Don's diary

May 19, 2000

Friday

Only a masochist would choose to spend the night at the unlovely Hounslow civic centre. I had planned, after the polls closed, to thank my helpers, go home and watch the expected Tory victory unfold over the country before going to my own declaration at the centre. Well, it started according to plan, I watched Torbay become Torybay and Bradford return to the fold, from the comfort of my Teddington armchair.

Then, at 11.30pm the BBC announced the first results for the Greater London Assembly. I wasn't expecting this for another five hours, but surely the Beeb couldn't be wrong and maybe the new electric counting had performed miracles.

When I arrived back at Hounslow, the place was beginning to resemble Heathrow during a pilot's strike, dozing bodies everywhere, bored poll counters and irritable candidates trying to remain reasonable and optimistic. No excitement, no tension, not like the old days when you could see the votes piling up. Just frustration.

The result was finally declared at 11.30am. I won. I've been a loser and a winner and believe me, winning is best. I now represent 350,000 residents spread over three boroughs and five parliamentary constituencies. My job will be to keep the mayor and the GLA off their backs and out of their wallets. Teaching is now looking like the good life.

Saturday

Ken Livingstone comes into our Conservative group meeting and asks us to join his administration. Incredible chutzpah to come alone to meet people who had been campaigning against him for months. "But Ken," we say "we're the opposition."

"Oh no you're not," he says. "The Labour Party hate me even more than you do."

Friday

The assembly meets for the first time, in a church that seats 1,000, fewer than 100 real Londoners turn up, the rest of the congregation are media people, staff and pressure groups. The 25 of us sit round an oval table - it is supposed to be non-adversarial and consensual. What a joke, we have been bad mouthing and campaigning hard against each other for five months, making us sit next to each other will change nothing.

We Conservatives feel that we have been stitched up; we won the election, we got the most seats and the most votes in the first-past-the-post ballot.

The Liberals and the Greens, neither of whom won a single constituency seat, have got into bed with Labour. Having campaigned on their own policies, they are now tempted by office and renege on their promises and pledges. We, on the other hand, are consistent and true to ourselves. We shall provide a principled opposition to this unholy alliance.

On the wall opposite is carved: "He has put a new song in my mouth." It doesn't seem very new to me.

Tony Arbour is a senior lecturer at Kingston University Business School. He represents London Southwest on the Greater London Assembly.

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