So, just in case you hadn’t heard, tomorrow is the General Election here in the UK.
If you have followed this blog for a while, you may know that my other half, Phil Chamberlain, stood as a Green Party candidate in both the 2010 and 2015 elections.
We live in North Wiltshire, which has been Tory since the time of the dinosaurs. Our MP, James Gray, is a backbench MP and a keen Brexiteer.
In 2015 he won 57% or 29,000 votes. Even, with all the other parties’ votes combined he cannot be unseated. BUT that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try or, at least, let our voice be heard. In fact, when Phil stood in 2015 his vote nearly quadrupled.
It has been a fascinating experience being part of recent election campaigns and one that I feel very privileged to have experienced.
Here are a few things I have learned over the past seven years from being a spouse of a political candidate:
- The catering services at the leisure centre, where the vote is counted, have declined. In 2010 we got sandwiches; in 2015 it was coffee in a thermos and pre-packaged biscuits. (Of course, being a true Green I will bring my own water bottle and a few munchies from home to sustain us into the early hours)
- On a more serious note, if you don’t have money as a party it is really hard to campaign. For a start you have to find £500 as your deposit* . In 2010 we raised this by asking friends for donations and Phil organised a curry fundraiser. While every political party gets a free postal delivery to every address in the constituency, you have to fund the design and print of the election leaflet.
- In a rural area it is really hard to reach everyone. Apart from the above maildrop, campaigning relies a lot on going from door to door. However in a rural constituency you need access to transport and the man (and woman) power to get around all the villages and hamlets.
- People get very passionate. Which is obvious, I know. Election hustings are a great opportunity to see all the candidates (including the local MP) debate on a number of subjects, in front of local constituents. (This is when you realise your local MP is an idiot, but he’ll get voted in anyway because of the party he represents).
- One of my favourite times of the election cycle, though, is the night of the count where everyone huddles together in their political groups. The Tories and the LibDems hate each other; no one talks to UKIP (their candidate has been suspended anyway for racist tweets); and Labour and the Greens are on the periphery.
- The people who work really hard on election night, though, are the unsung heroes who count all the votes. They work tirelessly into the night (often having come from their day job). They have to keep focused while representatives from the different parties hover over them, counting the votes themselves and sometimes asking them to re-count. And, if at the end of the night, a recount is called because the vote is too close, it all has to be done again…
So, after you’ve cast your vote in that ballot box tomorrow spare a thought for the process of counting that continues into the small hours…
*The £500 deposit is refunded if the candidate receives 5% or more of the total vote; in 2015 Phil got 4.6%
UPDATE: in the end Phil got 1141 votes- half of what he received last time. But he beat UKIP whose vote fell to three figures.The Tory MP’s majority increased but, interestingly, Labour and LibDem were neck and neck: the Corbyn effect maybe?!