Dec 12, 2019

UK Politics: General election 2019: voters queue for 'most important poll in a generation' – live news

Sam Jones

Lots of people have contacted the Guardian to tell us that they have had issues with postal votes.
Fraser Robinson and his wife are registered to vote in Ceredigion, Wales, and had applied for a postal ballot from the Netherlands. The documents never came through. He said:

We made sure we were registered and were confirmed but ballots never arrived. The council electoral services officer I spoke to confessed that she was ‘tired of hearing from people overseas that they hadn’t received ballots’ and that she heard the same complaints during the EU election.
The council has put the blame at the feet of Royal Mail, Royal Mail has blamed the council and the Electoral Commission has told me it is not their concern. Their casual approach to this problem has been really hard to stomach. If it was just my ballot lost in the post it would be one thing, but my wife’s as well as other complaints from Ceredigion postal voters makes me wonder if any of them were actually dispatched.
Maggie, who works on an administrative team in Poole, said that because her postal vote hadn’t arrived she’d had to take time off work to make sure she could vote in her constituency of Mid Dorset and North Poole. She said:

I got in touch with the electoral office in Dorchester in Dorset who told me that they would reissue the postal pack but if that doesn’t arrive this morning, I’m going to have to drive from where I live in Wimborne to Dorchester (23 miles) to collect the documentation that will allow me to vote in person at home.
I’ve had to take a half-day off work and obviously pay for the petrol – but I think it’s very important to vote in my constituency today. This is a particularly important election and it’s possible my vote could make a difference where I live.
James Aufenast lives in north London but was supposed to be submitting a proxy postal vote to Bath and North East Somerset on behalf of his sister Julia, who lives in Hong Kong. He said:

My sister is really concerned about what is happening in the UK right now despite having her own problems in Hong Kong. She was keen for me to vote for her by proxy (postal vote) and we organised well ahead of time. However, Bath and NE Somerset Council failed to send out the voting forms in time. In a marginal constituency where every vote counts, she feels she has been deprived of her democratic right at a crucial time.
I feel culpable too as it was up to me to organise and I have let her down. Obviously the responsibility lies with Bath, but I think the reason I am so upset is because it feels like a huge amount is riding on this election.
Aufenast said that when he contacted the local council to chase the issue up, they told him he was not the first person to have called in.
The council said in a response to his query:

We have received a lot of calls from electors that have not received poll cards and postal votes. It’s a combination of a national election and the Christmas post that have created a Royal Mail fiasco.

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Severin Carrell
Party activists in Haddington, a large market town in the Scottish National party target seat of East Lothian, report unusually high levels of voting this morning – something put down to voters eager to avoid going out after dark and very high levels of interest in this election.
Lorraine Glass, a veteran SNP election campaigner standing outside the Aubigny sports centre, said turnout had “really quite good”, despite the chilly December weather.

It’s busier for this time of day than it would normally be. I think people are much more engaged than they were in 2017. People have been really polite on the doorsteps. They say they’re fed up with Brexit but they’re wanting to talk to you about it.
Sandra Gaughan, a Labour campaigner, said people wanted to vote during daylight hours.

It gets dark at 4.30pm. It has been really, really constant.
I was here at 7.30am with my daughter before she went to work, and she had to queue. There were people queueing here at 7 o’clock; there was some woman who was quite bureaucratic saying: ‘Tell me which street you live on and I will tell you which booth to go to.’
East Lothian is being keenly contested by the SNP’s candidate, Kenny MacAskill, a veteran SNP figure most famous for freeing from prison the man accused of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, when he was Scottish justice secretary.
Labour’s Martin Whitfield, a pro-EU centrist, won the seat from the SNP by a relatively large majority of 3,083 votes (5.5%) in 2017. This contest is being seen as a significant test of Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity in this relatively affluent, pro-remain constituency, which normally has a high turnout at elections.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested after a suspicious device was found near a polling station in North Lanarkshire (see earlier).
Police said the device was discovered on the ground floor of Glen Tower flats in Motherwell at around 1am on Thursday.
A cordon was placed around the building as residents were evacuated following the find.
Explosive ordnance disposal staff were called to the scene to examine the item before carrying out a controlled explosion despite the device being found to be “non-viable”.
People who were registered to vote at Glen Tower have been told to attend an alternative polling station at Knowetop primary achool on Knowetop Avenue in Motherwell.
A community room within the building was due to be used as a polling station. Ch Insp Mark Leonard said: “Police in Motherwell have arrested a 48-year-old man in connection with a suspicious device found on the ground floor of Glen Tower flats, Motherwell, around 1am on Thursday December 12 2019. Inquiries are ongoing.”

