View from the Commons

Sitting up here in my Chesterfield home, I can hardly believe the way that things have happened for me over the last few days.

The full national impact of the general election that took place on Thursday 6th May 2010 may not be known for many years. But however historians view it, it started for me delivering leaflets with my wife (who was in remarkable good spirits for the time of morning) at 545am on Winster Road in Middlecroft. At 6.55, when I saw a gentleman on Middlecroft Road leave his house to go and queue up outside the polling station, I figured that this might be an election that had captured the public imagination a little more than in recent years.

In truth the next sixteen hours of leafletting, doorknocking, meeting voters and attending polling stations passed in a blur, but at 945 pm a lady on Talbot Crescent in Hasland came to the door in her nightie to tell me she had already voted and I concluded that if I hadn’t done enough to win by that point, it was probably time to go home anyway!

After a quick trip home to wash and brush up ( but not change my shirt, I am very superstituous on election days, so smelly or otherwise I decided my shirt was staying on) I watched the BBC exit poll before setting off for the count.

The exit poll immediately seemed like a rogue, with the Lib Dems way down on their pre election poll positions, and the predicted Labour collapse not in evidence at all. Coupled with the fact that we had received a very positive response all day, I set off for the count in good heart, though never daring to believe that I might win.

Election counts are nerve racking events at the best of times, but with so much at stake nationally, locally and personally, this was particularly bad. Right from the start, it was clear that our performance had improved massively and that many of our promised voters had indeed turned out to register their support. An early discussion with a BBC reporter who told me he had heard we were going to win, just made me more nervous.

For five hours, votes were counted and rechecked and colleagues from across the region contacted me to give me their news, Natascha Engel had won in North East Derbyshire but others had not done so well. Finally at 4.25am, the returning officer called over the candidates and agents to inform us that after counting all the votes, we had won by 580 votes – Elation! Then the LibDems asked for a recount, and we were back on the floor again!

Twenty minutes later the recount had been completed and whilst the majority had fallen to 549 votes we had still prevailed. I was the proudest man alive when the returning officer informed the assembled supporters, media and wider world that ‘Toby Perkins had been duly elected the member of Parliament for Chesterfield.’

I started my acceptance speech by thanking the people of Chesterfield and Staveley for the chance that they had given me. Then I thanked the other candidates and all my supporters and reiterated the values that I had campaigned on throughout the campaign. Finishing by thanking my wife, who had been forced to do so much during the last two and a half years and who I would never have won without, I was grateful for the generous words of congratulation from most of my opponents.

I returned to the Labour Club where the wider campaign team were waiting, and after a few drinks with friends I returned home in time to do an interview with Radio Sheffield and hug the children before they went to school and I went to bed!

The weekend passed in a whirl, with a few media people unable to quite believe that Labour had made their only gain from a major party in the whole of England right here in Chesterfield. Meanwhile of course, the country was in turmoil as the Lib Dem leadership bobbed from one meeting to the other with the country’s destiny held in their hands. At one minute it appeared that we were destined for a Con/ Lib coalition, then a return to the Lab/ Lib days of the late 70’s. As I write this, voters still have no idea who their next Prime Minister is, or what programme their next government now intends to follow.

It is ironic that many of the uncertainties of a Proportional system are being revealed by a close election under the usually decisive First past the post system. Whether the process is ultimately viewed to have been a success may well dictate people’s future view of the desirability of a change to a more proportional system where this sort of post election horse trading is commonplace.
As events continue to unfold, I learn that the party leader that we have just fought an election under is resigning in an effort to pave the way for a coalition with a party who said that they would support whoever gains most seats in the election. Whoever said a week is a long time in politics?

One Response to “View from the Commons”

  1. janet wilson says:

    Toby. take a look at what I wrote on facebook. I am furious as to why 2 judges say they can overturn a constitutional election because the candidate told a lie. The condems have told more lies that we can point a stick at.
    As for yesterdays Demo. after years of being on demonstrations,and watching about 2 dozen anarchists trying to take over ,it looked as if hystory repeated itself. During the 84/85 miners strike there was a huge demo in Mansfield. It too was hijacked by half a dozen anarchists and hot heads and it led to a great number of miners being charged with riot and other imprisonable offenses and being imprisoned for offenses commited by others.
    Every demo is a means for others to hand their hat on. its a pity that the press cant get it right and publish what has happened



I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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