Observations from the Manchester count:
It was another late night, although not as bad as last year with the co-incident general election. This time there was the co-incident AV referendum, so the first task was to separate out the two sets of ballot papers from each box. This gave the opportunity to gauge the referendum vote - I'm pleased to note that in my ward, Chorlton, the 'Yes' vote was definititely in front, probably at least 60% 'Yes'. Sadly, Chorlton is not typical of the country as a whole in this respect.
My view is that the referendum ballot should have been allocated a separate box at each polling station; actually my view is that the referendum shouldn't have been held on the same day as the council elections at all - I blogged on this last summer when the referendum was announced.
As the counting progressed a clear pattern was emerging in those South Manchester seats where the Liberal Democrats were defending. In ward after ward Labour were out-polling them.
There were even optimistic noises from fellow Greens who saw areas where they seemed to be challenging the Lib Dems for second place in their former heartlands. In Whalley Range, Ayo Ogolo - standing for the first time - came within 50 votes of the Lib Dems, in a ward where recently they had two councillors. But the big victors in the City were undoubtably Labour; it gradually became clear that they had won all 32 seats up for election (33 including a co-incident by-election in Burnage). A red tide indeed.
Talking to a couple of Liberal Democrats, I got the response that while they were expecting it to be bad, they didn't think it would be this bad. They were taking it with a mixture of grim resignation and gallows humour (I saw one sporting a yellow rosette and a 'No2AV' sticker).
The results couldn't be announced officially until a separate verification of the referendum ballots was done, which was taking forever, and so for the first time ever I left before the declarations (leaving at 2.45 am).
So now to digest the results. Whilst at a national Party level the Liberal Democrats may have had it coming (all those students, and other people who thought they were voting for a progressive Party...), I don't celebrate their wipe out. Many good local councillors (and I include Paul Ankers, my Lib Dem opponent in Chorlton in this) have been put to the sword in the process and an increasingly one Party Labour state in Manchester is bad for democracy. For us Greens, our vote has held up amidst the carnage, but it hasn't really grown much.
The big step forward for us is that we came second in four wards; we beat the Tories in 15 wards and the Lib Dems in 6 - definitely our best result in terms of beating 'major' Parties. In all our second place wards we've got a long way to go to beat Labour on Thursday's showing; however if the Lib Dem decline continues, someone will need to fill the gap; that could only be us. Interesting times ahead - even if we are stuck with first past the post for the foreseeable future.
Full results are available on the Manchester City Council website.
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