To fit in a trip to the polling station before work I left home five minutes early. I thought that'd be enough. It's never normally busy, indeed last time round I was the only voter there, and they'd not seen anyone for the previous half hour. Admittedly that was for the locals, not the General, but the difference yesterday was marked. When I got round the corner, past the policewoman and the church's bins, there was a queue. There's never normally a queue, and definitely not one that stretches out through the porch and a dozen people down the front path. But this election appeared to be different, or maybe it was because this was Tower Hamlets, and they were trying to make sure everything was above board this time.
I thought I recognised one of the voters coming out of the church hall as one of the minor candidates on the ballot paper, Elliot Ball. This was confirmed when he turned to his friend and said how easy it had been to choose who to vote for... not, I suspect, that many others did. The queue inched towards the door, a freshly enfranchised voter occasionally emerging, until I finally reached the porch. From here some reasons for the sluggishness became apparent. Only one trestle table was in operation, whereas previously I remember at least two. More importantly the lady dishing out the papers was being much more officious than usual, asking everyone to confirm their name and address before proceeding down the table. No proof of identity was required, the British electoral system doesn't work like that, but this was a step up from from the usual "there you go then".
A policeman watched proceedings from the corner of the hall, looking fairly bored already. Bow East isn't a recognised hotbed of electoral malpractice, other parts of Tower Hamlets hold that mantle, but security had clearly been stepped up across the borough. A by-product of the requirement to reconfirm identities was that I now knew the names and precise addresses of a dozen of my near neighbours, and shortly afterwards they knew mine. I picked up my ballot paper, one of the longest in the country, and wandered over to the booth in the corner. The pencil wasn't as stubby as normal, I thought, but it still made an legible cross in the appropriate box. And exercising my right to vote had only taken ten minutes longer than normal, which is nothing compared to the five years its impact would be felt. My train journey into work felt full of febrile possibilities.