Nominations have now closed and for those with an ear to the ground, the ballot form for the Bonnyrigg ward will hold no surprises. Once again the Lib Dems are not standing and this time none of the socialists or anti-cuts candidates are present.
Jackie Aitchison, as expected, has resigned from the Labour Party to stand as an independent. This is no surprise, given how he has been treated, and it will be interesting to see how much his personal vote holds up. More interesting will be what he says and does during the campaign, and should he fail to be re-elected, where his lower preferences go. His resignation also means that Labour goes into the election without holding an overall majority on the council.
For the SNP, sitting councillor Bob Constable, being above his little known running mate Thomas Munro on the ballot form, I would expect Bob to be re-elected early on in the count. In 2007, Bob received 400 surplus votes and was comfortably elected on the first round of counting. That won't happen this time and Munro will naturally pick up most of Bob's eventual surplus if he can avoid an early exit.
The Conservative candidate Emma Cummings is from Gorebridge and completely unknown in the ward. I am surprised local Tory stalwarts Marnie and Bill Crawford are not standing this time, or at least finding someone a bit more local to fly the flag. However, given a complete lack of activity from the Tories here over the last five years, they must know they have two chances of success - fat and slim - and perhaps it's a case of giving future hopefuls a bit of electioneering experience. Who knows?
The Labour ticket, however, is much more interesting. Sitting councillor and council leader Derek Milligan must fancy his chances now he's above his running mate on the ballot form (I could say more, but space doesn't allow...). Louie Milliken is very much a newcomer and, surprisingly for Labour in what used to be a stronghold for the party, has had little involvement as far as I'm aware, in the community.
Labour looks likely to lose one of its two seats in Bonnyrigg this time. Derek Milligan is the marmite of Bonnyrigg politics - you either love him or hate him, and his name has certainly cropped up a few times on the doorsteps, without my prompting, I should add! The spread of first preferences between these two candidates will be interesting to say the least; however, I do expect alphabetical order to play the biggest hand and Derek will get back in.
So my guess is Bob Constable will be elected early on, followed by Derek Milligan. Without Labour backing, I can't see Jackie surviving. Which means the final place will be between myself, Thomas Munro and Louie Milliken. In local elections, visibility and community activity over a period of time count for much more and personality over party label also plays a part. Turnout will be lower, which will probably hit the Labour vote more than most, and these elections - being separated from the Holyrood vote which took place on the same day last time - will not be clouded by national issues.
On that basis, therefore, I have grounds for a good deal of optimism. However, there's all to play for and I'll be taking nothing for granted over the next few weeks.