You won’t be surprised that I think an election night results programme is one of the most thrilling events on British television. I’d like to suspect most of the country thinks so too, even though it might not always admit it.
ITV this week announced the first details about its presenting team for next year’s general election. Earlier this year the BBC confirmed that David Dimbleby would anchor his last results programme for the corporation in 2015. Both networks have yet to reveal their full roster of election faces, but it’s possible to fill in some of the gaps based on historical precedent and a bit of idle speculation.
Here’s how things are shaping up.
Anchors: David Dimbleby and Huw Edwards
It’ll be David’s ninth general election manning the bunker: surely a record that will never be matched. It’s also going to be his last. The BBC in February confirmed what had long been rumoured: our man will serve one final stint at the desk next year, then retire from the role he has performed since 1979. It was also announced that rather than anchor the entire coverage, David will hand over to Huw Edwards on Friday morning. If the election proves to be as close as in 2010, Huw could find himself hosting more hours in total than David.
It’s the first time the BBC has gone for a formal split-shift approach, and it smacks a little of compromise between heavyweights past and future (Huw will be the lead presenter for all election coverage post-2015). It also means David’s farewell will be rather without fanfare sometime in the early hours of the morning. He’ll be back on BBC1 later that Friday evening, however, to a special edition of Question Time.
Interrogator: Jeremy Paxman?
He’s stepped down from Newsnight, but will Jeremy want to relinquish the election night role he’s clearly enjoyed performing since 1997? And if so, who would take his place? Another Newsnight presenter seems the obvious choice, though I imagine Kirsty Wark will be up in Scotland or with one of the party leaders, while Emily Maitlis will be doing the results analysis. Eddie Mair, occasional Newsnight stand-in, would be a superb choice, if not entirely in the Paxman/Sissons/Day terrier mould.
Box of tricks: Jeremy Vine
It’s not been confirmed, but I’d expect Jeremy to be fulfilling his usual duties in the BBC’s virtual playground. He’s got better in recent years, toning down the silliness and wearing a jacket again.
Reading the news: Fiona Bruce
To paraphrase Robin Day, she’ll be performing her usual humble function.
Doing the interactive gimmick: ?
In 2010 Emily Maitlis had this thankless task, sitting in a noisy pub with three people “monitoring the blogosphere” while appealing for viewers’ tweets and text messages. It was all rather pointless but totally in keeping with previous faltering efforts to involve the public in proceedings, running from “voter internet cafes” in the noughties all the way back to live link-ups with shift workers in factories in the 1960s. Despite it adding very little to our understanding of events, I imagine the interactive gimmick will make an unwelcome return in some form next year.
Mingling with celebrity guests: Andrew Neil
Just as the views of ordinary people apparently need to be heard, so do those of showbusiness. That’s been the BBC’s way ever since Tony Blackburn‘s “election night disco” in 1970. In 2010 Andrew Neil was on a boat on a Thames with Joan Collins, Bruce Forsyth and Ben Kingsley. Where will they send/exile him this time?
Here’s how the BBC began its coverage of election night in 2010. I still think this is one of the most exciting openings to a results programme ever:
Anchors: Tom Bradby and Alastair Stewart
ITV’s also going for a split-shift approach, though I’m not sure how much “morning after” coverage Alastair Stewart will actually get to host, given the channel’s dwindling commitment in recent years. He was the sole host in 2010, so this is a sort of demotion. Tom Bradby, ITV’s political editor, is doing his first ever stint as anchor on the Thursday night. ITV always loses to the BBC in terms of ratings on these occasions, so there’s a fair chance most of the nation won’t notice any debutant nerves.
With Tom Bradby otherwise engaged, who’ll be grilling the big beasts? Deputy political editor Chris Ship? One of the News at Ten presenting team, such as Mark Austin? Or might ITV not even bother?
Box of tricks: Julie Etchingham
ITV’s confirmed Julie will be involved in the election, which means she’ll probably reprise the role she played in its 2010 coverage. I’m not sure we’ll see the return of “Britain’s interactive DNA fingerprint”, however.
Reading the news: ?
As with the role of interrogator, there’s always the chance ITV might not bother with this. It wasn’t a key element of the 2010 programme.
Doing the interactive gimmick: ?
I’m earmarking one of the presenters of ITV’s relanched breakfast show Sunrise for this role, possibly Ben Shepherd. It’ll be less ambitious than the equivalent palaver on the BBC, but no less irritating.
Mingling with celebrity guests: Mary Nightingale
Mary hosted an “election night party” in 2010 that was just round the corner from Andrew Neil’s boat, and consequently saw a bit of an overlap in the guest list (Piers Morgan turned up at both, I seem to recall). Again, she’s not been confirmed for 2015, but as co-presenter of ITV’s early evening news she’s bound to be involved somewhere.
Here’s how ITV began its coverage of election night in 2010. It’s not quite in the same league as the BBC… but then it never is. The swingometer-as-beakers-in-a-science-lab kind of sums it all up.