Alan Dee: Lock the doors, let’s go for broke

Heaven knows I have done some dull jobs in my time, but I’ve got nothing to compare to the poor saps who got stuck with running that polling station in Newport last week.

You’ll probably have heard the the first elections for police and crime commissioners up and down the country didn’t exactly cause a stampede to the ballot box.

Most places managed to muster somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of the possible vote, which is a pretty damning reflection of the level of engagement we as a nation have with the political process.

But in deepest Newport there was one polling station which, from the time it opened its doors at 7am right through until last knockings 15 hours later, did not attract one elector anxious to make his or her mark.

That’s right, 15 long hours with absolutely nothing to do.

It brought to mind a long and depressing night many years ago when I scored a gig running the cloakroom at some dinner dance.

Could have been a bowls club, could have been a police social, could have been a Rotary do, I can’t remember – but I do know that the lad who had been in charge the year before made out like a bandit.

I was already drawing up a list of all the goodies that any teenage boy would want to waste hard cash on, but it all went pear-shaped. It was a lovely warm night, so hardly any of the ladies wore coats or jackets and had no need of my cloakroom services. The gents similarly scorned my offer – many were in shirtsleeves, for heaven’s sake.

I took in, if memory serves, two coats and a bag all night.

And that was the worst possible result, because I had to stay there all night to be on hand to return said items after last orders were called. At least if I had drawn a complete blank I could have gone home.

To be fair to the organisers, who had cannily set the payment as a percentage of the take, they took pity on me and gave me a fiver – but I was so determined to recoup what I considered to be my losses that I blew it all within an hour on the fruit machine in the bar.

But back to Newport, and on consideration they had it easy. Nobody would have been expected to work the whole shift, and nobody would have been alone – I don’t know about you, but I reckon three staff is as few as I have ever seen in a polling station.

So all in all it was probably a jolly day, they were getting paid no matter how many punters came through the door, and they were, as the current phrase has it, all in it together.

In fact, after about 10 hours with no business they probably all had their fingers crossed that they could make it to the end with a blank return.

I know if it had been me, I’d have been tempted to lock the doors for last hour or two, just to make sure of my place in the record books...