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Day at the count: HBC 2022

Updated: May 8, 2022

As I set up my computer to record the result, speculation is rife. The Greens are stating that they feel they have won two seats, Labour is worried things are tighter than they expected and the Tories are hopeful that they can push the council into no overall control territory. The Liberal Democrat candidates have stated they are hopeful that they can secure vote gains as they have down elsewhere. Yet, it has only just been announced that the council is about to start counting votes and there is still much to be decided.

Ashdown was the first seat to be counted and the Tories are gathered around chatting nervously, they look worried that it may not be the day they had hoped for. Labour still look anxious that the target seats are close and the Greens are still hopeful, with the party feeling that they must have increased their vote share from last year's high mark.

Braybrooke and Hollington have just started their counting. With Baird and Conquest to follow shortly. The announcement of turnout figures has created more nervous reactions as it is a low poll, with an average Turnout of 35%, 2% down on the previous year. Mayor Bacon stated he was proud to have represented the ward with the highest turnout, Old Hastings at 49%. Meanwhile, other areas have turnout below 30%, such as Tressell. The candidates are debating if this will change the result, but turnout from 2018 is only down 0.12% and 2% from 2021, so little chance it will have defined this election.

The first seat is to be announced, and it is the key Labour-Tory battleground of Baird. Labour hold it solidly and the day looks to not be decided by the Tory-Labour battlegrounds many thought could decide the day. The safe Conservative seats of Conquest and Ahsdown return Conservative councillors, all be it on reduced majorities. Braybrooke, a safe Labour seat follows and Labour keeps control of the seat with ease.

After these results were declared, it became more apparent that Labour was in trouble not with Tory-Labour marginals, but with Green-Labour areas. Gensing was to be announced first, but surprisingly with no recount. The first shock result of the day came in Labour lost this seat to the Greens and there was a genuine surprise to the result on all sides, with sharp intakes of breath being heard. Castle up next and the Greens knew they had a chance as there had been a couple of recounts. So close, but yet so far for the Greens, with the seat being held by Labour by only 5 votes.

Further drama, Central St Leonards is very close and requires another recount. The ward is close, with rumours the Greens are ahead. As the agents are called to announce the vote, Labour looks worried, and for good reason the Greens have won both Labour-Green battleground seats, giving them two seats and making it more likely the council will be placed into no overall control.

With 8 seats now having been declared the second round of seats will be counted after a short lunch break. As counting gets underway, rumours circle that based on the size of the Green vote on the Tressell table Labour has lost the seat. Soon enough Tessell has gone Green and the council is plunged into No overall control. The BBC journalist reports to the national news centre that Hastings is now under no overall control, making national headlines as a Labour loss and setback.

West Leonards looks safe for the Tories as their pile looks considerably bigger than any challengers. Maze Hill also looks safely defended for the Tories, all be it on a smaller issue. Sure enough, the result is announced soon afterwards and the Conservatives can celebrate defending all their seats. This is a small victory to take away from a tough day.

Labour look likely to defend the rest of their seats as their vote share is up and the Tories' vote share is down. Wishing Tree, which was surprisingly close last time looks to have finished counting with no recount required. Labour is declared the winner, providing them with a much-needed boost. Shortly afterwards Ore is also called for Labour, again giving Labour confidence they will win all the key marginals.

Next up is the seat the Mayor is defending, Old Hastings. The Greens gained this seat last year and are hoping to challenge Labour and take the seat again. The count begins and the Labour pile looks bigger than the Green pile. There is no recount required as Mayor Bacon defends his seat. He thanks the residents of the old Town for "Backing the BACON!".

Whilst the final wards are now starting to be counted, the Greens have already gone to celebrate their gains, indicating they were only ever targeting safe Labour seats as they have not waited around to discover their vote share in these Labour-Tory marginals.

The final two seats are being quickly counted and will soon be declared. Labour are reportedly confident they will hold both, with Silverhill not being as close as it usually is. Agents are called for both seats and they are quickly announced as Labour Holds. The councillors thank people for their support and the count is then declared to be finished.

The Greens and Liberals are long gone. The Tories left quickly and looked visibly frustrated by their tough day. Labour stayed around for a bit to lick their wounds, having frantic conversations about what they were to do next. There was a feeling of great change had just occurred and many were unsure what was going to follow.

I typed the final results into my spreadsheet and posted the last results on the social media page I was updating and headed home knowing that the political situation in Hastings was not the same as it had been for the last 12 years.

My day at the Hastings Borough count was over:

James Prentice, 06/05/2022.

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