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Live from the count

23.00  The latest rumours are, again, that Lutfur has won on the first round. Nothing official has been announced: why won’t they tell us what is going on?  We need to get a mayor in post to sort this borough’s counting officials out!

22.30  Every possible result, there are rumours that it is the official one. There are tweets around saying that the Returning Officer is busy adjudicating the potentially spoiled ballot papers.  However, there are also rumours that this has finished.  If indeed the first preferences have been counted, there are three possible outcomes: a winning result; a count of the second preferences; or a recount of the first preferences!  There is some moving about: perhaps there will be a result soon.  In any event, as it is so late, will LBTH really go ahead and start the count of the Council votes now?  It has taken at least four hours to count the mayoral result; counting a councillor election is probably longer.  Is proceeding with this, the second count, at this point wise – for counting staff and for party activists?  However, it is unlikely that the Council has made provision for the council votes to be held securely overnight, so perhaps they will proceed.  Every other London borough with a mayor has declared its mayoral and council results already: why haven’t we?  Only in Tower Hamlets…

21.22  STOP PRESS: A source has just – informally – admitted defeat for Labour.
[No idea if this is true – perhaps Labour has lost the plot?]

21.00  It’s actually all very quiet at the count.  The gallery is just beginning to fill up a little, though it seems the blogs are busy.  Perhaps that is where everyone has been: blogging.  There are still rumours circulating. It’s only safe to say that Rahman appears to be ahead, and till there’s been more counting we really won’t know whether he is over the 50% mark. If it goes to second preferences, it’s easy to see where Biggs’s second preferences come from and where no valid second preferences have been cast – but where would Rahman’s second preferences come from? It has to be said that Labour’s whole campaign has been based on insisting that the electors hate Lutfur Rahman and want to sweep him away.  Whatever the result, it looks like Labour will be proved wrong on that one.  Will they learn any lessons about how their reaction to Lutfur’s initial candidacy and administration has been divisive and wrong? Probably not: they are already talking her about how the masses who they say were desperate to get rid of Lutfur had their heads turned by a small crowd outside one polling station and/or by Lutfur Rahman’s polling day leaflet.  They just carry on blaming the voters for getting it wrong.
If it is true that some leading Labour councillors have lost their seats, they will have to account for this to the Party: “the electorate got it wrong” may not cut it.

19.50  The count continues.  It looks neck and neck between Biggs and Rahman – but, given that other parties have picked up votes too, that makes it less likely that either mayoral candidate will have more than 50% of the vote.  There are some ill informed blog-comments out there which can be misleading.  All the mayoral votes are being counted – postal votes and ballots cast in person.
If no one has over 50% of the votes, then the top two candidates stay in the race and the second preference votes of all the remaining candidates are allocated to whichever of the top two candidates they are for.  Second preference votes for parties other than the top two candidates are discarded.  The second preference votes of the top two candidates do not count.  So presuming Biggs and Rahman are the top two candidates, the second preference votes of all the other candidates will be distributed between them.  None of the second preferences on ballot slips cast for Biggs or Rahman will be counted.  Tory second preferences for UKIP and vice versa will not count either.
We carry on waiting. And the biscuits are running low too.

electorate 164,242; votes cast 83,403 – turnout 50.78%
Mayoral election
electorate 181,871; votes cast 86,543 – turnout 47.58%.
This is the high turnout Labour wanted, surely?

18.21.  Yesterday and this morning Labour supporters were talking about how the voters were flocking out to vote Labour, desperate for change, desperate to see the back of Lutfur Rahman.  Today they are talking about voters changing their votes because Tower Hamlets First gave out leaflets at the polling station. Why the change of tone?

18.12.  The Returning Officer has just called the Euro-agents and the mayoral candidates and agents to the stage, to view the statement of verification.  We could be minutes from finding out the turnout.  Watch this space.

18.00.  Yes: six o’clock in the evening – and we are still waiting to finish verification.  We are already at the latest time given for the mayoral result to be declared, and we haven’t started counting yet.
Everyone is still flagging. There is, however, talk in the corridors of an upset in Mile End East – but we are very far off finding out if there is any truth in that suggestion.

