Saturday, February 11, 2006

Final Day Dunfermline and West Fife Campaign

A report from your Lib Dem Blogger on the spot.

Firstly a big thank you to the fellow bloggers Neil Fawcett, Alex Foster, Will Howells and I know I'm missing someone who actually came to Fife to help win this for Willie Rennie. Also to the rest of you involved in Telephone Canvassing or writing addresses and to the MPs including Bloggers Lynne Featherstone and John Hemming who sent key people such as Mark Pack and Tom both outstanding in their own way.

So what was my third long day of the year like (May 5, September 29, and February 9)?

Well spent the night before polling day with Willie's agent Peter Barrett and his wife Liz so that I could get to the office bright and breezy for a 5am start on the streets.

Arrived shortly after and was straight out again to Crossford to do once again one of the first runs I did in the campaign. Moving with the stealth of a cat, having practised on General Election day and again for the Livingston by-election I managed to avoid waking people and only two dogs while getting out a good morning leaflet urging people to send Our Willie to Westminster. I was getting a bit worried as time ticked on but made the 8:20 train at Inverkeithing Station which carried me to Haymarket then I went out to Edinburgh Park with moments to spare to get to work.

There is nothing worse than spending polling day of an election that you have spent so much time on sitting behind you normal work desk. I was itching to get out of there and back over to Dunfermline; I was feeling so out of the loop.

5pm came 12 hours into polling day operations and I could finally get back to it. Returned to Inverkeithing station to be greeted by an SNP canvasser on the platform, greeted him in a loud voice with 'No thank you, I'll not be supporting any party that is only going to come 3rd.' Then Watched with glee as he failed to offload a single leaflet to any of the other occupants of my carriage.

Turned up at HQ in Inverkeithing just before 6pm to be dispatched straight away off to the Dunfermline Committee Room with a letter from Cllr Joe Rosiejak. Turned up there and was turned around straight away again to some streets off Townhill Road with a different leaflet. We returned to the car to find a sealed postal ballot had been left on the windscreen.

Returned to the committee room to enquire where the nearest polling station was and then rushed off to the Carnegie Hall to hand the postal ballot in. Then it was off out again to deliver some of that letter from Councillor Rosiejak I'd brought across earlier. Kept going with that until about 9:45 then returned to the committee room. Exhausted and aching but sure I could do nothing more.

After a quick cup of tea it was off to HQ to wait for the result. While we were waiting we watched Question Time and have some pizza and other food. Some interesting tribalism was going on during Question Time but when certain phones went off all heads turned to gauge from expressions what was going on. We knew it was close and too early to call, but no matter what knew it was not going to be a good night for Labour.

Finally the confirmation came through that we had won it and the room went ecstatic.

Reasons to be Cheerful:

All the hard work had been worth it we had helped to send Willie to Westminster.

It was a 16.8% swing against Labour after the month the party has had.

The last time the Liberal's held Dunfermline was from 27 October 1931 to 14 November 1935 (interestingly for me the same day that Labour gained their current hold on Linlithgowshire then West Lothian).

It was the first by-election win by the Scottish Liberal Democrats from Labour since the party's formation and the first of any of the predecessor party's in living memory. Strange to think that George Galloway's old seat Glasgow Hillhead was Conservative before his predecessor Roy Jenkins won it in March 1982. Indeed the last time a Liberal candidate won a by-election from a Labour hold was in 1908 in Dundee, the sucessful candidate was a young upstart called Winston Churchill.

So the celebrations really got under way as we prepared for the arrival of Willie Rennie MP. Obviously others returned first from the count. I caught up with Cllr Rosiejak and told him I'd been out delivering his letter until almost close of poll. He told me he'd met a constituent at the polling place who had said they only decided to come and vote for Willie when they received that letter from him at about 9:30, i.e. while I was still out delivering them to her area.

There was much handshaking, hugging and back patting going on then the BBC crew arrived to prepare for their shots. Then finally we all gathered outside waiting for Willie to arrive, holding our Win with Willie signs proudly his car finally entered the car park but still had to go around the building to get to us at the entrance.

The chant started up of 'Willie! Willie!' and then the car came into view. Peter Barrett the agent and Nicol Stephen went over to greet the newest Member of Parliament and his wife with TV crew and press in pursuit. The chants continued as he reached us when Alex Cole-Hamilton and Peter lifted him shoulder high. Willie grabbed one of his signs and gave and interview from up there in front of HQ's entrance. He went in and we all trooped in for Willie to thank every one of us as we filed past. Then the lined the corridor to where the party was set up for Willie to get the party properly started.

Just as we were about to get partying another news crew, who will remain anonymous, turned up and asked us to do a lot of the greeting stuff again as they had managed to miss our HQ. Despite all the signage up at it for the original spontaneous acts.

But everyone was really buzzing after the tension of earlier in the evening to the untold joy of knowing we had achieved the first overturn of Tony Blair's Third Term.


Anonymous said...

May have been tribalistic on Question Time viewing for some, but others had no time for anything but watching the faces of those who were receiving phone calls from the count.

When we were told it was in the bag by 1200 I think everyone gave up on the TV. I may yet watch Alastair Carmichael's performance on video, but it seemed less important on the night.

One piece of congratulation that nobody has mentioned seems due. A result at 12.35 is amazingly early nowadays. Congratulations to the RO.


Stephen Glenn said...

Or I agree Erland, I missed most of the end of Question Time myself and was hanging around at the back of the room.

The returning officers up here, at least in the relatively Urban seats that may have small but readily accessible hinderlands are usually quite good. They manged both the Livinston and Linlithgow Counts by 1:40 on 5 May and Livingston by-election was ready just after midnight after they actually slowed up the final section to be able to do it live on television.

I presume from what I saw and heard on the TV they were doing the same as in West Lothian and just keeping the counters busy as much as possible and opening boxes as soon as they arrived in.

Ian Ridley said...

The view from Leicestershire was really puzzling. Looked at Newsnight Scotland on BBC2 at 11pm and the vibe was that Labour were worried, we looked happy and SNP wished they were elsewhere. Yet the betting markets said the opposite.

Lack of any further TV and radio coverage was laughable but pointed to a Labour hold. But at about midnight the betting markets went bananas.

First by-election result I've seen where Betfair on my laptop gave me more news than Sky or News 24.

Well done everyone who went and helped out. All I could do was a tiny bit on the telephone and donate a bit of cash

Stephen Glenn said...

I can understand. We at least had STV giving us more info than BBC News 24 and when the first to be interviewed where the SNP and Tories looking decided sad and still trying to talk themselves up and nobody from our side was available it was definitely looking good.

Although as Erlend has already said those of us at HQ had a inkling it was looking very good.


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