Unless you have stood in an election you simply cannot imagine the stomach wrenching corrosive anxiety that every candidate experiences and the May 2014 polls in Ealing certainly confirmed this.
Although most political parties start serious campaigning about a year from polling day it is only in the final few weeks that the pressure really starts to tell. Most candidates have full time jobs so they have to devote every spare minute of their evenings and weekends to knocking on doors. This leads to exhaustion and subtle time management skills need to be brought into play in order to balance both family and political responsibilities and commitments.
As the day of destiny draws closer you ignore all the evidence of the canvassing returns – be they good or bad – and hurl yourself at every home in your ward or constituency, drag in friends who had forgotten that they knew you, impose on relatives to an unforgivable degree and lunge for every floating vote with the desperation of a desert traveller gasping for water.
Clearly there are some wards in which the tension is not quite as tangible. Conservatives in Ealing Broadway or Hanger Hill tend not to be over exercised by the threat of defeat – at the moment – and the leading Tory candidate in both wards secured an identical 1,872 votes.
This appears as a mere flea bite when compared to the sky scraping electoral Everest that Labour’s Jasbir Anand achieved in Southall Green where she racked up a dizzying 4,088!
For the mere mortals every vote matters and the awful feeling of being under the microscope informs the actions of every candidate.
Seats are offered on the tube, doors are opened with a warm smile and the quality of front gardens exhaustively praised. In the old days (c.f.the Pickwick Papers description of the Eatenswill parliamentary election which is linked to Ealing by the fact that the real Eatenswill was actually Sudbury) a candidate could “treat” the floating voter with a few glasses of something refreshing and not be thought the worst of.
Those days are gone and neither bribe nor threat can influence the voter – at least not in our part of the world. Once there was a time when the count and declaration was held in one of the ancient civic strongholds of the noble borough of Ealing but no longer do we assemble in Greenford, Southall or Acton but in a more cost effective and central location.
This year the council had chosen to count and declare in a vast tented enclosure behind Perceval House in the car park. This mighty marquee actually saved the borough £40,000 and centralised the process in a way that may not have had the parochial relevance of the Greenford Hall but was far better than the vast echoing sound stage in Park Royal where the 2010 count was held.
The turnout – higher than expected – and the huge proliferation of independent and other candidates both complicated and lengthened the actual count. We may have been a little behind the clock but the wait was well worth it as not only was it an incontestably accurate exercise to which no-one objected but – if I may be allowed a partisan moment – Labour swept the board in a way not seen since 1998.
Ealing North now boasts 23 Labour councillors and one single Conservative but we can build on that. If the bone deep exhaustion that affects the successful candidates can only be imagined by those who have not experienced it then the same must be said for the awful sense of deflation and – yes – rejection felt by those who have failed to attract the support of the citizenry or, even worse, actually lost their seat.
Leaving the stage voluntarily at this election were the Greenford Green triumvirate of Sue Emment, Jason Stacey and Will Brooks. I never agreed with their politics but they were all three first class local representatives and I was happy to work with them on a bi-partisan basis. Greenford was fortunate to be represented by them and only the knowledge that Aysha Raza, Anthony Kelly and Simon Woodrooffe will be just as good makes the changeover as painless as possible.
It was sad to say farewell to Eileen Harris in Mandeville and I wish her and the family all the very best for the future. Her former ward colleague and past Mayor, Hazel Ware, has actually flourished since leaving office and I wish the same for Eileen.
Justin Anderson was always a one-off and there are not many motorcycle riding undertakers who are also successful DJs and Conservative councillors. Justin did not triumph in Perivale but there are now three excellent councillors, Munir Ahmed, Tariq Mahmood and Charan Sharma, in place who will serve the ward well and I wish them as well as Justin and Ida every happiness for the future.
Colm Costello no longer represents Hobbayne and all the other Conservatives either stood down or tried their luck elsewhere. Labour councillors Ed Rennie, Sitarah Anjum and Brian Reeves did not stand for election this time and again I wish them the very best in what I hope will be less stressful lives.
I thank everyone for their contribution to civic life and although some of us are divided by political loyalties I hope that we are united in our love for the borough and our determination to serve Ealing and its people to the best of our ability.
Finally – I am grateful to the officers who presided at the far flung polling stations, to those who counted the votes, to the police who ensured that all was peaceful, to the candidates both successful and unsuccessful and, above all, to the people of Ealing who showed their faith in democracy by casting their vote in this momentous election.