Thursday night in Lambeth – Britain’s most pro-Remain borough

Nearly 80 per cent of voters in Lambeth backed Remain

Fife Council
Image: Fife Council

9pm: The count staff begin to traipse into the basement of Brixton Recreation Centre, which is normally an indoor bowling green.

There are no windows and no air conditioning, so it already feels like a sauna. A bus and a fire engine have collided just outside the town hall, closing several road, so we sit for an hour and a half waiting for anything to do.

We’ve been sorted into pairs – I’m with Gabriel, he’s very thoughtful about the process, and is worried what this could mean for his family in Nigeria.

LouAnn at the next table has just got back from a month seeing family in Jamaica.

Lee, who looks the spit of Bobby George off the darts, is already despairing for the Labour Party. He’s lived in Streatham his whole life.

10:30pm: The ballot boxes finally arrive, and we verify roughly 3,000 ballots over the next two hours.

The activists have arrived, and a small ironic cheer goes up from their corner when the Gibraltar result comes in. There are maybe forty Remain campaigners in varying t-shirts, no sign of anyone from Leave.

00:15am: The Sunderland result comes in, and ripples through the hall.

The Remain campaigners suddenly look a lot more like the Lib Dems who started drinking in a corner the moment for the exit poll came in last year.

There’s a television in the corner, and everyone is sneaking over to take a look.

We’ve started sorting the actual ballots now. A man from Leave in a tweed jacket watches me closely as I put twenty-eight Remain votes in a row into a tray.

On my personal tally, it’s about 85 per cent remain in my box. The longest sequence of Leave votes I get all night is three.

1am: All the ballots are sorted and the sorting teams move over to the television. The count has taken about two hours less than expected, despite the high turnout.

A presiding officer comes to check my doubtful ballots. I’ve got a few dozens ticks, which all count, and a pink butterfly stamp in the leave box. That counts too.

The ballot with END AUSTERITY NOW TORY CON TRICK written on it doesn’t get counted.

We have two ballots demanding Irish reunification as well. They don’t count, but are a sharp reminder of the stakes.

2:30am: Lambeth announces the result, with 79 per cent and over a hundred thousand votes for Remain.

Watching the tracker on the news, it briefly gives Remain a decent looking advantage. The In campaigners cheer. They’ve done a fine job in Lambeth, the most Remain place in the country.

We all clear up the tables and chairs, that comforting reminder that local councils are basically comprehensive schools for adults.

Everyone traipses off, no one can see where the Leave blokes have gone. Everyone wishes that the pubs were still open.

3am: I’m home and watch Dimbleby until the BBC calls the result.

The sun rises on South London, and when I wake up I discover there’s been a power cut in the night and my freezer has flooded the kitchen. EDF have already taken their electricity back.

Matthew Elliott is a self-hating marketing guru. He writes occassionally for the New Statesman and Left Foot Forward

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