Monday, 8 June 2009

Success or failure on a knife edge

AS someone quite rightly says on the comments section of the main website, it was all the North West that got Nick Griffin elected not just Oldham. It was Oldham however that dealt the final hand that secured our victory.

Yesterday was a day of ups and downs. I think everyone feared the worst concerning our European Election efforts. The media/UKIP bandwagon was on the roll again and it looked very much on the cards that our carefully planned victories would be snatched from our grasp at the 11th hour.

Tina and I set off from Cumbria at one o'clock and reached Derek Adams' pub at four, just in time for a lift to City Hall. There were long faces amongst the BNP contingent when we arrived with talk of just a 3% BNP vote for Manchester.

We needed 8% in every region if we were to be successful, so such a low vote in Manchester would scupper any chance we had before the evening had even started.

I buried myself away in counting room C, and for the next two hours just counted the votes coming out from three city hall staff directly in front of me. They probably thought I was some sort of nutter because I never moved. Just counting 100 ballot papers at a time and keeping the BNP tally for each 100 on my fingers.

It was 9% every time and that must have been for nearly three thousands votes. Tina had the same 'one-in-every-eleven' for her stint on another table. So at six o'clock we knew that things were on course in our counting room and although the other three rooms produced lower percentages, we ended up just a couple of hundred votes short of our 7,000 target in Manchester.

It was a promising start.

Then came the waiting and the telephone reports from counts across the region. Once again these were doom-laden tales of impending disaster. Only 10% in Burnley, lucky if it's 2% in Trafford, struggling for 8% in Bury - only a report of a strong showing in Wigan gave us any hope.

It was three hours later before the results started coming in and after twenty declarations we were on target and this despite that dreadful result in Trafford. Our table in the city hall's candidates and agents room was buzzing.

Then we were sent reeling by a string of devastating results. Cheshire East, Cheshire West, South Lakeland, Sefton and Eden - all well below the 8% threshold needed.

When Nick Griffin left the table at midnight to give an interview to the BBC, we were on course for a seat. When he came back 20 minutes later we were 5,500 votes short of our target. After 27 declarations the results' screen now showed the Greens were beating us, UKIP had more than double our vote, and the Tories had more than three times our vote. Suddenly we were staring defeat in the face.

Then the pendulum swung back again.

Halton 300 votes above 8% and then another 600 votes clawed back in Knowsley. Copeland in Cumbria did us proud with 900 votes over target before three stunning results that appeared to have changed the course of the night. 4,905 in Rochdale (1,400 votes over 8%), 7,517 in Wigan (2,400 votes over 8%) and 6,549 votes in Tameside (2,589 over 8%).

We seemed nearly there but before these result could be added to the accumulative tables on the result screens, these all went dead. Now it was down to our own arithmetic.

Stockport was very disappointing, so was Sefton and Fylde and we were back on tenderhooks again. The second last result was Wirral which not only put the Greens back in the frame but also made UKIP the favourites for taking the final seat.

The tension was unbearable . . . . until the Oldham result.

We got back at six this morning and what has happened over the past 24 hours is still sinking in.

Back later.

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