Monday, July 26, 2004

Epi (b)logue

The Morley Coat of Arms

Ian Grey's Blog Blog

Elected for Morley Town Council

If this is your first visit, click here to start at the bottom then scroll back up.

(Click on the graphics to enlarge them. Note that Internet Explorer may scale the pictures to be difficult to read, in which case right click and "save as..." to view the jpegs at native resolution.)

Let me roll the clock back to election day. I was conscious as the week progressed that the BNP were trying very hard to win round support in the Ward. They had been seen out knocking on doors, they had canvassers at both polling stations all day engaging with the electorate and they had received a phenomenal amount of publicity the previous week with the BBC exposé. It had been my suspicion that there would probably be only a handful of votes in it between the three candidates. As the afternoon progressed and I chatted to people around the Ward, I started to get tense. Could I have done more? Should I have knocked on doors and introduced myself? Was I too much of an unknown? Should I have put a phone number on my leaflets to appear more approachable? Common sense told me that under the 80/20 rule, I was into diminishing returns but I’d have hated to have lost by a tiny margin and only time would tell.

After a hearty tea, we met round Terry’s flat in order to prowl the two wards with Megaphones. We had two available- a large industrial one that belonged to Robert Finnigan and a dinky one that I had bought on Ebay for a charity pig racing event held by Ladies’ Circle (the female equivalent of Round Table that Karen is a member of). I had actually paid more in postage than I had paid for the megaphone and still managed to get change from a Tenner but it worked fine and achieved its purpose which was to make people look out of the windows & hopefully think about voting.

At round about 8:30pm I went back home to pick up Karen & return to town. On the basis that it was now the home stretch, I converted the battle bus back to normal car again, removing the rosettes & posters. We parked round the back of the Queens Hotel (on the basis of that probably being where we would end up later) and walked the short distance to the Town Hall. There was a notable police presence in the Area, with a riot van and a number of uniformed Bobbies /PCSOs.

After being admitted to the Alexandra Hall, the Returning Officer decided that it was probably better if count participants remained outside as the polling station was still open until 9pm. So, we rang Terry’s crowd and were told they were in “the office” which I took to mean Terry’s flat. What they actually meant was the new office in the Basement of the Town Hall for the six independent councillors where we found them after a quick wander round town. There was a fairly large crowd of a dozen or so outside the Queens by then, some of whom didn’t look very nice people. It transpired that they were BNP supporters from snatches of conversation overheard.

Just after 9pm, we returned to the Hall for the count. Tables were arranged in a large U shape and it was explained that Central Ward would be counted stage left, Elmfield Ward stage right. (stage left is the left hand side of the hall from the performer’s point of view. The postal votes were initially counted, reconciled with the tally and then put to one side, bundled in 50s. Then the polling boxes were opened, the ballot papers unfolded, the papers all put the same way, counted, reconciled with the polling station tally then put with the others. Central Ward already had one box in the hall and it is the smaller Ward so they managed to count and declare the results very quickly. Terry received 231 votes with 61.11% of the voting share (378 votes were counted), the Labour Candidate came second with 100 votes (26.45%) and the BNP candidate came third with 47 votes, (12.43%). The turnout was less than 15% so whilst it was a decisive victory for Terry, he still only received less than 10% of possible votes, 85% of people deciding to stay at home.

Meanwhile, the tension was building around the Elmfield Ward table as the 547 voting papers were being sorted by candidate. Whilst BNP had came a clear third in Central Ward, it was becoming apparent that Chris Beverley had received a lot of votes and could possibly win it. Having been put into candidate heaps, they were then placed onto candidate tables, rechecked and recounted. It gradually became apparent that Labour had come third as their table finished counting a minute or two before the others. Suddenly, the BNP & Grey counts finished within a few seconds of each other. I looked at the bundles, furiously counting in my head. Had I just stolen the edge? I glanced over at Chris Beverley and he looked crestfallen, being comforted by his partner. The Labour people looked disappointed but there were some smiles amongst the Independents. Karen said she felt physically sick with the uncertainty.

