The Wokingham Paper

TONY JOHNSON: Local Election Disaster … tens of people feared mildly inconvenienced


Yes – last Thursday the voters went to the polling stations to tell the parties ‘what’s what’ and ‘which way is up’ and this is the post-mortem on how well “they” really got on so it’s time for the pin to meet the politicians.

There’s a number of Local Election Disaster (LED) awards but before we get to them, a few notes on the ‘sport’.

Trouble at t’Borough

As many will know, a full-grown Torysaurus Rex is a fine sight, especially in the cross hairs of the hunter’s favourite weapon – the popular vote.

Weighing in at over three Morris Oxfords and slightly less manoeuvrable than a ULCC (think super-duper-tanker), it’s characterised by an armoured blue hide, super-sensitive nose and a long ‘tale’, currently split down the middle.

Its daytime habitat is the open road amidst tree-lined fields which it can often be seen speeding across.  Evenings will see it at dinner parties where for example, the Borissosaur can level the canapés and a couple of small countries with a hungry glance.

With very few young, coupled with a tendency to eat its own, their habitat reduction programme round the borough hadn’t had much effect. Until recently.

Last week a third of the local herd, 18 in total including the herd leader, were up for re-election amid a sea of voters who were described as being “somewhat tetchy”.

To mis-quote Churchill, voters felt that “never in the field of political conflict have so many achieved so little for so long”. Others were less optimistic.

The scene was set and ’interesting times’ lay ahead.

Trouble at t’Count

The Count is attended by the great and the good of local politics, as well as everyday folk and Da Meeja.

It’s a good opportunity for tuning in to what’s happening, so out of their mouths, here’s a random selection of the choicer phrases of the night:

Most ‘German’ moment of the day – “Getting our towels down on both chairs at the Polling Station”.

One agent talking about their candidate’s votes – “My piles are looking good”.

Least effective political whipping of the night – “You aren’t to wear yellow or red”. (see below)

On accepting their defeat at the polls – “Further back we cannot go”.

But the Michael Portillo moment of the evening was when one of the candidates was visibly distressed on learning of their defeat after two decades in office.

They weren’t alone. The evening dragged on to become the Conservatives’ worst election defeat in Wokingham’s living memory.

Comedy Communications

And the nominees were …

In fourth place – with a very creditable effort via his Denmark Street “Cart” Park was the former Leader of the Council.

In third place – with a leaflet describing an Independent opponent as a “Lib Dem in disguise” was the former Minister of Finance.

In second place was the former Minister for Regeneration, with a leaflet where two lines of carefully placed Tippex made his message clear:

But the LED for the comedy campaign goes to (drum roll and trumpet fanfare) …

The Labour Party.

In the run-up to an election, the main parties send out campaign emails and, having a non-partisan interest, I get these from up to nine different parties.

In the 2019 campaign, the wheels seemed to come well and truly off the Labour party’s national email machine as it lost its way geographically, fiscally, grammatically and politically as the near-daily emails showed. Each one met with an increasingly crusty reply, copied locally.

On April 26th, they decided I lived in Crawley (West Sussex).

On April 29th, they’d put us in Wokingham (better, but still not Winnersh). They’d asked for money too, so I let them know that I was a commentator and wouldn’t be contributing.

On April 30th, their email was bonkers. Apparently “Crawley needs you” (groan) while“planning for victory in Wokingham”.

The day before the election, May 1st, had the grammatically impossible “It’s Tomorrow”. This met with a frosty response “Actually it’s today. The election is tomorrow”.

In-Croy-able – as they say in France. So I replied to let ‘Team Labour’ know that they were in the running for an LED. Which they’ve now won.

Lord Lucan LED

For the people “most missed” … and the nominees were …

The Liberal Democrat candidate who’d won their seat unexpectedly. I say unexpectedly because I’ve seen their surname so often in past results that I thought they’d changed their middle names to “Second Again”.

But also as I’d been told they’d gone home to bed (it was 3am by this time), so I “suggested” to their campaign manager that they should “wake up and come back” to sign the papers that the winners have to before they can take office. And they duly did, thus starting their “proper” political career with a comeback.

The Conservatives’ stand-in campaign manager who’d been appointed following his finely publicised experiences in Henley recently. He wasn’t acknowledging all his emails; didn’t appear to be coordinating leaflets; wasn’t seen on election day; and didn’t turn up at the Count.

So, the LED goes to – the Tories’ regular campaign manager who was mysteriously unavailable.

LEDs that got away

As we’re running short on space, the LEDs for the Most Excruciating Defeat (C); 2018 leaflet Recycling (LD); Angriest outburst (L); Biggest grin (Ind); Most Surprised (C); Largest Margin (LD); Smallest win (C); Reddest Face (WBC); Cheesiest smile (LD); and Shortest Temper (TBD); will have to wait for another day.

As will the progress made since last year’s manifestos. Thank you to both politicians who provided responses.

Apropos of which …

On Thursday, Liberal Democrats started the day with just eight councillors.

By Friday morning, they’d doubled the number.  Nationally, this didn’t even made the top ten, let alone the news.

Not doing very well are they?

The Last Word

While parked in a jam at roadworks with the engine switched off, Friday afternoon’s SMS to WBC’s Minister for Highways read: “If it takes seven minutes to travel three car lengths along Dukes Ride, how many borough councillors does it take to get the asterisks at Southern Gas Networks to leave their traffic lights switched ON???”

I fear the answer will end up being ‘all of them’. Until and unless the political parties start working more constructively with each other, as well as with WBC staff.

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