Last year I was a Green Party candidate for my ward in the Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council election. I am still a member of Welwyn Hatfield Green Party and in September I reluctantly (nobody else was putting their hand up) agreed to take over from Ian Nendick when he stood down as their election agent. So this year I had a bit more work to do.
Due to boundary changes Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council had an all-out election yesterday to choose three councillors in each of sixteen wards. The boundary changes were intended to rationalise the ward structure and (approximately) equalise the number of electors in each ward, though there were the inevitable vague allegations of gerry-mandering. To give you an idea of the magnitude of the changes, last year I was in Hatfield West and without moving I am now in Hatfield East!
Our national election agent sent me some forms which I took to the council on February 17th. These authorised me to certify candidates and to receive the electoral register, which I requested in electronic form (as a CSV file). Due to the boundary changes there were delays in producing the register but on March 4th I went to the council offices and was given a printed copy (A4, about 4cm thick). Later I tried to get an electronic copy but was told that I was only entitled to one or the other. Our national agent explained that he was also entitled to a copy and that he had waived his entitlement in my favour. I explained this to the Electoral Registration officer and again asked for the electronic version but although he said he would look into it I am still waiting.
We made the perhaps dubious decision this time to have two target wards, Sherrards in Welwyn Garden City and my ward, Hatfield East. We thought we had at least a dozen volunteer candidates but in the end we only managed to field nine – three each in the two target wards and one each in another three wards in Welwyn Garden City (Panshanger, Handside and Haldens). As election agent I had to help people through the nomination process. The three candidates in the two target wards listed themselves as Green Party [First|Second|Third] Choice Candidate in the hope that electors who only wanted to vote for one or two Green candidates would use one of their votes for our first choice candidate, giving them the best possible (though still very small) chance of election. Being the agent did not bar me from standing and I was our first choice candidate in Hatfield East.
Each candidate had to collect ten signatures of registered electors in their ward and for that I had to give them the relevant sections of the register. Once everyone had got their signatures I took the forms to the council offices where they were checked and all eventually confirmed as valid nominations.
We produced two leaflets to distribute, one for each of our target wards. The printing costs were our only election expense and will be split between the six candidates who stood in those wards (candidates have to declare all money that was spent on their campaigns). We shared out leaflet distribution but I ended up doing the majority of Hatfield East on my own. I didn’t knock on doors but had a few good conversations with people outside and some of them said they would vote for me.
Yesterday, after voting I cycled over for the count in Welwyn Garden City where I stayed to the bitter end (about 6am). So how did we do? Well we didn’t get any councillors, but then we didn’t realistically expect to. In the following table “Votes Required” is the number of votes received by the third place candidate (remember three candidates were elected in each ward).
|Ward||Turnout||Our Lead Candidate||Votes Received||Position||Votes Required|
|Hatfield East||35%||Ian Gregory||229||8/11||717|
Full results are here.
All five wards in which we were represented were won by a Conservative Party Candidate. We deliberately avoided putting candidates forward in Howlands where our former member Jill Weston was elected as a Labour Councillor, and Welham Green and Hatfield South where Paul Zukowskyj (who fought hard to stop a giant waste incinerator being built) was elected along with two other Liberal Democrats. There were three independent candidates, Stan Tunstal who received 192 votes and beat two Liberal Democrats in Howlands, Caron Juggins who received 315 votes and beat all of our candidates (including me) and a Liberal Democrat in Hatfield East, and Sandra Kiriakides who received an impressive 896 votes and came quite close to beating one of the three elected Conservatives in Welwyn West.
Unfortunately the Conservative Party retained a majority with 28 of 48 councillors while Labour came away with 15 and the Liberal democrats have 5.