Here’s a round up of some queuing news from PA Media.
Waits of more than half an hour were reported at various locations across England on Thursday morning.
Queuing appeared particularly widespread in London, with long lines reported in a number of constituencies.
Chris Schofield said more than 70 voters were waiting in the Bermondsey and Old Southwark constituency - some of whom gave up and left during his 20-minute wait, “presumably to go to work”.
“It’s about 20 times busier than it was in 2017, and for the locals and Euro elections,” the 27-year-old consultant said. “Atmosphere is very London: orderly queueing and no one is talking to each other!”
Several voters claimed they had never seen queues like it in years.
Asked why he thought there were so many queuing, Schofield said: “I think it’s the election of a lifetime for many of us.” Alixe Bovey reported queueing for 35 minutes in the Streatham constituency.
“In 20 years of voting in Streatham Hill, always at about this time of day, I have never encountered a queue of more than six or seven people,” she tweeted.
Waits were also reported in English cities such as Cambridge, where John Walsh tweeted to say it was the “first time ever” that he had to queue to exercise his democratic right.
Many members of the public said they were encouraged by the queues, suggesting it could mean a greater turnout than in the last general election. In the 2017 poll, there a turnout of 66.4%.
Voters unable to vote for whatever reason can return to their polling stations at any time before 10pm on Thursday evening.
The Electoral Commission advises polling stations “can get very busy, particularly towards the end of the day”, but says voters in a queue before 10pm will be entitled to apply for a ballot paper.
Voters in England, Scotland and Wales do not need to take anything with them to vote, while those in Northern Ireland must have photo ID.

Jon Henley
In the Netherlands, which stands to lose more than most from a hard or no-deal Brexit, NRC Handelsblad lamented a campaign “poor on substance and rich in empty rhetoric” for a vote that “could change the course of Brexit, and the country”.
Hardly a single moment from the past few weeks lasted longer than the one-day news cycle, the paper said, while the debates provided no new insights beyond Johnson’s “Get Brexit done” and Corbyn’s “For the many, not the few”.
Both parties “promised more money and more investment, but avoided fundamental discussions about structural health, education and benefit reforms – or even Brexit”.
Johnson “could not explain how he would negotiate a trade deal in record time or what would happen if the talks dragged on”, the paper said, while Corbyn “was silent on Brexit, aware a good election result was only possible if both leftwing big-city remainers, working class Brexiteers in the middle and north vote Labour”.
Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet described a country hopelessly split, and in multiple directions, leaving many facing “an impossible choice. How is a Conservative who wants to stay in the EU supposed to vote? Or a social democrat who believes Jeremy Corbyn is a leftwing extremist?”
In Denmark, Berlingske said Britain was voting in “one of the most important elections in decades”, whose outcome would “define the UK’s exit from EU or decide whether the country get a new referendum” and whose two protagonists “represent two radically different visions for Britain”.
“If the Conservative party wins an absolute majority, Britain can leave the EU by 31 January – but the UK must immediately start negotiating a future trade agreement,” it explained. “If Labour wins, there’ll be yet another referendum on Brexit. And if there’s no clear winner – it will be a big and serous mess.”

The student vote was a big factor in the surprise victory for Labour’s Rosie Duffield in Canterbury in 2017. Queues to vote have been reported again at the university.
emily (@emwindow)
A queue outside the @UniKentLive polling station. So good to see students coming out and using their vote in Canterbury!
December 12, 2019

Libby Brooks
Police Scotland have confirmed that they carried out a controlled explosion overnight after a suspicious device was found near a polling station in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire.
The “non-viable device” was found on the ground floor of Glen Tower flats, Motherwell, at 1am this morning.
A community room in the same building was planned for use as a polling station today.
All residents registered there have now been directed to vote at Knowetop primary school instead. Ch Insp Mark Leonard said:“A cordon was placed around the building and residents within the cordon were evacuated for safety reasons.
“The evacuation has now ended and police are working with North Lanarkshire council to return people to their homes.
“Inquiries are ongoing and we are keen to talk to anyone that may have seen anyone acting suspiciously in the area around 12 and 1am this morning.”

Andrew Roth
There is not much interest in the British election in Russia, but Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the head of the nationalist LDPR party and a loose ally of Vladimir Putin, delivered a full-throated endorsement for the Tories and Brexit.
Zhirinovsky, who is known for making outrageous statements, tweeted:
Владимир Жириновский (@Zhirinovskiy)
Mr. Prime Minister @BorisJohnson
I and the entire LDPR party sincerely wish you victory in the election today. With the support of people, you will quickly bring Britain out of the European Union!
December 12, 2019
Russia has largely welcomed the UK’s exit from the European Union as proof that the European project is coming apart at the seams and that western liberalism is failing, a thesis that Vladimir Putin has been repeating for years.
Russia has also brushed aside accusations that it leaked details of trade talks between the United States and the UK, with the foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, quoting Boris Johnson’s assertion that there was “no evidence” of Russian interference in British politics. Johnson had said that before details of the trade talks were leaked.
Russian TV anchors took a fairly straight approach on election day, but highlighted the theatrical nature of the campaign, an element somewhat lacking in Russia’s own elections.
“The main agenda of the elections was of course Brexit, but the campaign often resembled a show, with PM Boris Johnson bringing milk to people at home, hiding from journalists’ questions in a refrigerator, and baking a pie, but mainly underlining that Brexit is a reality,” a broadcast on state-run Rossiya-24 summed up the campaign on Monday. The newscaster concluded the report by noting competing accusations of antisemitism in the Labour party and anti-Muslim remarks by Johnson.

Rachel Obordo
Voters have been in touch to share the signs they have spotted at their local polling stations.
Adam, 42, who runs a graphic design agency spotted the “choosing chimp” in Brockley, London.

Our local polling station is at Myatt Garden primary school. The teachers had put some thought into the placement of polling signage!”
Adam, 42, runs a graphic design agency, sent in a photo of the ‘choosing chimp’ at Myatt Garden primary school
Adam, 42, runs a graphic design agency, sent in a photo of the ‘choosing chimp’ at Myatt Garden primary school. Photograph: Adam
Rob Priest, a history lecturer living in south London, took a photo of his local polling station:

A church, food bank, and polling station at the All Nations church on Poynders Road in Clapham. One thing I have been energised by this year is teaching students who are voting for the first time – almost all of them weren’t able to vote in the referendum and I get the sense they are taking it very seriously.
Rob Priest, history lecturer in south London, took this photo outside All Nations church in Clapham
Rob Priest, history lecturer in south London, took this photo outside All Nations church in Clapham. Photograph: Rob Priest
Charlie Hamilton loved the sign spotted by her colleague, Sam Picknell, at Plaistow polling station, West Sussex.
Charlie Hamilton loved the sign spotted by her colleague Sam Picknell at Plaistow polling station, West Sussex
Sign spotted at Plaistow polling station, West Sussex Photograph: Charlie Hamilton

“Socialism or Brexit? this is the Hamlet-like dilemma of the vote in the UK,” writes Enrico Franceschini in the Italian daily La Repubblica.
Commenting on the third general election in four years, Franceschini compares the rhythm of politics in what was once a stable European democracy to that of Italy’s. He adds:

Today the tribes in which Great Britain is divided are forced to mingle to choose the lesser evil: Boris Johnson, if they want to avoid socialism; Jeremy Corbyn, if they want to avoid Brexit. Many, in both cases, will be holding their noses as they vote.
In Corriere della Sera, Beppe Severgnini writes about what a Labour or Conservative could mean for the UK. With Brexit dominating, should Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg (who Severgnini calls “the sons of Thatcher”) regain power, then they will be tempted to transform Britain into “a pirate ship off the coast of Europe”.
He adds:

It would be a serious mistake. It is no longer the times of pirate Sir Francis Drake: the European fortress is robust and the defenders have powerful cannons. We are repelled by the idea of shooting - metaphorically - at our English friends. But, if they force us, we’ll do it.

Philip Oltermann
German media have been unusually blunt in their assessment of the level of debate in the British elections, and particularly scathing in its assessment of Boris Johnson.
“The country is moving into a new era,” wrote correspondent Cathrin Kahlweit in a leader for Süddeutsche Zeitung, a broadly left-leaning, serious broadsheet.
“It will become more insular, cultivate a less civil form of patriotism, inflict more harm on minorities. Necessary reforms – a new electoral law, a written constitution, better public services – are likely to be postponed.”
Centre-right broadsheet Die Welt wrote that Johnson’s promise to “Get Brexit Done” would “blow up in his face”. “He keeps quiet about the fact that the hard part [of the negotiations] only starts after the withdrawal.”
Der Spiegel had a thorough look at Britain’s likely future beyond the election and came to a conclusion that runs against the tenor of the debate in the British media: “A Labour victory would be a blessing for the economy. Because in the case of a victory Corbyn wants to negotiate a ‘soft’ Brexit deal with the EU ... which should be better for the economy than Johnson’s comparatively hard Brexit.”

Queues are usually rare at polling stations, according to research that involved surveys of poll workers, emails Prof Toby James, head of politics at the University of East Anglia.

Only 2% of poll workers reported a problem with queues at the 2018 and 2019 local elections, while 6% reported problems at the 2015 general election.
The problem that tends to be much more frequently experienced are voters being turned away because they are not on the electoral register (but think that they are because they pay council tax).
Hopefully, recent registration drives ahead of the election will mean that we will see less of this today.
Problems with the accessibility of polling stations and voters instructing each other how to vote were also often reported in our research.
Overall, however, elections do tend to be very well run – and credit must be given to the electoral officials who have been working under severe pressure ahead of the election.
Toby James 🔰 (@TobySJames)
Queues at polling stations is not the norm in UK elections, as research shows:
Social media is very impressionistic, but some folk are certainly having to wait this morning. #GE2019 (1/2)
December 12, 2019

The leader of the Democratic Unionist party, Arlene Foster, has cast her vote in Co Fermanagh, wearing a union jack shawl.
Foster arrived at the polling station at Brookeborough primary school shortly after 10am
DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives at a polling station in Enniskillen
DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives at a polling station in Enniskillen Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA


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