Sunday, 9 May 2010

Results day, two great, one sad, but plenty of hope

I spent election day at The Lenton Centre polling station from just before 7am until 9pm, with a couple of breaks. I did two lots of delivery in the three days before the election, so I feel as if I did my bit for the Labour Party, our candidate Lilian Greenwood and democracy. And, of course, we won Nottingham South, albeit with a reduced majority. Susan and I saw Lilian at lunchtime as we left the Crocus Café and she was about to go in. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me, so you will have to make do with a pic I took of Lilian in good company at the March 'Tea in the Park' event in Lenton Recreation Ground.
The attention is on the younger of Lilian's three daughters (who helped me serving the tea and the cake and did all the washing up). In the centre is Dave Trimble, our long-time Labour city councillor for Dunkirk and Lenton ward, and to the right is Matthew Butcher, who is a local community activist and was the Green Party candidate for Nottingham South in the general election on Thursday.

I spent most of election day with Matthew, as he based himself at The Lenton Centre from 7am until just before 9am, apart from going to a mock general election at a local primary and junior school. In that debate, he came second to Lilian. In the one that mattered on Thursday, Matthew came last, behind UKIP and the BNP. By no measure did he deserve that and I really felt for him when I heard the result. My elation at Lilian's election and the fact that she is Nottingham's first ever woman MP was marred by Matthew's poor performance and the disregard shown for him by voters. As a convert to 'green' socialism in the early-1970s, I readily admit to agreeing with nearly all the Green Party's policies and would certainly like to see the Labour Party adopt a good few of their policies.

Whilst the national media has been going on about Labour's poor performance in the general election, it has chosen to ignore Labour's impressive performance in local elections around England. Labour gained over 400 council seats whilst the Tories and Liberals lost well over one hundred each. It was also a bad night for independents. Labour won back control of numerous councils, including Camden in London, Coventry, Hastings, Oxford and, most significantly, Liverpool. These results matter, because they cheer up local foot soldiers like me and provide a launch pad for Labour's comeback at the next general election.

This weekend is dominated by media speculation about the ongoing talks between the party leaders, Cameron, Clegg and Brown about who will be able to form the next government. If Cameron wants to be prime minister, then he will have accept a referendum before too long on proportional representation and he may have to delay his proposed cuts programme until 2011/2012, when Labour and the Liberals want the cuts to start. The MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will also be against early cuts, as their countries benefit the most from public expenditure. In the circumstances, with the rest of Parliament ranged against him, I don't see how Cameron can cut services immediately.

Labour and Brown might still do a deal with the Liberals and the other parties to keep Cameron out. It's still early days. I agree with Graham Allen, the Nottingham North Labour MP since 1987, that there should be a referendum on proportional representation sooner rather than later. The question asked will be crucial. I heard a senior Tory MP, Liam Fox, say that PR isn't an important issue and that not one voter mentioned the issue to him during the campaign. I wonder how many said to him that they weren't going to vote because their vote wouldn't count anyway? Many voters feel disenfranchised by the present 'first past the post' system. The one thing most voters will want to keep is a direct link with their MP and not to vote for a party list over which they have no control. Back in the 1990s, Roy Jenkins and others prepared a report for Tony Blair. Many of us thought that change was about to come. What better time than under a Labour government with a massive majority, but it was not to be. Scotland got its own parliament and Wales an assembly, both with PR. England got nothing, not even PR. I have made up my mind to follow Graham's lead and support him. He is in favour of pluralism in government and more local autonomy. Two things I have long supported.

As far as I am concerned, the general election was not a disaster for Labour. My focus will remain local and this why having a Labour controlled Nottingham City Council is very important to me.  In a recent blog I went on at length about the commercial waste bins outside the Bag O'Nails pub on Church Street. Good news on election day from the City Council. I received an email saying: 'The two receptacles from the Bag O’ Nails have now been removed from the highway (and) I have had discussions with the Pub Manger and he is in agreement that their bins will now be stored within a secured compound within their building.  On collection days, our crew will remove the bins from the compound and once emptied they will be returned thus keeping them off the highway'. A result after three years.

In the midst of it all, Thursday did have its lighter moments. Both involved animals.
Outside The Lenton Centre polling station, Matthew became a dog minder for a few minutes whilst a lady went in and voted. It was about 9am and the day was still young. Matthew has yet to learn how to work the votes. For a few brief minutes whilst Lilian was at the polling station, she shook hands with every voter and introduced herself. She said no more. She was not campaigning. Matthew has yet to learn the dark art of 'pressing the flesh' or kissing babies, but , as my pic shows, he has made a start.
As Susan was walking home from a turn on the polling station, she saw these ducks on Devonshire Promenade, a few doors from our house. Why two mallards and a duck decided to land so far from water is a mystery, but here they are having a nap. By the time I came home they had gone. I ended the day with a sausage sandwich, a bag of crisps and a chocolate ice cream lolly and we stayed up until 4am, when the Nottingham results were declared. We then collapsed into bed and surfaced at mid-day. For the moment we are still playing catch-up. Our bodies are not used to such high levels of frenetic activity these days.

Shirley Williams has become the first senior Liberal Democrat to break ranks and come out against the idea of her party striking a formal coalition deal with the Conservatives.

No comments: