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Local elections 2014: Through the eyes of the Ilford Recorder

Votes being counted after polls closed at 10pm on Thursday evening Votes being counted after polls closed at 10pm on Thursday evening

Thursday, May 29, 2014
11:28 AM

Microcosm was something of a buzz word in the build-up to the local elections after Labour leader Ed Miliband used the term in a pre-poll visit to Barkingside.

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Labour MP Sadiq Khan warmly congratulates Redbridge Labour Jas Athwal after his group won the first-ever majority in the borough's history. Photo credit: Harry KembleLabour MP Sadiq Khan warmly congratulates Redbridge Labour Jas Athwal after his group won the first-ever majority in the borough's history. Photo credit: Harry Kemble

As colleague Beth Wyatt and I climb the stairs to the town hall press box on election night last week his words come to mind.

“I am here because Redbridge is a microcosm of central government,” he said with feeling.

Within minutes the Ilford Recorder team is swamped by the national press trying to glean information about the council and party leaders messrs Prince and Athwal.

It’s 11pm and in the dimly-lit room overlooking the vast hall where the 84,112 votes would be counted over 10 tense hours, the atmosphere is soon stifling, even claustrophobic.

A journalist takes advantage of a break between results to get some rest. Photo credit: Harry KembleA journalist takes advantage of a break between results to get some rest. Photo credit: Harry Kemble

“Is this the most diverse borough in London?” asks one reporter.

“What role has Labour councillor Wes Streeting played over the past few weeks?” questions a broadcast journalist.

My best reply is: “If you let me pour myself a cup of coffee, I’ll see if I can help you.”

Sadly, Redbridge Council has not provided coffee, or any caffeine-infused product, whatsoever. Within minutes Beth and I are back at the mercy of our new “colleagues”.

With results not scheduled to be announced until around 2am, we, the media, are desperate to produce some kind of interesting story for our readers. Anything to while away the time until the real currency of ward results can be made public.

Redbridge Labour leader Jas Athwal joins us to field our questions.

Even at that stage, he is confident his campaign team has forced a change of mind-set among the voters who voted for a hung council in 2010.

“This campaign had energy over a sustained period of time,” he tells me just before 2am. He adds: “I think the people have spoken.”

How much of a change, though? Cllr Athwal has to wait six more hours before he can realise his ambition of becoming the first Labour leader to gain control of Redbridge Council.

Results from the 21 wards trickle in at first, but Labour MP Sadiq Khan, the shadow minister for London, is on hand to keep some minds alert in the wee hours, speaking to journalists individually.

Fervent activity down amongst the counters is doing the rest to keep us on our toes.

Mayfield is the first ward to be announced about 4.45am. Hainault comes not long afterwards.

The anticipation is akin to a child’s at Christmas. Reporting on the election had reached fever-point in the weeks and days beforehand. We are about to discover who is to triumph in the “microcosm” of London.

The first big story comes at 6am – Loxford Independent candidate Filly Maravala, a councillor for 20 years, loses his seat.

He would later cite the unreliability of postal votes.

The results soon gather pace: Ian Bond, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, takes Roding, Bridge Ward is won by Conservative candidate Paul Canal, but the night belongs to Labour.

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