Voting in the local elections will shortly be over. Many hours did I spend on the doorsteps of North Hampshire, praising the qualities of the Conservative candidates in terms that would have made them blush, had they been listening. Not one door was slammed in my face. There was no abuse. At the worst, there was mild disinterest and a comment that the Archers had just started; at best, there was a commitment to support the Party on the day. Even with my blue rosette, the purpose of my visit was sometimes misconstrued – “Dad, there’s a man at the door who supports Reading.” Many of my calls were wholly abortive “We voted by post days ago darling – no, I can’t remember who I voted for.”
Then there was the 80 year old who was offered a lift to the polling station; but turned it down, adding that her mother would like one.
Shoppers at Budgens in Tadley were courteous in the banter they directed at the team as we moved off to identify and mobilise support in Tadley North.
I recall the story of the canvasser from one party, who removed one of his opponent’s “Sorry you were out” cards from a letter boxes as he went along one road and stuffed it in his pocket. Calling at the last house in another road, and getting no reply, he was about to leave his own literature in the letter box. He then realised he had walked along some newly laid concrete, leaving his footprints on the path. He put his opponent’s “Sorry you were out” card in the box.
After this campaign, in which I am sure there were no dirty tricks, voters in Basingstoke and Deane will have voted electronically, sparing candidates a long and agonising count.
Under the conventional system, you had a fair idea of how things were going. You could see your own pile of votes and compare it with that of your opponents; and you could get information from other parts of the country. You could then prepare your acceptance or resignation speech. With electronic voting, the computer does in a nanosecond what counters take hours to do. It is sudden death for most of the candidates.
While I am not a campaigner for change in how we vote, I do have one complaint against the current regime; the names appear on the ballot paper in alphabetical order. I have yet to stand against any candidate whose name appears after mine. The Yudkins and Zinovievs have not so far put up against me. There is some evidence that it helps to be near the top; the voter might go through the names and vote for the first one that appealed to him or her, and not complete the scrutiny. So far the disadvantage has not been fatal, but with a majority of 808 at one election, that was getting close.
For now, the much-travelled blue rosette has gone back into the drawer, to await the elections to the European parliament in a year’s time. See you then.