With just over 10 weeks to go until polling day, the two main broadcasters ought to have their plans for election night pretty much in place. There are still a few roles to be confirmed, however – in particular, who’s filling the Paxman-shaped hole at the BBC.
Here’s a round-up of what we know so far.
Anchors: David Dimbleby and Huw Edwards
It’ll be David’s ninth general election night on TV: surely a record that will never be matched. It’s also going to be his last. The BBC in February 2014 confirmed what had long been rumoured: Dimbleby will serve one final stint at the desk, 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’s clearly been fashioned as a sort of passing-of-the-baton 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 host a special edition of Question Time.
Jeremy Paxman performed this role from 1997-2010, but now he’s off to anchor whatever Channel 4 decides to do on election night. Who will take his place? Another Newsnight presenter seems the obvious choice, and perhaps the BBC will go for Evan Davis. 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 efforts to involve the public in proceedings, 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 this 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?
Anchors: Tom Bradby and Alastair Stewart
ITV’s also going for a split-shift approach, though I’m not sure how much coverage Alastair Stewart will actually get to host on Friday morning, given the channel’s dwindling commitment in recent years. He was ITV’s sole host in 2010, so this is a sort of demotion. Tom Bradby, the channel’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 of Bradby’s 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 Good Morning Britain for this role, possibly Ben Shepherd. It’ll be less ambitious than the equivalent stunt 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). Again, she’s not been confirmed for this year, but as co-presenter of ITV’s early evening news she’s bound to be involved somewhere.