A few friends have remarked that I look a bit glum in this picture. It hails from the South London Press review of 2010. The SLP was present at the Lambeth Council count to take pictures.
The truth is I wasn’t glum at all – just very tired and a bit bored. The national picture wasn’t looking good either.
Tired because I had been at Chuka Umunna’s count for the Streatham parliamentary seat, where the ‘vote sampling’ I was doing predicted pretty accurately the eventual result, albeit that the result arrived at 8am, which nobody predicted. That was because of the length of time it took to separate national votes from local. The count for the locals reconvened later the same day.
Now, why bored? No reason other than than the phenomenal length of time it took to get the votes counted. Largely because somebody had decided that one ballot box – for local and parliamentary elections – would be enough. So the ballot papers were all mixed up.
If I recall correctly, I knew around the moment the photo was taken that Labour had kept control of Lambeth – the first time in twenty years. Well, it’s tough at election counts to look as you feel. Politicians are human. We get tired too.
It was a great victory. Bear in mind the national circumstances. Give a thought to Lambeth Labour’s months of canvassing and, at last, a full-on day of knocking up, from morning to night.
It goes without saying that I was really happy for Labour to have increased its representation on Lambeth Council from 37 (had been 39, but a death and a defection took down two) to 44 (out of 63). It also goes without saying that I was really happy we retained three Labour MPs in Lambeth, and Chuka Umunna was elected in Streatham for the first time.
So the picture shows a moment in the long slow process of the count. A moment that can best be equated to ‘my train’s been cancelled for 24 hours’.
And though the Lambeth Labour special chugged to victory in the end, of course, nationally we came off the rails. There are many lessons being learned from that.