Friday, May 02, 2008

From City Hall

17.57 - This is where it is all supposed to be happening but it is remarkably quiet. Something to do with the fact that the immensely complicated London voting system is too slow for the very generous time table that has been allowed for it. The votes, as counted in the constituencies were supposed to arrive to City Hall about two hours ago to be collated and generally made presentable for announcements.

The count across London is about 67 per cent through but some constituencies are ahead of others. There are screens downstairs in the cafe for the running total and I shall investigate in a minute to bring up-to-date information but I have just been told by someone who has been there that it is like watching paint dry. The most important activity seems to be people drinking tea and coffee.

Security is slightly tighter than usual, which means everybody has to go through the security check (good thing I remembered to take my Swiss army knife out of my bag) but it did not take too long. I have acquired a new piece jewellery - a paper wristband with a number - and, inevitably, my small ring made the machine shriek. Everybody made the machine shriek.

The headline in the paper is that the bookies are paying out on Boris as Mayor. One wonders whether that means they think he might get through on first preference only, which will be more than the present Hizonner has ever managed, despite his supposed "popularity" with Londoners.

18.45 Back from the hive of activity in the basement (good thing the water had been pumped out) and watching paint dry seems far more exciting. The screens are automatically updated every few minutes. At 18.38 74.43 per cent of the vote across London had been counted with some of the fourteen constituencies in the eighties and some still lingering in sixties.

On first preferences Boris Johnson was leading in eight constituencies and Ken Livingstone in six. In two of them, Brent & Harrow and Haringey & Enfield, by a very slight margine with the votes still being counted.

Brian Paddick not doing well at all and Sian Berry, the Green blonde, is getting nowhere. At times she is level pegging with the BNP. This means that the second preference of those who voted for her, which will go to Hizonner, naturally, are of less importance than assumed before. It is the Lib-Diom voters' second preferences that are of interest to us all and they are likely to divide fairly evenly between the two leading candidates.

Details are hard to discern as figures are not being given, merely a general pictorial representation in bar charts.

Estimated time of announcement has now gone to ten o'clock so I shall probably depart long before. But you never know, something interesting might happen.

19.09 I can report a little bit of excitement. There is a tiny anti-fascist demonstration outside the Great Glass Egg. Well, there was, but it has gone quiet because it was immediately surrounded by London's finest, who are here in large numbers, and the Egg's own security guards.

It seemed to be an anarchist organization as they had a black and red flag but their big banner was not very well designed, with a black background and part-white, part-brown letters. I suppose they thought it was a brilliant idea to remind everyone of the brownshirts but it is very difficult to read brown on black.

We do not know whom they consider to be fascists. Is it the BNP? Is it the Conservatives? Either way they do not seem to have a clear idea of what elections are about. If the BNP candidates acquire a seat or two in the Assembly, no amount of demonstrating can reverse that. The people who would have made it possible were all those politicians, journalists, bishops, bloggers, old uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, who kept writing about the evils of the BNP.

19.58 This may be my last update as there is some paint out there that will not dry unless I watch it. At 19.51 across London only 86.90 per cent of the votes had been counted with constituencies where Livingstone was leading on first preferences well ahead. Most of them are in the nineties and will complete the count very soon. Whether that means the turn-out was low there we do not know as the figures as opposed to the overall picture are still unavailable.

Boris is still leading in eight constituencies on first preferences as against six for Ken, with Brian Paddick and Sian Berry nowhere. Incidentally, pretty little Sian has turned up here now and is looking a little grim. Her supporters are looking marginally less civilized than the BNP. A few others have been sighted - English Democrats, Christian Alliance, the odd Tory and Labour and Winston McKenzie the independent candidate is here, looking as natty as ever.

My guess is that a declaration at ten o'clock is optimistic. I shall now disappear into the West End and update everyone on the results when I get home. Assuming I can tear myself away from that drying paint.

UPDATE: The London Evening Standard has jumped the gun and is claiming that Boris has "scored a stunning election victory to end Ken Livingstone's eight-year reign and round off a disastrous 24 hours for the Labour Party."

The paper is reporting that, "after a nailbiting count, Mr Johnson was so far ahead on first-preference votes he could not be caught by Mr Livingstone, even after second preferences were taken into account." Labour officials, it adds, are conceded privately that the Conservative was too far ahead.

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