Another busy day, mainly at the count and then a train journey.
The counting of votes was due to take place today, and what is now 'Energise' but I and everyone else in York calls Oaklands Sports Centre. The entrance ticket said 9.30 but there were so many people wanting to get in, and having to get their round-the -neck tags saying 'Candidate' or 'Counting Agent' or 'Guest', that the count didn't really get going until nearly 10am.
The first job was to separate the Referendum grey coloured papers from the white Council Election papers, and this wasn't really a process which allowed any of the party workers to get any information. This happens at the next stage, where individual ballot boxes, which are numbered, have their ballot papers counted and put in bundles of 50, and this number tallied with the number of people who came into the polling station to vote. At this stage, it is possible to do a count of the numbers of ticks or crosses on the ballot paper and see what the voting patterns were in specific geographical areas, as each ballot box serves a part of the ward. This is easiest in areas with just one Councillor, ie one vote. However, it gets more difficult where there are two or three Councillors and you are allowed up to that number of votes. So in Hull Road Ward, where there are two Councillors, there were two crosses on most ballots, and it was less easy to see what the outcome of the poll would be.
So, although some of our party activists were busy scribbling down as many of the details they could during this initial count, I couldn't follow it and there wasn't a party activist giving instructions about what to do. So I just watched the person counting and counted as well, to check they were getting it right! I really didn't need to do this as each bundle of 50 is recounted by another person and initialled by them as well. The referendum ballots were counted too, and bundled up into 50s, and this second lot of counting extended the whole business considerably. At about 10am, Kirsten England, the Chief Executive of the City of York Council said she thought they'd be able to finish the job in a couple of hours, but the first result wasn't announced til 4pm!
So, after the numbers of ballots were tallied with the people who turned up to vote, the Council seat ballots from each ward were sorted into those papers where the voter had voted for both or all three of the same party, and mixed or single votes. The 'block votes' were then counted and checked, and each candidate had their votes noted. Then the mixed and single votes papers were dealt with, by a pair of counters, one reading out the names on the ballot, one by one, and the other with a tally sheet with all the candidates' names on and rows of very small boxes to the right of their names for putting a tiny line through or a cross in, rows of 10 and columns of 5, so each big box when full would add up to 50 votes. This part of the operation was very important to watch, especially with one of the counters, who by chance happened to be a Council officer whom I really don't get on with as they've been rude, unhelpful and unprofessional with me in the past. Several people noticed that this person was making mistakes, and complained, so when done, this operation was checked by another group of counters. All this took MUCH longer than initially planned, or desired.
However, the results started coming in, and one of the most exciting was in Acomb Ward, where the Lib Dem leader of the council, whom I think is a dinosaur who ought to have been put out to grass long ago, and his second in command, whom I think has been weak politically but is a nice guy whom I'm fond of, lost their seats. The cheer from the gathered opposition was huge, my cheer was only for the passing of Steve Galloway, not Andrew Waller. When the Hull Road Ward results came in, I wasn't elected either. That's politics.
The other interesting result was that in another ward to the west of York, Anna Semlyen was voted in. She's been a Green supporter for a long time but was incensed by the unilateral decision by Steve Galloway to say no to a city-wide 20 mile an hour limit in built-up areas, and joined the Labour Party, and has been elected. I now predict a few years of exciting politics.... I predict that Anna will 'make waves' and put a lot of energy into what she wants to do; I hope she remembers that she's representing the citizens in her ward and a good Councillor gets to know the area (if they don't live there, which she doesn't) and the people there. I wish her, and the other new Councillors, and the re-elected ones, a good four years, and hope they can move the City of York to a more sustainable, lower carbon, fairer, more equal society. One day I hope to get elected, in MY ward, for the party I've agreed with for all my adult life, and be a really hard-working Councillor. Maybe next time? It is, as always, up to the local voters.
As soon as our results were announced, I got my stuff and cycled briskly off, as at 6.24 I had to be on a train to Bristol. I got back at 5 and Sue was talking to Gill on the doorstep, having collected an 'emergency' bag of dried fruit for her latest long drive. I hadn't got any time to chat as I had less than hour to get myself ready and packed and off to the station. This I of course I managed to do.
The train left on time and all the way to Birmingham I started working though over 100 unread emails from one of the lists I subscribe to, and once read, I deleted most of them. However, there were still about 60 left, which I thought I might get through between Birmingham and Bristol. But, no, I met a really nice chap on the platform waiting for the Bristol train, which was 40 minutes late, and we talked about Credit Unions, high street loan companies, how to conduct successful relationships, and much much more. He got off at Parkway and I at Temple Meads 5 minutes later. My friend Loony was waiting for me, and as the train was late, we'd missed the bus so we had to get a taxi. She's got a new flat recently and is having a housewarming party tomorrow, which is one reason why she's invited me down, to provide some entertainment.