In Newport the campaign was quite civilized and so thanks to our opponents for that. Our new group Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) took all of the Saffron Walden wards and Newport. This means we do not have enough seats to carry out the changes we think are needed at the district council. However we have more than doubled the size of our group at UDC and Jo and I, and the rest of the R4U councillors, will do our best for our wards and for the district and we look forward to working with fellow councillors of all parties
On election day those of you coming out of the polling station wondering why the tellers seemed to be having a private joke it was because we were playing bingo with the polling card numbers being given to us. For example ‘Columbus sailed the ocean blue – 1492’, ‘Famous squadron – 633’ or ‘Darts – One Hundred and Eighty!’, etc. it’s a very long day and you have to find some amusement! The purpose of telling is so that by early evening, you can chase round for any of your committed voters who haven’t voted, known as ‘knocking up’. The tellers of different parties work together at the door and its a time when having fought each other for weeks you cooperate.
Attending the count at the Lord Butler was fascinating. The counters, many of whom had been working since 6.30 am on election day then overnight till 5.30 am, and back again on the Friday for the district, town and parish counts were in very pretty good form. Candidates, election agents and a limited number of nominated guests can attend, and may stand in front of the counters, watching to ensure that your votes don’t go on the opposition’s pile. Newport is a two councillor ward and they first count the ballots where voters went for both candidates of one party ie both vote Conservative or both votes R4U. These are put in piles of 25 with a coloured header for each party – you can see them stacking up and with a clear result you see quickly which way it is going. The split votes (for example one vote Libdem, one vote Conservative, or where people only cast one vote) are laid out across large paper sheets, called ‘skirts’, and the individual votes for each candidate counted across the sheet. The totals from these were put onto a laptop, the only computerisation in the whole process
Candidates are also shown the spoiled ballot papers, some of which had quite amusing comments, unfortunately mostly not suitable for publication…
Then candidates are called forward to be shown the result, all hand written, and if there is no dispute it is handshakes between winners and losers and the result is announced.