How I narrowly avoided becoming a poster boy for Lib Dem misery

by Stephen Tall on May 15, 2011

Andy Strange has written a wonderful blog-post — How I became a poster boy for Lib Dem misery — full of pathos (I was going to call it ‘pathetic’, but reckoned the adjective might be misconstrued). Do go and read it; hopefully it’ll cheer him up.

But Andy’s experience did remind me of a moment in the 2002 election count in Oxford Town Hall. 2002 was not a happy year for the Lib Dems locally. We’d just endured a turbulent two years sharing power with the Greens, following two decades of lazy uselessness by Labour. The city council was in a complete shambles, the finances a wreck, and the incompetence within the senior management was utterly chronic.

Combine all that with an inexperienced, sometimes naive, mix of Lib Dems and Greens — plus implausibly re-drawn boundaries which the Boundary Commission must’ve crayoned on a map in a night of drunken gerrymandering — and the recipe was disaster. The Lib Dems lost six seats, the Greens five, while Labour made eight gains, and won majority control of the council.

It was a hideous night. I was one of the lucky ones, retaining my own seat pretty comfortably (thankfully, as I was pulled out of it at 10am to go and knock-up one of the marginals we ended up losing). At one point I ducked out of the count to mount the stairs to the town hall gallery and grab a couple of moments of chill-out peace. I’d been up 20 hours by that point, and was utterly exhausted from weeks of gruelling campaigning.

My complexion was a lighter shade of pale, with black eye-rings that would shame a panda. In short, I was a media metaphor-hunter’s dream come true: solitary, drained, miserable.

That’s when I noticed from the corner of my eye, a TV camera swing round, and start to train itself on me. I stretched, smiled, shook off my momentary depression, and instantly re-joined the throng below. I was damned if I was going to make their job that easy; and that thought cheered me up. A bit.