The Save General Election Night Campaign can now claim a pretty comprehensive victory
This was in response to moves by returning officers - affecting potentially hundreds of constituencies - which could have left the country waiting until the Friday afternoon for the result of the general election.
At first we met with great intransigence from a considerable number of returning officers - many of whom seemed to regard the counting of the votes as something of an inconvenience. But the campaign gathered pace, with people joining the Facebook group in their thousands and securing the official support of Sky News - before it hit Parliament itself.
Firstly Tom Harris tabled an Early Day Motion, which with 220 signatures was the twentieth most signed EDM of the 2009-2010 session (out of 2,421). The matter was raised at Business Questions and a number of written parliamentary questions followed - including a number from vocal campaign supporter and Tory chairman Eric Pickles, and later came an adjournment debate initiated by Labour's David Cairns.
The cross-party support was further bolstered along the way with several robust interventions in support of the campaign from Speaker John Bercow,
The matter came to a head when Tory Justice spokesman Eleanor Laing tabled an amendment to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill (later amended again by the Government) to enforce Thursday night counting, except in exceptional circumstances.
I was somewhat concerned that the Government's amendment gave too much wriggle room to returning officers - but the measure was passed into law last week, and it clearly focused minds as over 100 more returning officers have informed the Electoral Commission in the last week that they will indeed be counting on General Election Night.
The Electoral Commission stated on Monday afternoon that only 34 counts were planned for the Friday morning, with one remaining undecided. Iain Dale has had it verified independently that nine of those have now switched to Thursday night counts (Bedfordshire Mid, Bedfordshire South West, Cambridgeshire South, Leicestershire North West, Norfolk North West, Norfolk South West, Warley, Wokingham and Workington) which leaves the following 26 constituencies still scheduled to count on the Friday or undecided - unless you can tell me otherwise.
- Amber Valley Now counting Thursday night
- Argyll and Bute
- Berwick upon Tweed
- Blyth Valley
- Hampshire North East
- Kenilworth and Southam
- Lancaster and Fleetwood
- Morecambe and Lunesdale
- Norwich North
- Oxford West and Abingdon
- Penrith and The Border
- Saffron Walden
- Skipton and Ripon
- St Ives
- Torridge and West Devon
- Warwick and Leamington
- Westmorland and Lonsdale
There is of course still time for the above counts to be moved to the Thursday night and I can only reiterate my argument that if the 600+ other counts can be done on the Thursday night, then it seems reasonable that these constituencies should be able to manage it too. Furthermore, there is now of course that legal obligation on returning officers to do so.
Among those seats listed above are a number of marginal and target seats, which could potentially make all the difference between a party winning a decisive overall majority or not. So if you live in any of those constituencies, please make your feelings known to your returning officer, electoral services department and councillors.
That said, with 96% of counts now confirmed for the Thursday night, the campaign has clearly secured a pretty comprehensive victory and everyone who joined and supported it should take pride in having been part of a movement which has helped Save General Election Night for the nation.