This is the longest time I have worn a dress this year whilst still staying conscious. It is 6am and I have just got back from covering the count of the county. It is strange to think that this time last year I was doing my best to stay awake during public affairs lectures and now I am doing my best to stay awake during public affairs in practice. I am rather worried about all of the ways I could mess this up; telling the candidates what I really think about their policies; letting slip who I voted for at the polls or accidentally tweeting out the wrong winner.
After watching the alternative election night for a couple of hours I make my dress more conservative by removing my pink belt and bright pink shoes and powdering up my nose. I deliberately chose this dress after carefully checking that none of the parties in the area have chosen pink, grey, black and white as their official colours. It is a good job as when we get there I give a mini interview to each of the three candidates which we upload to our site as soon as possible.
I know it sounds silly but after the third interview I am beginning to feel like quite the little journalist and I reward myself with the worst cup of coffee in the world. It is however two in the morning and the lady served it with a smile so I resist the urge to gag and swallow down the sweet caffeine goodness hoping it will keep me going for at least another hour. I slip into the bar to take a look at the swing and am met with the ends of an argument between a Tory and a Labour supporter. As I silently watch the swing I find myself hoping the spat will get going again as I am starting to drift off and can think of nothing better to get me going than a fight between the left and the right. I am just about to send a tweet to my followers asking them who they think would win in a fight between the reds and the blues when the coffee kicks in and I remember that this is the kind of tweet which could get one in trouble. Hurrah I think, I am a sensible journalist with good coffee powered instincts.
We are sharing our media table with the Leicester Mercury, BBC radio Leicester and Harborough FM. Though we are all technically competitors there is a great little buzz in our corner and we all speculate over who will be the next leader. Harborough FM in particular are a great crowd. They are funny, happy to share their electrics and when the BBC lady breaks her microphone their engineer kindly steps in to sort her out.
It is gone half four before the rumours start to fly about who has taken the seat and it all becomes very exciting. We have councillors and politicians flock round the table to give us their take on who is going to win and I even try to do my own little assessment by sneaking round the voting tables trying to take a count. Mathematics has unfortunately never been my strong point and trying to look subtle whilst keeping count is a bit of a nightmare and in the end I skulk back to the table to have a biscuit and look at the results which are now coming in quick from other counts across the country. I have a biscuit, which was given to us by one of the Liberal Democrats wondering but not really caring whether chocolate constitutes a bribe.
One of the candidates comes over to our table at one point and asks me when I will be submitting my work. I give him a bit of a death stare and asked him what exactly he was implying. ”For the university, you are a student aren’t you?” Perhaps in usual circumstances I may have been flattered by his mistake, but it is 4am in the morning and I am not at all amused. Fixing him with a look of finely veiled fury, I ask him whether he perhaps is referring to my paper? He is a little embarrassed and mutters something about all young girls looking the same. I force myself to breath, I am a professional after all and filing the comment in my things not to forget file I smile sweetly and excusing myself head to the ladies room where I line my eyes and try to adapt a more hardly look. Where are those bloody wrinkles when one needs them?
At half five the candidates are called forwards to the stage and the winner is announced. There is a flurry of activity; cameras flash, phones ring and the BBC lady takes to the microphone during the Labour candidates speech near drowning the poor lad out. I lurch forward to grab a word with each of the candidates about how they feel while my colleague finishes filing the story. It is all very exciting and when I speak to the candidates who have lost there is a little bit of me that wants to give them a consoling cuddle, but I fear this would be slightly beyond the boundaries of my role and may lead to me being black listed from future elections or jobs generally.
As we step out into the parking lot all but three of the cars have gone and though I am so close to tears from tiredness I feel really rather proud to have been a part of this night. I had wondered whether it was a good idea for me to go earlier on in the day but if I hadn’t I get the feeling that I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. No matter what anyone says about our political system, we have a vote and a choice and a quarter of a century ago for many men and women in the land, this wasn’t the case. Being a part of a night like this, being able to report on it live back to anyone who may still be awake and watching feels a little bit magical but that might well be the coffee and the sleep deprivation talking.
- The dress I am wearing today was another donation from the mystery lady, or maybe the mystery man? It is originally from Select and luckily before I left for the count I noticed my cleavage was just a little too much on display. I covered it up and tried to make it prim and proper with a pair of sensible green courts and a vest to keep everything under wraps.