14.00

I’ll bow to your wisdom, commenters, and carry on with this post, since you are. Hey, I might never bother creating a new post again.

First, apple lodges for the blogging hiatus in the wee hours, I have no particular excuse to offer other than a corresponding hiatus in my energy levels, despite the “finger food” (always a sinister phrase), and a slow-up in the flow of information. Had I been more myself (i.e., blogging while wrapped in a blanket and eating a chocolate bar for breakfast, like wot I am now doing) I would have churned out some more reflective stuff in that period. That’s what you get when you put rank amateurs like me on the tellybox.

I am, however hugely chuffed about your contributions, and I’m sorry I couldn’t mention more of them (the whole experience was a lot more fraught than it was probably made to look by the lovely Emily M) but checking in on this thread every now and then helped keep me sane. Sincere apologies to Adrian Sanders (I am particularly pleased about the Exeter majority, it being a place dear to my heart) and Bernard Salmon whose extremely valuable comments got stuck in spam and I only released them at 4am this morning. Annoying, I would obviously have made a lot more of them. That’s bloggin’.

We’ve got Sheffield! Just seen it come up on the Beeb’s tickertape. Re Liverpoo-el, on reflection I could probably have done without that defection – rather as a couple of people below have said. Whatever the details were, it’s going to be milked for all it’s worth by the (Labour mouthpiece) Liverpool Echo over the next year. We made a great fight of it anyway – one seat off a majority in Labour’s key target seat? I’d have been happy with that.

But then, we’re not Liverpool Lib Dems. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to see all your ongoing plans and work go up in smoke, especially in the name of “No Overall Control”. I rather trust that they had some good reasons for seeking a cobbled together majority. It may, {she hoped}, be that they’re on the verge of cracking the finance problem (which has, basically, arisen because of the City of Culture thing; anything like that is always going to be an expensive fiasco whatever the cultural benefits, and the ruling party is always going to get it in the neck). If they can turn things around over the next year, they’ll have deserved their relative success.

With 129 official results in it’s fairly certain we’ll finish in the low positives. I said yesterday I’d have been disappointed with less than 25% of the vote share, so our performance is solid from my point of view. Little to add to the excellent analysis at 4am this morning (no, really) by Andy H, in fact. Not at all surprised to see the Beeb et al insisting it’s a failure. Incidentally, Iain D (what a treasure trove of insider information that man is) mentioned to me that people generally get hit over the head with a big stick by the Beeb for “breaking the confidentiality of rehearsals” which was quite blatantly what I did for CiF yesterday. I will let you know if any sharp blows to the head occur. Happily, James Graham has now taken the nuttily hate-filled anti Lib Dem commenters off my hands over there. It really does puzzle me, the maniacal pin-sticking type vitriol that gets poured over us on CiF. It feels like wandering into the wrong paper. Why are they so upset?

In other nutter news, I see that Luke Akehurst’s fake blog stalker person has – if you can believe this – been into my Facebook account (innocently open to mostcomers), and copied a photo of me pretending to be Captain Jack Sparrow in the Balkans last year into his blog, and derived a number of less-than-sophisticated nautical metaphors therefrom. Hasn’t had the decency to link to me, sadly, and that compliment I hereby return.

Now, I really must call my mother.

2ND MAY

03.41

Liverpool… what can I say? Let joy be unconfined. Hopefully about to have a good ol’ fight with Luke about it on air.

Incidentally, someone on Iain’s blog earlier complained that Luke and I hadn’t linked to Iain tonight whereas he had linked to us. So here we are:

Luke!

Iain!

I do find the notion that we need to link to Iain rather quaint and charming. My hit rate today, my highest ever, has been less than a tenth of Ian’s on a normal day.

Well, the plug has been pulled and the wine is flowing. A good night. Until tomorrow!

02.49

Just managed to catch a clip of Ringmeister Jeremy Vine and his tragic animation. Now, I’m all for fun and frolics on political programmes. Well, actually, I’m not. But for the love of dear god. With the best will in the world - 25%, four points up on our poll position, we’ve overtaken Labour, we’re the second party in the country… and it’s a POOR PERFORMANCE? Much as I predicted earlier today. Ridiculous.

01.23

The spring rolls are congealed, the lip gloss has all but worn off, but give me more!

Great news!!! With multiple exclamation marks!!! We’ve held Eastleigh!!!

Er. No, not a great surprise, it being Chris Huhne’s seat an’ all. But we have apparently liquidated the last Tory from the council.

Curioser and curioser. We’ve lost three seats to Labour in Bolton… but made them up against the Tories in Stratford. Has the country up-ended itself? The canard about Tory resurgence in the south is now well and truly a dead duck.

