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Back in March 2010 I had only ever presented one show on LBC. Quite how I had the temerity to suggest that I should present their election night show, I have no idea. Looking back I had quite a cheek. I had presented a European Election show on the late lamented PLAY TALK in June 2009, which had been quite success in terms of trying out a new election night format - essentially a zoo format with lots of bloggers in the studio bringing together all the information and me presenting it in a fairly light and breezy manner.
So in 2010 I co-presented LBC's election night with Gaby Hinsliff and our merry band of bloggers. In 2015 and 2017 we upgraded it and I presented alongside Shelagh Fogarty.
Watch a nine minute highlights package
Last night was my fourth general election presentation, and Shelagh's third. It was a very different show in some ways, because of all the visualisation that we introduced. We wanted to keep the same atmosphere, whereby Shelagh and I not only bring our audience the information they need, but we do it with humour and banter.
This time we had two satellite camera positions which Martin Stanford presenting in a green screen studio - essentially the Jeremy Vine BBC role. And then we had a hub in our newsroom, staffed primarily by Tom Swarbrick and Theo Usherwood. Our aim was to build a big online visual audience on Youtube, facebook and Twitter, without compromising the experience for our normal radio audience.
My other problem is that for the last week I have had a honking cough, which I just can't seem to shake off. I was very anxious that it would be very offputting for listeners. I had dosed myself up with cough mixture and had a constant supply of honey and lemon in hot water, but still the cough appeared from time to time. At one point, at around 3.30am I had to leave the studio for ten minutes.
The most difficult moment for me has always been at 10pm when the Exit Poll is released. We don't get any advanced notice of it, so I am flying solo. The first I see it is the moment it appears on the TV screen in front of me and I then immediately have to interpret it. Thankfully I seem to have made a reasonable fist of it on each occasion.
We had a great lineup of guests in the studio. On the Conservative side Nicky Morgan and Michael Fallon came in and for Labour it was Jacqui Smith and Barry Gardiner. Michael and Jacqui were there (but not necessarily on air) for the whole eight hours and it was good to have the continuity. Michael Russell (SNP), Dick Newby (LibDem), Alexandra Phillips (BP) and Jonathan Bartley (Green) also joined us, as well as commentators like Ayesha Hazarika, Liam Halligan and Anoosh Chakelion. Joe Twynan and Gareth Knight supplied the polling and psephological expertise.
What viewers and listeners won't have seen was the tremendous team which produced both the content and the video side of things. There were more than 40 people at LBC and Global who were part of this, and each one was integral. In 2015 there would have been around a dozen people, so you can see the commitment that there has been to make this the biggets live event LBC has ever put on from its studios.
Did things go wrong? Yes. Were there things that in hindsight we'd have done differently? Sure. I'd defy anyone involved in broadcasting to say they had even taken part in a perfect programme, but I am delighted to say that on social media I have yet to see any form of criticism whatsoever. And we all know what a cruel mistress Twitter can be. I'm delighted by the reaction and that so many people enjoyed what we did. I wonder if Shelagh and I will be able to repeat the experience in the 2024 general election!
The whole 8 hour show will be uploaded as a podcast on the Cross Question podcast feed soon.