Blogger Mark Still News said...

Most Tory & Liberal councillors and Executives are little more than premium welfare claimants upping their expenses all the time and doing a full time job by day really raking it in.

It's just the bins, a bit of planning, some roads and a few Meetings drinking loads of wine and getting dined for free and going to the toilet and pooing it all out

When they've got involved in schools, health, housing, social service, they've almost always screwed up and made loads of extra cash for themselves being on paid to chair committees.

Action this day. Shoot the lot.

10:20 pm, September 10, 2009


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