Strong teas, long waits and a chaotic finish defined my experience covering the 2024 General Election.

Collier Row's City Pavilion, which contains a rollerbowl, was the venue chosen by Havering Council for the borough's two counts for the General Election on July 4.

Upon arrival at about 10.30pm, the Romford and Hornchurch and Upminster counts were underway as nervy politicians made their way between rooms.

Labour hopeful for Romford, Andrew Achilleos, was there from the off, stationed with his colleagues in the recreation room outside the count hall, while Tory counterpart Andrew Rosindell was due to arrive later.

Andrew Achilleos had seemed confident earlier in the nightAndrew Achilleos had seemed confident earlier in the night (Image: George Hayes)

Representatives of smaller parties, including Reform UK's candidate for Hornchurch and Upminster Nicholas Palmer, were eager to chat early on in the night.

RELATED NEWS: Conservative hold in Hornchurch & Upminster for Julia Lopez

Fatigue had begun to hit about midnight and a potent cup of council-provided black tea was needed to make sense of early predictions.

An exit poll shared via Sky News from Ipsos UK had predicted the chance of a Labour gain in Romford as 97 per cent likely.

Black tea - the only option for this overnight reporterBlack tea - the only option for this overnight reporter (Image: George Hayes)

This was seemingly a grey omen for Mr Rosindell, who has served the outer London town since 2001.

The Labour table seemed relaxed and near jubilant, as loud cries were heard from the press room stationed above the area where Mr Achilleos and his colleagues sat.

However, as the night grew and Mr Rosindell arrived, a quiet confidence began to emanate from his team as they observed votes being counted.

But I sensed nervousness from both of the main parties.

At this time I approached Sunny Brar, Labour candidate for Hornchurch and Upminster but he was unwilling to speak.

Neither was Mr Rosindell.

No comment from Mr Rosindell while the votes were countedNo comment from Mr Rosindell while the votes were counted (Image: George Hayes) As the night wore on, in a lull between about three and four in the morning, the incumbents looked more confident of retaining their seats, but Reform candidates seemed the more satisfied in the count hall.

It was a long and arduous wait in the count hall for the final outcome.

But as results continued to pour in across the UK, we were suddenly beckoned by the council's press officers into a side room.

It was there the results for Havering constituencies were set to be announced.

Before we walked in, Mr Achilleos was seen hanging his head and Mr Rosindell shaking hands with peers. 

Half the conference room filled with Mr Rosindell's campaign team and about ten minutes later they were shouting "hear hear" to round off his victory speech.

Despite celebrations from Mr Rosindell's team, the Romford MP acknowledged the party's loss of support, his majority slashed since the previous general election.

In 2019 Mr Rosindell had 64.4 per cent of the vote, but in 2024 that plummeted to 37.9pc. The Romford MP will have been well aware of this, as he was with Tory losses across the country.

"I won't pretend this has been the easiest of general election campaigns, a bit tougher than the last six, but I'm very proud that the people of Romford have once again chosen me," Mr Rosindell said.

"However, I am deeply sad that tonight many of my friends and colleagues have not been returned as Members of Parliament," he said before departing.

Ms Lopez acknowledged that smaller parties had "haemorrhaged" Conservative support in Hornchurch and Upminster.

Mr Palmer's campaign garnered 13,317 votes, beating Labour and tallying just less than 2,000 votes shy of Ms Lopez.

Of people she had spoken to while door-knocking, she said: "Firstly they made clear they did not want a Labour government.

"The second thing they said to us is that we had disappointed them, we had not been good enough."

Ms Lopez's sentiment was reflected by Mr Rosindell who urged his party to not "water down" its core beliefs in future elections to restore public confidence.

By 4.15am all politicians had cleared off, leaving reporters to call in results to national wires and publish stories.

As I left the venue with council press officers, the exhaustion of a long night hit, a night defined by palpable tension from the two main parties, ending in relief for Havering's incumbent Conservative MPs.