16.30.  They have just started verifying the last ward’s ballot boxes.  We are still a good two hours behind.  Once this is done, we’ll get the turnout and then the counting can start – and it will probably take two hours. All around me, people are flagging.  The press and pundits in the press pit are flagging – as is the telly in the press tea room (where you have to go to re-charge your laptops, as there’s no electricity in the press pit). The candidates and party officials are flagging. The press office team is still cheerful.  I want some of what they’ve been having.
A press colleague who has been outside tells me that the crowds are beginning to gather outside the Troxy, where the Count is being held. They say the police are putting up barriers along the pavement and are considering closing the road.

15.00.  Turnout figures are still due “shortly”, and the estimate for a mayor result is still 6pm.  That leaves ward councillor results coming out at maybe 6pm (small wards) to 10pm (larger wards) – or later if there are recounts (more likely and more lengthy in councillor elections, as voters don’t always just vote for the party ticket).  Still, a senior Labour figure has just admitted privately that the result will be “close”. Close? Last night they were saying that John Biggs was well ahead – and, in this borough, the Labour candidate should walk it. Even if Biggs wins, it looks like Labour will have had a warning. Still, warnings don’t matter much if you manage to win.

14.00.  We are promised the turnout figures shortly.  Some Labour candidates are wondering around with long faces: perhaps they are tired.  It seeks that Labour has retained Bow, though at the moment there is talk of reduced majorities there.  It looks as if the Tories have captured the seats they were defending on the Isle of Dogs, I am told – the Tories are very cautious about that prediction, but other parties are more confident.  Speaking of the Tories, the campaign to get those who vote Tory in the mayoral election to give their second preference to John Biggs on a “Stop Lutfur at all costs” basis looks as if it has been successful on the Island, but less so elsewhere in the borough, where Tory second preferences are going to UKIP and vice versa.

13.00.  There’s still very little to go on.  Candidates are busy on the floor of the count and they aren’t answering their phones or text messages.  I manage to stop one (non-Labour) candidate passing quickly through the gallery who stands still long enough to tell me that he’s seen one of the Labour candidates in Spitalfields not looking happy. I look over the balcony: I can’t see a single candidate who does look happy.

12.20.  There’s very little to go on. Verification is first: that’s the process in which they count how many ballots there are in each box and check this sum tallies with the number the polling station recorded as having issued.  Only when the votes in all three elections held yesterday have been verified will the counting start.
The ballot boxes containing the Euro-MP votes were the first to be verified, which took about two hours. As midday approached, they began moving on to verify the mayoral ballot boxes. For some reason, this has been much quicker and the first wards to verify the mayoral vote are now moving on to verify the councillor ballot boxes.
There’s no official announcement on turnout yet. The best we can get is that turnout is patchy: low in some polling districts and higher in others. That could be incidental: the new boundaries do mean that polling districts have different sizes and different voting populations. However, it could also be significant, as the mayoral candidates probably have strong and weak areas in the borough. A high turnout in some wards would be a sign that the candidate strong in those wards is ahead. But we can’t get hard information on where the high turnouts are.

Midday plus one.  We asked an LBTH press officer for the result, but they said they didn’t know and we have to wait till the votes are counted like everyone else. That’s a handy reassurance: if any of the right wing press announce that “islamist mayor dispenses with count and just declares himself the victor”, you know they are making it up.  Given what some of them have been saying the last four years, we wouldn’t have been surprised if they had run with that story now.

Midday.  The count started two hours late.  There were so many candidates and party counting agents to get through security that the queue took two hours to clear – as the Returning Officer did not want to start until everyone entitled to get in had done so. We can only hope LBTH will remember this in any future counts which take place the day after polling day. When the count starts on polling day evening, everyone legs it up to the count venue the minute the polls close and there isn’t much delay. The result of the late start is that it looks like the first result, of the mayoral ballot, will be out at 6pm.  We’ll try to stay on air till then, bringing you all the updates as they happen.

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