Then the Returning Officer asked the candidates to come forward. She showed us the count figures and my vision blurred. Mine started with a two. The others started with a one. My vision came into sharp focus. I had the most votes! I had won! She asked if we were happy with the result, which struck me as a daft question, I was delighted with it! Then I realised, this was the opportunity to ask for a recount if required. Shortly afterwards, she made the formal announcement of the results and the adrenalin went into overdrive. I shook a lot of hands, including the opponents. I even gave Jean Lancaster a hug, which surprised both of us! I thanked everyone who had helped and we agreed to go for a celebratory drink at the Rugby Club rather than the Queens so after dropping off cars & cadging a lift we quaffed a Pint or two of well kept Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.

For the record, the results were as follows:

Beverley BNP 179 votes 32.72% 5.31%
Grey Independent 225 votes 41.13% 6.68% Elected
Lancaster Labour 143 votes 26.14% 4.24%
Total votes 547 16.24% Turnout

The First percentage is share of the vote, the second share of the voting strength. The reality is that 5 out of 6 people in the Ward didn’t bother to vote.

The following morning, I went to visit the Town Clerk’s office with my Mum & Son whilst Karen packed the bags for a short break we had planned to Blackpool.

I signed the declaration of acceptance of office, I received the forms for the declaration of financial and other interests (which have to be returned within 28 days) and received my first set of Council paperwork, the current “all members” regular circular and minutes/agenda for the forthcoming Town planning meeting this Wednesday. I will also be presented with a copy of the Standards Board Model Code of Conduct and the Town Council Standing Orders in due course.

Declaration of acceptance of office

By signing the declaration, I'm now a Member of the Council. I've been called a member many times before.....!

I have two final items of housekeeping to sort out;- my declaration of expenses (about £250 but I have a good stapler and some kitchen steps that I get to keep, after all, it was my money!) and taking down all of the “Vote Grey” signs. A couple of helpers did the lions share for me whilst we were in Blackpool but we had a quick prowl round the Ward last night and noticed a handful that had been missed which Karen will finish off today.

So, now I’m Councillor Grey. Will it make a difference? In many ways, getting elected onto a Minor Authority won’t change the world very much. I’m delighted to have been voted in and pleased that more electors put their faith in an independent rather than party politics. Had Chris Beverley won, I’m sure the BNP would have made massive mileage out of it. The state of the parties on the Town Council is now as follows:

Conservative 2
Independent 15
Labour 6
Morley Borough Independents 1

Although you could argue that there are actually five Morley Borough Independents on the Council, only Terry stood as one this time round, the others stood as regular Independents last year and haven’t renounced their independence yet.

On a purely selfish note, the plastic chairs for observers in the Council Chamber are extremely uncomfortable for someone of my “Rubens-esque” proportions so I am looking forward to staking a claim on the padded blue benches at the next full Council meeting on August 4th. Where I sit in the chamber is my prerogative as an independent.

I want to say a big thank you to my family and friends who have assisted beyond the call of duty this last month or so, particularly my Wife Karen who has been a rock of support and encouragement. I now need to keep it all in context & put my family first.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. I don’t intend to keep it up after today, although I will retain it on line as it has created some interest both locally and from afar. Here are a few of my favourite quotes just to send you on your way…

Nothing was ever achieved without enthusiasm….

All that it takes for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing….

If voting changed anything they’d abolish it….

When people say “they should do something about it” they don’t realise that “they” includes “them”…..

TANSTAAFL:- There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch…..

The State is not your friend…..

Given the choice, people will vote for Bread and Circuses….

Never trust a snake oil salesman….

Heyyy! You f***ed up! You trusted us!…..

Ladies & Gentlemen, the caterers…..

There is no such thing as society, society is other people…..

Minutes are a record of the lies said at the time, not the lies you wish you had said on reflection….

A Committee is a body that takes Minutes and wastes hours…..

Frankly, I wouldn’t trust him to sit on a toilet the right way round………

I used to think all politicians were scum. Now that I have met some, I realise that I was being unfair;- only most of them are scum…..

Occam’s Razor- don’t put down to conspiracy what can be more easily explained by incompetence….

Father, I cannot tell a lie. I ate all the pies…

July 23rd 10:30

I've now signed the acceptance of office and can formally call myself Councillor Grey. I've also updated the figures for the elections as what I'd written down wasn't exactly what the declaration said for Central Ward. I'll blog my thoughts after the weekend.

No comments: