At the start of my all-night election results coverage for The Guardian I wrote that,"Election fever isn't burning as hot here in Hackney as in other parts of the capital: it's a stubborn Labour stronghold." This turned out to be both right and wrong. In terms of how the borough voted, we turned out to be even more solid for Labour than before, with both of our Labour MPs, our Labour mayor and our Labour council strengthening their positions compared with previous elections in 2005 (for parliament) and 2006 (for mayor and councillors).
However, Hackney was one of several places in London and other parts of Britain where election fever burned very hot indeed - not because local contests were closely fought as elsewhere in the capital - they weren't - but because people who arrived at polling stations late in the evening found they were unable to vote. I popped round to my designated ballot boxes at around 8:00 in the morning. They were doing brisk business, but it never crossed my mind that this was an indication of more frenetic things to come.
The problem affected a number of polling stations and thwarted electors staged a sit-in at the one in Triangle Road, where around 150 would-be voters had the doors shut on them at the official closing time of 10:00 pm. The Guardian carried a film report and East London Lines tells us that both Meg Hillier and Diane Abbott have made an official complaint to the borough's retuning officer, and that both Tory mayoral candidate Andrew Boff and the Tory candidate in Hillier's constituency support them.
The Electoral Commission is to make an investigation into the problem, which also occurred in Lewisham (as well various other parts of Britain) where officials took a different approach. They did a pub-style "lock-in" of those still queuing when the clock struck ten, enabling them to cast their votes. Who was in the right? Some lawyers believe that those turned away may have a claim for compensation, but the Electoral Commission has said that the law is very clear: "The doors must be shut at 10 o'clock and anyone issued with a ballot paper before 10 o'clock must be allowed to vot. No one can be issued with a ballot paper after 10 o'clock even if they are inside the polling station." In other words, Hackney was right and Lewisham was wrong. Who knows which side of this argument will prevail?
As for the results themselves, it was an even more successful night for Hackney Labour than expected. Abbott held Hackney North and Stoke Newington with a much larger majority (14,461), many more votes (25,553) and a larger share of the vote (55%) than in her notional 2005 result. Hillier too obliterated her opponents still more comprehensively than last time. Jules Pipe once again won the Mayoralty handsomely, while the Council chamber is still more Labour-dominated than it already was. The party won 50 of the 58 seats, an increase of six from four years ago. The Tories are left with just four seats (down five) and the Lib Dems remain at three. The Greens lost the one seat they secured in 2006. Councillor Luke Akehurst has all the details.
Various factors contributed to Labour making huge gains in boroughs across the capital, holding parliamentary seats they seemed set to lose and re-cementing their positions in parts of London, such as Hackney, where they were already strong. High turnout will have helped, along with the fact that Labour nationally is less unpopular than it was at the last borough poll. Even so, there is a very strong sense that voters here and elsewhere across the city have done what Gordon Brown asked them to on 6 May - "Come home to Labour."