Polling night

Friday, 7 May 2010 05:04
strange_complex: (Tick my box)
Well, it's nearly five a.m., well over half of the seats have declared now, and so far it's a pretty depressing picture. There have been a few surprising results, but no sense of a big swing of popular opinion; no big shocks or iconic defining moments. Just a slow but steady trickle of seats of all sorts falling to the Conservatives.

Far more depressing, of course, is the spectacle of thousands of voters being deprived of the chance to cast their votes at all because of an inexplicable failure on the part of polling stations across the country to predict that they might want to. I'm particularly bothered to note that most of the places where the polling stations ran out of ballot papers or didn't have time to process everyone who wanted to vote before 10pm were urban constituencies - that is, exactly the places that are most crucial to both Labour and the LibDems.

My silver linings about this are two. One - it has already clearly produced widespread rage, and we have been promised a thorough enquiry by the Electoral Commission into exactly what happened. Some results may be declared invalid, and if the overall situation is a hung parliament, it may be yet another argument for basically have a re-run of the entire election in the very near future. Two - this issue, along with high voter turn-out in general and large numbers of postal votes, seems to be contributing to delayed counts in a lot of the seats where it happened. As I've said, they are generally the types of seats which are most likely to come out as Labour or LibDem. So as their results do come out, they may start to show that the real Tory lead is actually smaller than it currently looks like it is going to be - at least if they are held to be valid, anyway.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for my current constituency, Leeds North West, to declare. I note with pleasure that Bristol West, where I lived in 1997 and cast my first vote, has seen an increased LibDem majority. But that pleasure is distinctly tarnished for me by the news that my more recent former constituency, Oxford West, has fallen to the Tories, causing the wonderful Dr. Evan Harris to lose his seat.

Elsewhere, it's a pretty depressing night for the LibDems. They've lost a few here, gained a few there, but generally look on track to do what the exit poll predicted, which is retain more or less the number of seats in parliament which they already had. I'd like to know what their overall share of the vote nationwide is - has that gone up? I hope so, as it will strengthen their ability to claim that they should be able to have a decisive input into whatever happens in the wake of this election. But it's disappointing after the support they've been enjoying lately, and far short of what I'd hoped for them.

Ooh, this just in, though - Charles Clarke loses out to a LibDem candidate, and has a face like a slapped arse! That was fun.

Anyway, dawn is breaking, and David Dimbleby is sounding pretty tired and fed up now. I guess most of us feel much the same. I'm not too tired myself, as I have been deliberately time-shifting myself over the past week in anticipation of this evening - as the time-stamps on my last few posts will make clear. This is still rather later than even I'm used to staying up, but I can do another hour or so. If you're still up too, or even getting up early to check in on LJ before you go to work, drop me a comment and let me know you're out there!

ETA (05:30): excellent! Leeds North West holds, with an increased LibDem majority! Now why couldn't that have been repeated nationwide, hmm? I could go to bed now, especially since it will still clearly be a good 24 hours before we really have the slightest clue what this result will actually mean. But I'm still anxious to hear what has happened in Sheffield Hallam (Nick Clegg's seat, and clearly badly affected by polling station problems).

ETA the second (06:40): Clegg's seat now declared, and I'm very impressed by his speech emphasising the utter unacceptability of people being deprived of their votes first, and then saying we shouldn't rush into anything without taking time to think it through. Sensible man. Apparently the Queen is a sensible woman, too - she said early on that she wouldn't see anybody before 1pm. This seems to me like advice for life; and besides I don't think she's in much danger of being disturbed today at all. I could go to bed now, but still don't feel much like it. I will pay for this later.

ETA the third (09:00): OK, the BBC are closing down their election night coverage, it's still not completely certain that the Tories won't win an outright majority but it's pretty likely, and now I think I really am going to have to go to bed. Annoyed that the LibDem's share of the vote seems to have gone up slightly overall, but their number of seats has gone down. FPTP the post is clearly never going to work for them - so here's hoping that there is enough willingness now for them to push successfully for electoral reform.

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strange_complex: (Default)
I registered for a postal ballot for the forthcoming local and EU elections, since I am in one of the pilot areas for it. Unlike some people, I received my ballot papers in good time, and sent them off last Tuesday evening, after [livejournal.com profile] diffrentcolours had verified my identity.

Since I voted, though, I have been inundated with election leaflets through my letter-box and bombarded with 'election special' interviews and Party Political broadcasts on TV and on the radio... all of which are totally irrelevant to me, 'cos I can't change my mind now even if I wanted to.

It's all made me realise that if postal ballots catch on and are implemented across the country for all elections in future, political parties are going to have to rethink the way they campaign quite radically, in order to make sure they've got all their messages across in time to catch the postal voters as well as the people who vote in polling stations. Last-minute smear campaigns, for instance, are going to lose a lot of their effectiveness if half the country have voted by the time they come out.

I think on the whole a change like this will probably be positive, because I don't much like the current tendency to ignore the electorate most of the time, and only pull out desperate fawning measures at the last minute. Having to allow for a 10-day (or so) period during which people are voting, rather than direct everything towards one day, might just encourage some slightly more thoughtful campaigning. (Well, I am an optimist by nature...)

On the other hand, though, I think I might prefer to vote in person in the next general election, because voting by post does make it all seem a bit less of a ceremony. I like the feeling of being one of millions of people across the country going to play my part in the democratic process on polling day: it's part of the build-up towards the ritual of then staying up all night to see what happens (something I've done for the last 3 general elections, despite the fact that I was too young to have voted in the first of those!).

That's just sentiment, though, and given that not very many people get quite that excited by elections (especially local ones), anything which encourages people to vote at all has got to be a good idea. Overall, I reckon postal voting is definitely a good thing: but it is going mean some differences if it becomes standard practice.

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