From feedback, this is one of the most popular chapters of my recent book (My Political Race). I hope you enjoy Chapter 8, about Steve Pound MP’s count in Ealing North, 1997.
1 May 1997 – A New Dawn
I rang Terry Ashton. He was my big boss and he needed to know. It was around 3am in the morning, Friday 2nd May 1997.
I was going to finish this off as calmly and professionally as I possibly could. I was put through to Terry and the conversation went something like this.
Terry: “So you finished off the job in Swindon and made it back to Ealing?”
“Yes, all done. Haven’t heard any news of declarations in Swindon but I’m pretty sure we’ll take Swindon North and Swindon South too. I spoke to the RD (Regional Director) earlier.”
“Well done. So what news of Ealing North?”
“We’re just about to declare here at Greenford Hall, Terry.” I wanted to savour this moment. It was like having the coordinates for the gold buried at the end of the rainbow. Only I, as the agent, the returning officer and the candidates had this precious piece of information. And I knew my history. Never had a party achieved a 6% swing before to win a general election. My project in Ealing North was to achieve a swing of 8% to overturn a majority of 6,000. “Terry, we’ve overturned their 6,000 majority and won by over 9,000. I make it around a 17% swing, Tory to Labour.”
There was a long pause from the Greater London Labour Party Regional Office. I had taken up a quiet spot behind a pillar at Greenford Hall. The public gallery looking down on us was packed with our activists. My dad and brother had come down to give me moral support. On the floor of Greenford Hall, the assortment of rosettes of all the main parties were on display. I’d made sure my counting agents were well drilled and had kept their focus on the trestle tables in front of them, looking out for every single spoilt ballot paper. Their focus and their discipline had been immense.
They were tuned in to their radios. They were becoming increasingly aware this was going to be an extraordinary night. Their eyes were on Steve Pound. They were also looking to me to tell them how it was going.
Terry spoke at last. “So, the Parliamentary Labour Party is going to have to put up with Steve Pound as an MP then.”
He made me laugh. I think he was joking but you could never be certain. “I think they’ll cope!”
“Well done. But make sure he’s behaving himself. What’s he up to?”
I looked across the hall. Steve Pound was standing on a chair and conducting a sing-song to the gallery above him. To the tune of Skinner and Baddiel’s Three Lions he was singing at the top of his voice: “He’s on the dole, he’s on the dole…Portillo’s on the dole!”
I covered the mouthpiece of my phone and moved out to the corridor. “He’s fine Terry. A bit quiet, probably overcome by the occasion…”
My Political Race is now in most good bookshops or you can order it online here https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/my-political-race