Libby Local – The Final 2 Episodes: “Election Day!”

Since last October, the pseudonymous Libby Local has been keeping LDV readers up-to-date with her first-time attempt to win Demsbury Central in Libbyshire. Here’s the 16th and penultimate episode…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was mid-afternoon on Thursday and the grumbling old man at the bar shouted across to me: “Who’s your candidate?”

I was feeling exhausted and didn’t need this intrusion from a man who had just announced that he had voted UKIP.

The day had begun at 5am with letters delivered through letterboxes of hard-to-reach and wobbling voters. The post run also included handwritten notes to new young voters asking them to vote for me and telling them how to do so.

Our final Focus had been delivered two days before. It was getting a great reaction. To compose it, we had trawled though all the issues raised during canvassing and gave answers to the most important. @Demsburybess wrapped the text with an innovative design producing a leaflet that said: “Pick me up and read me.”

The feedback from voters was great. We thought that my popular support was probably strong enough to win. Yet most of the people that said they would vote for me were not very politically minded. Would they actually turn out to vote?

I spent the morning and afternoon of voting day knocking on doors to gather last minute support. Dropping by one of the polling stations to greet voters and tellers, I met a young man clutching my handwritten note. He told the tellers he didn’t have a clue what his polling number was, he just wanted to vote for me. That was a good moment.

Mel sat at home coordinating all the teller returns. Every hour or so, she texted or emailed me new instructions.

In an email just after 3pm, Mel said she was worried that we had a lot of probable voters that had not turned out. I didn’t need to see the data. I was worried too.

I slipped into the Market Tavern to use the loo, grab a coffee and work out a new strategy for the final six hours.

It was that mid-afternoon period where pub customers are either good company or the worst of bores. A man at the bar – the worst of bores – was slugging a large whisky and hectoring the women serving.

“Put your cross on No 3” he bawled, quite unaware he was shouting.

“Who’s that No 3 then?” the lady behind the bar asked, unable to disguise the weariness in her voice.

“Don’t know his name, but he’s UKIP and that’s the only way to vote.”

I couldn’t resist. “Vote Liberal Democrat,” I shouted across the bar.

That was a mistake. The windbag strolled across to me. He leant forward. His halitosis stank of a mixture of new and day’s old whiskey. As he stared at my Lib Dem badge, his face flushed from red to deep purple. For a moment I thought he was going to spit, but he merely muttered something that was thankfully made by inaudible by his intoxication. After he had wobbled back to the bar, this local champion of UKIP turned and stared at me.

“Who’s your candidate then?” he asked rather too loudly.

“She is!” the bar roared with a collective voice as they pointed at me. His jaw dropped.

I swept out rather imperiously with a huge grin on my face.

Time was now very short. I pressed on knocking up voters, already tired and worried whether I could reach enough people in time.

As I strolled through the market square a little later, a man who lived on a farm just out of town stopped me. I had converted this traditional Tory into a Libby fan a few weeks ago. He was effusive:

“I would never have voted for Nick Clegg, but you really won me over. I was absolutely convinced you will make a good councillor. I went up the road and talked to four people. I said listen here. You have to know that this young woman is going to do great things.”

At 7pm, we had a brief conference at Mel’s. It was clear that not enough supporters were turning out. We spent two hours ringing everyone. A good number of people promised to turn out to vote but for some we were too late.

As we slumped into easy chairs at 10pm, @Demsburybess asked how I thought we had done. “Too close to call,” I said wearily. Mel agreed. I was still optimistic about winning but turnout was low and we knew that would give the Tories an advantage.

There was no more we could do than wait for the count. None us could sleep and we spent much of the night Facebooking each other. The three of us caught the 8.05am train to Libbytown in a state of near exhaustion, growing excitement and nervous expectation.

Will Libby Local win? The finale in this story of a novice Lib Dem fighting her first election will be published on Lib Dem Voice tomorrow.

* Libby Local is based on real events. Details have been changed to protect the innocent and disguise the guilty. Libby’s passion and determination, along with her angst and frustration, are set to be a regular feature of Lib Dem Voice as the May 2013 elections approach. You can catch up with all Libby Local's episodes to date by clicking here.

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