Early this morning, I found myself walking in drizzle towards a polling station in a staunchly Conservative corner of Brighton. I have to admit it felt that my start to this year’s local elections was an inauspicious one. In spite of first appearances, it is turning out to be quite a special day.
What has really struck me is the solidarity I felt with the people I’ve been matched with outside polling stations. I’ve chatted to more Conservative activists today than I’ve ever done before and in spite of being diametrically opposed to many of each other’s policies, it has been enjoyable to get a different perspective on Brighton life. On top of that, it’s heartening to hear from people passionate about putting their energies into our local community. My faith in human nature has received a boost today from the most unlikely quarter.
But how is the election looking on the ground at 7pm? I’ve spent around six hours monitoring votes outside polling stations throughout the day and I’ve been surprised at the complete lack of Labour or Liberal Democrats activists working alongside us. In both wards I’ve been in (Withdene and Queen’s Park), Labour is the obvious challenger to the incumbents, yet I’ve not seen anybody gathering up data for tonight’s “knocking up” of voters. This will cost them valuable time tonight in mobilising their vote.
That lack of organisation, especially in Queen’s Park, where they have put a massive amount of money, activists and time in to try and dislodge our three Green councillors, has taken me aback a little. Others are reporting a similar lack of sightings of Labour activists in both this ward and others. Either there is a strategy to focus heavily elsewhere in the city or the rumours of their renewed strength have been exaggerated.
It is obvious that turn-out is going to be a little lower than expected too. Although I’ve worked some of the less prominent time-slots, I was surprised at how patchy the numbers were coming through the door. That said, those individuals coming in were younger than I’ve seen previously, so we may be getting the vote out well for the Greens and potentially the AV referendum.
I’m heading out again to try and encourage voters into the polling booths fairly soon, but will try and tweet updates from both the street and the count in the next few hours too. Watch this space and my twitter feed for more detail!
Next week, I’ll be analysing the impact they will have upon Brighton Council in some depth and how the Greens locally should react to the new political circumstances here. I’ll also be unravelling the aftermath of the AV campaign, which at this stage is looking exceptionally disappointing for those of us who support a change in the electoral system.
And a final word for all my colleagues within Brighton & Hove Green Party, who have been an inspiration for their commitment not just to working the campaign, but for taking the time to engage so regularly and energetically with the people we hope to represent. I really hope that their efforts translate into a chance to build and sustain new ambition for this city.