Ballot boxes arriving in Horsham

Blogmas 9: #EUrefSussex

You may have noticed that before the influx of posts for Blogmas, my blog has been pretty empty over the last few months. This does not mean that I haven’t done anything, maybe more the fact that I have done a LOT and have been too busy to update it with news of what has been occurring. Today I wanted to look back on the Referendum on membership of the European Union in Britain and the exciting things I did over the election night.

The EU Referendum took place on 24th June 2016, a week or so after I moved back home for the summer. I am part of the Student Publication Association Facebook group and a mild acquaintance (We’ve never actually met but I’ve heard fantastic things!) posted about opportunities to cover the election with The Argus, my local paper. I sent a speculative CV over to the contact and thought little of it but, to my surprise, got a reply asking if I was able to drive over to Horsham to cover their election count. Although I’m veering away from a career in journalism, I thought it would be a great opportunity and something I would be unlikely to get the chance to do.

On the night, my role was to live tweet the Horsham count and then write an article about the result for publication in their election special the following day. It was my first ever all-nighter and one of my first night/morning drives, but it was a great experience. As a 20 year old ‘workie’ I was the only member of the press in the press gallery and struggled to find anyone official to speak to, save the organisers of the count and a few prominent campaigners in the area.

The live tweeting of the event was my clear strength over the evening and you can relive all of the action over the night on my Twitter moment ‘#EUrefSussex – Horsham’. Getting my name and face in the local paper was pretty cool too, even if it was only 10 words of my own work – the experience definitely showed me that I don’t want to deal with the harsh, fast editorial world if I can avoid it.

EU Referendum Live – Horsham

Today the UK have gone to the polls to decide whether we should leave or remain part of the European Union, the first referendum of its kind since 1975, when the same question was posed over the EEC. Overnight, ballot papers will be sorted and counted, with results being announced from 399 counting places .    the close of polls at 10pm and 7am, when the last areas are expected to declare. The overall result will be announced from Manchester tomorrow morning.

Already billed as a historical event for the country, many national and local groups will be up all night, reflecting on the event and speculating on a result where, for once, every vote counts – the local figures are combined to create a national figure for leave and remain, rather than simply counting the result from area to area as in the General Election. I am excited to be involved in reporting the action for the Brighton Argus and I will be based at the Horsham count, helping them bring results to readers from across Sussex. I will be tweeting all night and a report of the result will be printed in Saturday’s paper.

You can follow the action on the Argus website, by following #EUrefSussex on Twitter or via my personal Twitter @escarr15.

And please, if you haven’t voted yet, go out and make your voice heard. Don’t let your indecision cause the wrong decision.

The Old Trafford ‘bomb’

Yesterday Old Trafford Football Stadium, the home of Manchester United, was evacuated after the discovery of a suspicious package in a toilet. It has come to light in the hours since that the package was actually left from a training exercise and was not a bomb at all. However it looked very realistic and the authorities stand by their decision to evacuate the stadium and call off this afternoon’s match against Bournemouth.

As someone who works part time in the security industry within a rugby stadium, I understand the importance of safety and ensuring that there are no threats to the public. Stewards and SIA officers (those who hold qualifications for searching and restraint) are the main protector of the large crowds who flock to sporting events and the infrastructure of the stadium. If there is anything suspicious, we must deal with it seriously, because even a small explosive device can have catastrophic consequences for spectators, sportsmen and staff. Considering it takes 20 minutes to evacuate a theatre with less than 1,000 people, imagine the logistics of evacuating an entire stadium of over 75,000 spectators in an emergency situation.

However, many people on Twitter have belittled the staff and ridiculed the fact that the match was called off. I believe this to be completely uncalled for. Staff followed procedure and involved the police in their assessment of the package. The problem with the threat of a bomb is that you can’t get too close or risk setting off the bomb and putting yourself and those around you at risk. On appearances, statements suggest that there was a strong similarity to a bomb. Add to this the fact that few staff have actually seen any form of explosive device because threats are so rare, the action taken was wholly justified.

This is not the only occurrence where members of the public have cried out over actions of security staff. Back in October in the Rugby World Cup final there was a pitch invasion from a teenage fan: he was tackled by security but the players disagreed with the interception and Sonny Bill Williams gave his medal to the young boy. Again, an example of staff acting according to guidelines and others disagreeing with the response. My words at the time were as follows:

I expected the tackle executed by the supervisor of the response team. And no, I don’t think it was inappropriate or too forceful. Charlie Lines, as much as he just wanted to get close to the players, actually could have been arrested for trespassing on the field of play – he is over the age of criminal responsibility. At the very least, he should have been ejected from the stadium premises.

Pitch invasions have been banned for good reason. You cannot allow everyone on to the pitch because there’s not enough space. Hillsborough and the Bradford City Fire are lasting examples of how bad crowd management can kill people. Therefore nobody who is unauthorised can enter the field of play, no matter how old they are and why they want to. The actions of Williams in support of the boy served to make what he did okay and paint the supervisor as the villain, legitimising the idea of pitch invasions to all those watching.

I understand how inconvenient it was that the game today was cancelled, particularly because it was a false alarm, but please put yourself in the situation if that had been a real explosive device, left there to destroy hundreds of lives. You probably wouldn’t be alive to comment on the situation. Security rules and procedures are there to keep you safe, and long may this continue without undue abuse from disgruntled fans.