I came back from work today belting out Transvision Vamp and Cutting Crew hits on the iPod - it feels like a large monkey, which may or may not have been a football mascot, has been lifted off my back. Here's some final thoughts on the referendum campaign;
Firstly the No campaign. I have to say that there wouldn't have been a No campaign without the leadership of Alan Charlton. Becuase he is independent of any party, Alan was able to bring together the members of all three political groups into something like a fighting team. This was probably the first time that this has happened in Darlington for a generation, and Labour, the Tories and independent councillor Steve Jones worked particularly hard at short notice getting letters delivered. Alan also mastered his brief immediately, and for someone with no tv experience, was a star in front of the camera. I have a massive amount of respect for what he achieved in so short a space of time.
Secondly, I did get annoyed towards the end of the campaign when the media tried to style a No result as the 'status quo' option. As I tried to explain to the Echo today, I don't think that 'no change' was on offer to the people yesterday - the Council has heard the concerns of residents that it hasn't always seemed to listen well enough, and is reforming accordingly. Both sides were promising change then - the question was whether concentrating power in the hands of a single individual could be compatible with introducing greater openess and accountability into local government - you know my views on this, and I'm really pleased a majority sided with the No campaign.
As for the Yes campaign - well, I was able to chat cordially to several of their members this morning, including my old sparring partner Peter Jones, and Harvey Smith, and both sides were trying to respect the other, although I hear there was an ugly outburst from one of the Yes people after the result became clear. A fundamental wekaness of their campaign was that it was almost entirely negative - because they were driven solely by a desire to remove the current Council leadership, they didn't seem particularly concerned with the practical implications of having an elected Mayor. They thus became easy meat for the No campaign, which had done its homework about the weaknesses of the system country-wide. In the end, I think that people picked up on this fundamental weakness in the Yes campaign's psychological make up, and it helped swing opinion our way.
Finally, I think that I'm prouder than I've ever been in politics that I've been part of a campaign which preserved our 140-year-old ceremonial mayoralty. Someone in the Yes campaign told me that they couldn't understand why we were mentioning this issue in our material - well, it was because we genuinely believed that Darlington stood to lose a great deal if events in Middlesbrough and Hartlepool were repeated here. I shall be raising a special glass to the Mayor at this year's Ball.
So now we can reverse Browning's maxim, and start to govern properly - it's dispelled the big grey cloud of uncertainty that was hanging over us after May's victory. I hope that as we reform, and as the town continues to move forward, even those who voted Yes today may feel that the result was the right one.