Oh what a night.

Saturday, May 8th, 2010 @ 8:13PM

First of all, apologies for absence!

At the beginning of April, my good friend Fiona O’Donnell was selected to fight the East Lothian constituency for the Labour Party. Fiona has had a very broad and varied career throughout her life to date, but at the point of her selection she was the full time organiser for the Edinburgh Labour Party.

With a month to go until the most pivotal and significant election in my lifetime, Edinburgh Labour had a big hole in its organisational structures and I took a month’s secondment from my day job in an attempt to fill it.

So for the last month I have been pounding the streets of Edinburgh North & Leith and Edinburgh South as a member of Labour Party staff and therefore unable to blog. And what a month it has been.

The results for Labour in Edinburgh have been truly phenomenal. Not least in Edinburgh West where Labour’s Cammy Day knocked 10,000 votes off the Lib Dems historically commanding majority. Since Cammy split his time between West and North & Leith, this surge in Labour support can only be attributed to the dreadful record of the Lib Dem/SNP Council in the West of the city.

In Edinburgh East, Sheila Gilmore absolutely, categorically thumped the SNP.

Make no mistake, the SNP thought they could, and would, win this seat. Their candidate was jubilant after the european elections and their boasts about positive signs at the postal vote count reached far and wide. But with a majority in excess of 9000, Sheila Gilmore had polled twice the number of votes as the SNP, who watched their share of the vote fall and only just managed to stay ahead of a low key Lib Dem candidate.

I had been campaigning tirelessly in this seat since Sheila’s selection in April last year, but had to pass the day to day reigns of the campaign over in order to concentrate my time on North & Leith and South.

I was quitely confident that Sheila would win and predicted internally that her majority would be 3200 but the remaining campaign team, led by David, Stuart and Matt, knocked that target out of the park. I have huge admiration for the energy, talent and passion for their politics that they have displayed and am hugely grateful to them all for their efforts.

I worked on Alistair Darling’s campaign in the 2005 General Election when he was fighting the seat of Edinburgh South West for the first time, so I was absolutely thrilled to see Alistair’s majority increase this year to 8447. He is a man of deep integrity and steely determination and I am utterly convinced that history will reflect that he was one of the greatest Chancellor’s of the modern age.

In North & Leith Mark Lazarowicz held off a particularly nasty challenge from the Liberal Democrats who might reflect on the fact that going for Mark personally, challenging his integrity and record, did their chances more harm than good. Mark Lazarowicz, like Sarah Boyack, commands a huge personal vote which defies party politics and that came through on the day in my view.

A good result here combined with Lib Dem support collapsing across the city suggests that Sarah Boyack has a very strong chance of winning Edinburgh Central under some difficult boundary changes next year.

But the result of the night has to be Ian Murray holding on to Edinburgh South. I’ve spent a lot of time in Edinburgh South door knocking over the past month and I can honestly say that I always thought Labour could hold this seat. In a way we were our own worst enemy, obsessed with the fact that Fred MacIntosh had been working flat out for three years on the seat knowing that we had just 3 and a bit weeks to counter that…

Experienced canvassers get a gut feeling for a seat from the body language and eye contact that voters project on the doorstep. I will never forget people in Dunfermline struggling to look me in the eye and remember the same feeling on the doors of Shettleston in July 2008.

But in Edinburgh South, it was the exact opposite. People in Liberton and Gilmerton were coming out of their houses asking for posters and offering to deliver, cheering Ian along.

At the count we were resigned to losing for the first hour and a half… especially as the first boxes to be counted, and therefore sampled by us, were from the Sciennes, Marchmont and Morningside. The Lib Dems developed a swagger and one was overhead insisting to the press that the seat was in the bag. Sky called the seat for the Lib Dems. Channel 4 and BBC News followed suit… But soon the boxes from Liberton and Gilmerton came flooding in with turnout significantly up on 2005 in these heartland areas and all bets were off.

Edinburgh South has been reported as being subject to a recount, but it wasn’t. Two separate forms of bundle checks were carried out and since they failed to highlight any significant error, the Returning Officer refused the Liberal Democrats desperate cries for a full recount.

The night belonged to Ian Murray and of all candidates, I am thrilled for him the most. Ian worked harder on his campaign then I have ever seen any candidate work before him. He gave it everything he had and mixed it with a touch of humour and grace. He will be a wonderful addition to the green benches, whatever side of the house he finds himself sitting on.

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