TELEGRAPH BLOG - ELECTION DAY



Election Day dawns. We’re all knackered, but still up with first light, ready to man the committee rooms and be tellers at polling stations from 7am. One of our councillors, who won his seat last time by 15 votes, is convinced that smiling and chatting all day outside the polling station was the reason; despite heart surgery, he’s determined to do the same again. We have to hope it won’t cause a by-election a couple of days later.

This is the day I forget the diet. Cakes, crisps, nuts and more cake will fuel us for that marathon. “Don’t let them all sit drinking coffee!” pleads Bill, our veteran agent, but socialising has always been what the Conservative party is about. That’s what kept us going in the far-off days when we had over 2 million members; very few people are nerds who prefer stale politics to fresh pastry.

The most valued attributes today are a pair of strong legs. Last minute letters are delivered to pledged supporters. Tellers’ slips are grabbed from chilled old ladies sitting outside polling stations, other old ladies are collected from home and taken to vote (not many these days; the Tories’ traditional advantage in having more cars has vanished as the number of postal votes has soared). Then there’s the brooding computer – all those electoral numbers have to be entered, usually by some grim old chap with a dangling ciggy swearing that he can’t read the squiggles. If none of this makes any sense, you’ve never done it; but by five o’clock, as large numbers head to the poll, it can be the most exciting, frantic, despairing, wonderful experience. This is democracy in practice.

The arguments about the campaign are over. Cameron was excellent on the reason and logic of his case, but never won voters’ hearts; the threat from UKIP, however, never materialised. Miliband pushed every emotive button, many of which worked, but couldn’t shake off the incompetence of his Labour predecessors. Neither was convincing in terms of empathy – metropolitan millionaires both, their suits costing more than most men’s weekly wages. It was non-combatant Nicola Sturgeon who set the pulses racing; she proved that speaking with clarity and conviction can still make a powerful impact, even if it’s pernicious nonsense. These are the skills of the demagogue through the ages.

As weary foot-soldiers knock on the last doors persuading the reluctant or forgetful (“It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?”) to get their paper into the ballot box, I’ll be heading to London to be a telly pundit. At some bleary hour I’ll be putting a cheerful face on it. Around lunchtime Friday, I’ll be chatting to a cartoon of Mr Putin, which might be a slight improvement on John Humphreys. You’ll be able to see the result of that, at least, before a government has formed; Putin’s Lunchbox goes 'live' on www.thepoke.co.uk at 13.00.