My duty tonight was to be the Returning Officer, explaining the procedure to the members, ensuring those who voted were eligible under the Party Constitution to do so, then to count the votes in the presence of an independent scrutineer.
Whenever I am asked to preside over such occasions, I try to install a touch of theatre and ceremony. Rather than asking members to pass their ballot papers to the end of a row, then collecting them in a bucket, I always take along my traditional metal ballot box, which is checked to be empty, before it is locked and sealed. People seem to enjoy the formality (or perhaps they all know I am a Drama Queen and tolerate my eccentricities). Hopefully it will be used again at the Tonbridge & Malling selection in November.
Let's be honest; the result of the ballot was never in doubt. Mark is an outstanding constituency MP and hugely popular with the local membership, when he speaks he does so to their hearts as well as their minds. What really impresses me on such occasions is how seriously the MPs take them. As with Tracey Crouch a few weeks ago, Mark was clearly respectful of the process and anxious about the outcome. And like Tracey a few weeks ago, he had nothing to worry about!
Democratic ballot one member one vote @MarkReckless readopted for Rochester & Strood. No Falkirk funny business here! pic.twitter.com/ENLUAnL88d
— Andrew Kennedy (@Andrew__Kennedy) September 23, 2013
All I can say in conclusion is how good it was to run a democratic ballot within the Conservative Party's constitution. Everyone there was entitled to be there; no doubts or suspicions about their eligibility. No-one was signed-up at a discounted rate by a trades union trying to influence the outcome. There was no need to suspect the outcome or launch an enquiry into the process. It's called democracy - ONE member ONE vote. Not something Labour would understand, after all they have a leader who was not elected by their members or their MPs, but by the tarnished votes of the Unite Union.