My information here at City Hall (very useful having a whole press team hanging around nearby chatting) is that we’ll finish AHEAD of Labour. The figure 27% is being bandied about…

Snapshot: Iain is quoting yet another lascivious Tory commenter from his blog slurping at Emily and/or Clemency. Luke’s blog meanwhile is hosting an argument about George Galloway and the Iraq war. Kind of appropriate in both cases really.

00.45am Harmony in the South-West. Aaaah.

Mr Iain tells me there are two Con gains from Labour in Exeter which puts all three of us on a lovely even 12 seats apiece. Bad, though again not unexpected, news from Pendle – one Con gain from us there. Like Liverpool, it was always going to be a toughie.

At this point I am cautiously extremely happy. The official Beeb position is we’re net one councillor up after eighteen declarations (i.e. about an hour ago), and I haven’t heard anything from my little channels which varies that picture wildly. Given that we would be happy to lose anything under a hundred seats on the back of a great performance in 2004, it’s All Going According to Plan. Not all bad news in Liverpool though – we’re making gains in nearby Knowsley which has been hardcore Labour since the dawn of time. We’ve also taken a ward from Labour in Salford.

00.30am More from the gentle south

Lib Dems are now predicting a majority in Cheltenham (currently even stevens with the Tories) and the Woking news appears hopeful – more to follow.

The political internet continues to explode with indignation at the antics of Jeremy Vine. Let’s see if we can’t stick it to him an’ his graphics next camera shot we get…

00.24am Bizarre result of the night

The Tories hold Broxbourne, as expected, but Labour gain one seat from them to reach a grand total of 3 councillors. Broxbourne? In the middle of Hertfordshire? The SOUTH? What in the name of Champion the Wonder Horse is going on?

00.17am Just in from St Albans

We’re looking good, yellow people. Three wards held and one gain from Labour (only eight Labour councillors there to start with, so a relatively easy mop-up job). Full control beckons.

In other news, I hear one of Guido’s commenters says I look “quite tasty”. Of such august observations does political blogging consist. Just as well I have Iain here to safeguard my virtue.

00.06am Wonderful Winchester and Woeful Wiverpool

Bad is the news from Liverpool just now. Labour have taken three of our seats and we’ve lost another to one of the minor parties. Not wholly unexpected – Labour have thrown everything at Liverpool. More than a couple more losses and I’ll be worried.

But great news from Winchester – a Lib Dem hold, despite all the talk of Tory resurgence in the south east. Plainly the Dave deal has not been sealed.

11.59pm Tories romping away in the south, you say?

That’s what the papers keep telling me. Not at Sandgate in Folkestone & Hythe, it seems! The Lib Dems gain from the Conservatives with a vote share increased by 35.1%. Courtesy of, and congrats to, Tim Prater.

Poor Michael Portillo! No-one at the great big pretend BBC election party wants to talk to him. He’s tucked onto one of the supercool ergonomic sofas reading a book all by his little self…

11.44pm Early Tory gains…

Mr Iain is jubilant – the Tories have retained Tamworth and taken seats in Chorley and Swansea. I also learn from the estimable Mr Dale that the Boris staying on as MP for Henley story is “total rubbish” and I shouldn’t mention it on air or I shall live to regret it. Ooh, Iain, you tease! What do you think I should do, boys and girls?

Great Lib Dem news from Hull! We lost the council after a defection and needed one seat to retake control. And we’ve gained not one seat, but five…

11.01pm A question of milk… 

In the preparation for tonight we were all three asked, amongst other things, for our earliest political memory, and I chose Mrs Thatcher taking away my free school milk. Iain wondered how this could be. The original decision to stop school milk was made in the 1970s when Maggie was Ed Sec’y. But we did have free school milk at my primary school (c1983-1987) and it was taken away somewhere in the middle years. It tickles me to recall in this context that I lived in what was then the fifth safest Tory seat in the country (Epsom and Ewell). Did we healthy ruddy Tory children get extra calcium for the greater good?

Can anyone shed any light on this perplexing lactic mystery?

10.50pm Iain Dale-Luke Akehurst sandwich…

The Liberal Democrats are the centre of attention for once here on floor 9 at City Hall as I have managed to bag the central seat by the simple expedient of turning up early. Shock revelations already abound – Luke Akehurst only types with one finger! Overheard in make-up: “so it’s 53-47 after second preferences”.  Nope, I don’t know which way round that was.

In further London news, there have been problems earlier in the day in several London boroughs with ballot paper illegalities, and Iain and Luke are talking across me right this moment about extraordinarily high turnouts across the city. 50% in Chingford and Wood Green, 49% in Hackney. Glad news. On the bus today, I directed a girl to the library, warning her it would be closed because it was the polling station. “I know,” she said, all wounded surprise, “I’m going to vote.” A warm glow! We rode on in companionable silence, perhaps the only two women under thirty in London to vote today… Any more out there?

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