While our kind neighbour came and sat with the children and did their school work with them, I went as a candidate’s guest to the counting of votes for the County election. It’s a fascinating moment where democracy levels people to a plain and every candidate stands in the same position. Yesterday, I observed the congeniality with which people greeted and conversed. There was a sense of wishing each other well on the surface, but hidden beneath was a competitive blade trying to cut through the veneer. Out it came with each successfully elected candidate; the blade of victory.
The congeniality and polite interest was so British, but I felt the scorpion sting was waiting in the wings. Sifting out the authenticity of who genuinely meant well is done by the sieve of experience that comes from serving on the council and working alongside these candidates, in trying to bring the best to local communities.
Four years ago, when I stood beside Tim in that same room observing the council workers behind sheep hurdles, counting crosses on a piece of paper, it was all very new. This time, I was very glad to be there, but I could have fallen asleep. I lacked the adrenalin rush of last time and sat discussing babies with my mother-in-law and pregnant sister-in-law.
This time, I took time to observe and noticed that under the glare of neon light my husband’s tan gave the impression of lavish trips abroad, not of standing for 12 hours at the polling station door. This time, who is who in the old boys club, who is respected, who isn’t, how it works, what to watch for and the interweaving of networks was more familiar. It meant I was introduced to many new faces.
A conversation with a gentleman about getting a good job done whatever party you stand for was instigated by him asking me with which party my sympathies lie. I hadn’t a clue who he was so played my cards close and the conversation was sprinkled with much humour. As not everyone had their colours nailed to their chests, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that he asked me. Afterwards, Tim told me how staunch that particular gentleman is in his views and how much they oppose his. I still maintain that it’s about getting a good job done. My convictions are no greater than that.
Counting was slow. Not actually tallying numbers, but all the administration that comes with it. We laughed and reminded ourselves that as slow as it was, it was a far cry from the corruption some other countries have to tunnel through at election time.
The press were there to create a window to the outside world. I enjoyed watching their antics as much as the candidates. I watched a dynamic reporter position himself in front of the camera and snap into mode with a click, making dramatic statements about results versus expectation. The other side of the camera is a familiar picture to the average British public and I enjoyed seeing it from the ordinary every day journalist doing his job perspective.
It had been my prediction that it would be a day for independent candidates to taste success from the mixing bowl of apathy and disillusioned public. And indeed it was.
While we had a Chinese take away, Daddy explained to the children how extremely hard work for a number of weeks has reaped the reward in the long term – 5 years, to be precise. And that hard work was not done alone.
Unless you see behind the scenes (as I did), you never see the incredible team of volunteers who serve to propel their candidate into the public eye. You never see the crowd of shoulders an individual candidate surfs to success but without those shoulders there would be no success! You never see the hours sacrificed or the miles walked.
The shifting sands of British politics are shaped by the wind of public opinion and we live in admiration or disgust at the dunes that are created by the system, but rarely notice the individual grains of sand. From the level plain to shaping new dunes yesterday, I am glad we turn to a new page. Our town has some different people to represent it but for us life will now return to normal. This weekend, we can relax having ridden the shoulders of the nameless “Great” who work hard to make Britain just that. Great!