I always find the Count an emotion-shredding experience. This morning was such a highly-charged event, however, that putting it into words is genuinely difficult.
Firstly, apologies that "blogging from the Count" didn't quite live up to the billing, but I hope I got a few key results across. As the Count began, it rapidly became clear that we had done very badly, and colleagues across the town were fearing for the worse. When the first few results trickled in for "safe" wards like Central and Lingfield, where our majorities had been slashed, things looked really bleak.
In the three Haughton wards, Pierremont and Harrowgate Hill votes looked too close to call. The Hurworth came through early, and as word spread that the LibDems had won by a landslide, the Tories looked ashen.
Candidates huddled round their various counting tables, trying to make sense of the thousands of ballot papers being counted. At one point, my friends and colleagues in Haughton East and North were convinced they'd lost and looked gutted. For me, I gave up watching the counting of my own votes after my experience at the last Count, but I was beginning to get really worried.
Then the key wards declared. Chris McEwan and Geoff Walker held off the LibDem onslaught in Haughton East. After some confusion, Haughton North was won by Tom Nutt and Veronica Copeland - thoroughly deserved. Disappointingly we lost a seat in Pierremont and (to everyone's surprise) Park East. The news that Liz Hart and John Vasey had gone down in Harrowgate Hill was somewhat offset by the news that Mark Burton, a first-time candidate, had split the Tory Cartwrights and come second - an amazing result. Labour lost a further seat in North Road (where Bill Holmes had stood down) despite many hours of hard work by the Labour candidates. Finally, by the narrowest of margins, we conceded a seat to the Tories in Cockerton East.
Overall result: - Labour 29, Tories 18, LibDems 6. Labour majority of 5.
I'll blog on the implications of all this a bit later...