Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Winning candidate Rob Lee out and about in Maze Hill.

Rob Lee’s winning ways

Following Chris Connelley’s account of his unsuccessful campaign in the local elections, Rob Lee takes up his pen to describe the night he won Maze Hill for the Tories.

The first thing that struck you when you walked into the sports hall was the heat. It was so hot that a fire exit had to be opened to let in some air. It was going to be a long night and an orderly queue had formed at the bottled water vending machine in the corridor.

Candidates, their partners, agents, party volunteers nervy with sun-burnt faces and wringing hands, looked on willing for the count to begin. Eventually the ballot boxes were opened and their contents poured onto the tables. It was clear quite early on in the counting process that I had won and only a little while later the scale of the victory became apparent. At this moment my mouth went dry: What do I say? Who shall I thank?

Third time lucky

I had waited for this moment for some time. This was my third attempt at election to Hastings Borough Council as a Conservative councillor, after two failed attempts in neighboring Gensing Ward (2010, 2012). However this time felt different, I live in the middle of the ward and so know it really well. I knew the issues that were likely to crop up and of course some of the voters themselves were familiar faces. Also, my employers have been very understanding, which has been a great support to me. It’s worth noting also that my girlfriend Shelley has graduated from supportive to long-suffering.

A lot of work had been put in by myself and the Conservative campaign team and our numbers on paper at least looked good. I knew this could be misleading though, I have seen good campaigns end in failure even though the numbers were ‘good’. Some of the Labour crowd believed that the lack of a Ukip candidate had helped me. I am not sure if this is true but what I do know is that Labour have benefited hugely from a decline in Lib Dem performance and the increase in Labour vote correlates to this tidily. This talk is pretty academic though, and when it was all over I won with 51% of the vote.

In time I collected my thoughts and awaited my call to the stage with the Labour candidate Chris Connelley. We chatted nervously about various subjects in an attempt to synthesize a normal social situation. Soon the moment arrived to go up and hear the results and say a few words.

After what Chris has described in his article as a “gutsy speech” it was just a case of watching the rest of the results come in and congratulate the other Conservative winners after which I was grateful to go to bed after a 21-hour election day.

The bank holiday weekend that followed was a blur of congratulations, odd sleeping patterns and rehydration. There was much more in the way of congratulations from residents than I had expected, either phoning up the Conservative office or even arriving at my door to congratulate me personally.

During the adrenalin days of the campaign you don’t really have time to contemplate what actually happens when you win and so, last week, when I went to formally sign in and accept the office I didn’t know what to expect. The senior council officers greeted myself and the other new councillors, five Conservative and three Labour, warmly, then we signed the book and took the oath. The Town Hall itself is quite pleasant with many interesting pictures and objects about, including a fantastic bust of Winston Churchill. The council officers seem very helpful and keen to answer any queries that I have (I have many) and are quick to inform you of the rules so that you don’t become unstuck.

Thank you cards to volunteers have been sent out and the familiar process of dealing with ward work can begin. I hope over the next four years I can, in at least some small way, improve the lives of the people that live in Maze Hill and that we will continue to get to know each other. I have a reputation for being enthusiastic and I hope I bring some of that to the table when we have full council meetings too. So let’s see what the next four years bring.

Chris Connelley The Party’s over: making sense of the day after

Posted 09:56 Thursday, Jun 5, 2014 In: Home Ground

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