Out and about in polling stations all day. I felt like one of those International Observers at an election in North Korea or South Sudan.
It sounds exciting but actually its a bit boring. Carrying political nerdiness to an unreasonable degree. What can I say? The lure of a Translink bus-train pass (free travel anywhere in Norn Iron) and an Election Observer pass to peek into other polling stations in exotic places proved too much.
I voted with Mrs FJH at 7.15am. It wont surprise you to know I voted SDLP, with a preference for republican and left-leaning candidates.
Frankly on a bright May morning, DUP, TUV, UKIP and Conservatives are an ugly group of people, playing to the worst in human nature.
Stayed around local polling stations for a while and used by train pass to travel to Bangor. For a moment, I was Slugger O’Toole’s freelance correspondent on the front line reporting the 5pm voter turnout at a Bangor school.
And a few hours later, I was back home, reporting on the 9pm turnout at a local school.
All that journalism made me want to lie down.
So….went the day well?
Seemingly not for NI21 as they just imploded on TV …taking personal friendships with them. Sad to see.
For SDLP? Far too soon to say.
I guess activists of all parties gathered to chew over the limited infprmation available to them. Were the people actually going into a polling station the same people who promised the canvassers a certain vote three weeks ago.
Thats the thing about Canvassing.
You knock doors.
You know that at best only 50% of people vote. You know that only a percentage voted for you last time.
You know you will get SOME abuse. Maybe about your Party. More likely about politicians in general.
You know that people who would not vote for you, will be glad that you actually ventured into seemingly unfriendly territory and at least tried.
People …even in Norn Iron… ESPECIALLY in Norn Iron…are actually nicer than you dare think.
But perhaps the basic lesson of canvassing is the discovery that people dont always tell the truth. The quickest and most polite way of getting rid of a canvasser is to simply say that “I am voting for your party”.
First time candidates get seduced by the positivity more than the abuse.
But Canvassing Returns are one thing.
Sitting in a polling station at 9pm and realising that the “certain” vote in Number 33 has not actually voted and there is only one hour left until polls close. No need to panic of course but the other “certain” votes in Number 14 has not shown up either.
So after 10pm…the de-briefing.
I have heard nothing.
Except of course (mostly thru Slugger O’Toole) reports of 9pm turnouts.
What actually does 41% mean from THIS ballot box?
Or 47% from THAT ballot box.
Is there a differential in unionist and nationalist areas? Or Belfast and West Tyrone?
So what would be a good result?
Frankly for SDLP, Alex Attwood, getting the third Euro seat would be a bonus.
And doing better than ok in the Locals.
But I think SDLP emerging as the third party in Norn Iron, a small but obvious recovery….especially as UUP declines further and Alliance cant break out of Belfast commuter belt….that would be ok.
There is a lazy narrative about SDLP…a party in “terminal decline”. I dont buy into that…but certainly true that there was a decline from 2004 to 2011.
There has been anecdotal evidence (and the Mid Ulster bye-election in March 2013) to suggest that the decline has stopped.
The SDLP will be looking for hard evidence that this is the case.