Outside the bubble, Labour were doing well – it was clear that the Tories were making absolutely no impression whatsoever. It was their 1983. I was loving it. I recall telling a local Tory that we’d been waiting 18 years to beat them in 1997, and now, 18 years later we were able to humiliate them like we’d been. It was their turn to feel like the party who time had passed by. Heady times.

Back inside the count, valid votes are being sorted in piles for each candidate, then counted and bundled into piles of 50. Each party adds a scrutiniser (if numbers allow) to each counter, checking that the piles contain the right number of votes. My fellow scrutiniser was Lady Dulcie Atkins, wife for former Tory MP for the next seat, Sir Robert Atkins. In the midst of the counting, she enquired whether the counter would ‘be at Celia’s party on Saturday’?

I wondered whether the caffeine was playing tricks. No. Dulcie had ascertained that the counter was indeed going, and that they’d bought a dress for the occasion from the same shop. How funny! How odd. Yet here we are, with someone counting votes demonstrating a clear personal link to a Conservative Party figure. I reported the issue to the agent – no action would be taken – yet.

After bundles have been counted, they’re piled up and put into boxes of 20, so 1000 votes per box. Those boxes are then stacked up according to the candidate. The count was organised with the efficiency of the process in mind, and visual feedback to the people in the hall wasn’t an issue. Even so, this method reminded me of nothing more than a tennis match. Eyes darted from left to right, as boxes were piled up for the candidates, and had that sense of a long clay-court rally (minus the oohs and ahhs).

It was clear that it was as close as we’d expected. Close enough for a recount. For a split second, the thought crossed my mind that I was so tired, I’d have rather had a Tory victory than a recount. The languid pace suddenly changes gear as the Returning Officer calls candidates and agents, and everyone holds their breath. Despite the passion underlying the campaign, decorum is now demanded and received, so there’s no triumphalism, no fists in the air. You’re looking for a frown of defeat or a crinkling cheek of satisfaction. Time might not stand still, but everything, and everyone else does.

A smile. On our agent. We’d done it! After 55270 votes, we’d a 481 majority. Politics eh? Bloody hell!

I’d specialised in election politics at University, and had always been dismissive of the argument I was taught that the national media-led campaign was everything. I’d canvassed since I was 16, and had dragged voters to the polls. That was an effect that could be observed, and I knew all over the country, people like me were doing that. I knew that the get the vote out machinery made a difference. My special project was to number crunch the returns for electoral spending in 1992 in 100 constituencies with over 25 variables form the 1991 census broken down by constituency. It would be the first study my supervisor, an expert in electoral analysis, has seen using the 1991 census data and the 1992 breakdowns. Several thousand bits of data-entry later, I’d got it down to 2-3% of the vote take up with local campaigning.

We might not even have got that in 2001. It didn’t matter. I’d only been on the campaign for a week, having left the constituency 8 months earlier to come to London. I looked at the 15 or so people who had worked all day, all week, all month, and knew that all of us dragged, drove, persuaded and cajoled more than 481 people to the polls. We made a difference.

We toasted the dawn breaking in taxis back to the city, drinking the now rather rank booze. There was no need for alcohol though. Drugs add little to the buzz of democratic influence and the sure knowledge that you’ve made a little bit of history.