The count that went on, and on, and on...
THE cavernous main hall of a Cornish leisure centre played host to an unusual sport yesterday.
Nearly 12 hours of vote-counting: a marathon, indeed.
The rules of the game are complex, and although there is a ref, he rarely blows his whistle.
In most British elections it's a sudden-death play-off: first past the post and you're home and dry.
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But the ten candidates to be Police and Crime Commissioner in Devon and Cornwall played to new rules, the so-called Cameron Gambit.
On Thursday the voters (only 23,619 turned out in Plymouth) were offered a choice of two columns.
In the first they put an 'X' for their first preference. In the second, they put an 'X' for their second preference.
The idea was simple: Count all the first preferences. If none exceeds 50 per cent plus one, the top two go through to Round 2, where the second preferences of all the rest are re-allocated. The count starts all over again.
Only …. It didn't quite work out that way.
Hundreds. No, thousands, of spoilt ballots were tossed into the reject pile (or sin bin), causing massive delays in the count.
Some showed signs of confusion by the voters, but many of the rejects were clearly part of a protest movement, with scrawled comments or every box ticked.
ALL afternoon the ten candidates drifted among the tables neatly laid out with 197,001 ballot papers.
Well, not all: at least one (Independent candidate Ivan Jordan) quickly saw which way the wind was blowing and headed back to Exeter.
It's always a poignant sight, watching politicians trying to keep a poker face as their votes fail to mount up, but at least we had one more novelty to entertain us.
Each of the peninsula's 12 local authorities brought along their boxes of ballots, and were allocated separate colour-coded areas, ranging from yellow to shocking pink.
Plymouth's David Shepperd and legal officer Tim Howes cannily bagged green for the Plymouth counters.
Never again will I complain about election night in Plymouth, where the votes are counted in the grand and atmospheric setting of the Guildhall.
It was just not the same in the Carn Brea leisure centre at Redruth, or Camborne, or where ever.
I had to stop on the way and hire a Sherpa to guide me the last few miles into the depths of a Cornish industrial estate.
"WHY 'Brand new'?" someone in the office asked on Thursday. "Why not just 'New'? And where does the 'brand' bit come from?"
Within moments at least three people were hitting Google for answers.
And yet, when it comes to the (brand) new Police Commissioner, the poor turnout is blamed primarily on lack of information.
During a General Election the Government funds candidates' leaflets, but has decided not to do the same for the Police Commissioners.
Instead, the information has been on a dedicated website.
Lib Dem candidate Brian Blake told me that people he had spoken to had not been able to find the website(s).
And at the count yesterday Labour activist Luke Pollard told me: "The Government's refusal to send out information was shameful."
Yet never has there been a quicker and easier way of tracking down obscure facts than the internet.
Think of the weirdest question you can, and then Google it: you'll find several thousand people have already posed the same question, and several dozen have created websites to answer it.
So, to be blunt, I don't believe that complaint.
Much more plausible is that 85 per cent of voters in Devon and Cornwall really don't care about this election.
IF TONY BLAIR and his spin doctor Alastair Campbell were still in charge in Downing Street, this could have been so different.
Campbell would have known better than to impose an unwanted Police Commissioner on the public.
Police Commissioners will replace the existing Police Authorities, with a similar remit to manage the money and set the policing agenda.
But here's the thing: no one really knew a thing about the Police Authority.
For all any of us knew it did a fine job and gave us the best of all police forces in the best of all worlds.
Alternatively, for all any of us knew it was a self-serving group of retired tapioca smugglers from Mozambique.
What a clever spin doctor would have done is to engineer a few scandals to get the public's blood up: a committee-room orgy or two; a chairman eloping to Marrakesh with the deputy Chief Constable; all policing resources devoted to a single remote village on Exmoor.
Within weeks the great British public would have been clamouring for an elected Police Commissioner and the turnout would have been 85 per cent instead of 15 per cent.