One of the things I love most about my job at LBC is being given the opportunity to present election night shows. I’ve done four general election nights, two American elections, two referendums and various local election nights. Last week, however, Covid thwarted me. Most of the counts had been shifted to the Friday, Saturday or even Sunday, and in the case of many of the Police & Crime Commissioner elections were counted, unbelievably, on Monday. So apart from a bit of punditry on Friday morning on Good Morning Britain, I was confined to my sofa at home, watching the results coming in on the BBC and Sky, like all the other political geeks around the country.
The truth is it wasn’t a very good watch. Election nights are full of drama, with lots of things happening. When it’s stretched out over three days, it doesn’t really work. There’s not enough drama, and not enough content to keep the viewer’s attention. There’s too much repetition and too much meaningless banter with pundits who were, too often, uttering inanities.
On the BBC Huw Edwards showed us his lighter side from time to time with an almost comical obsession with what was going on in Wales. To be fair, Wales was one of the more interesting areas of the country to follow, given Mark Drakeford defied all expectations and got Labour’s best ever result since the first devolved election in 1999. Indeed, he had been tipped to lose his own seat. With the demise of UKIP, few bothered to report that the Conservatives added 5 seats to their total, to get their best ever result too. Plaid Cymru, as ever, flattered to deceive. I have no idea how Huw Edwards votes, but I suspect if he ever moved back to Wales, his cross might not be too far away from Plaid on the ballot paper! I do hope I haven’t libelled him… Rwy’n siŵr y bydd yn ei gymryd fel dyn.
Staying with the BBC, a star might have been born. Stepping into the shoes of the magnificent Peter Snow and the irrepressible Jeremy Vine was Newsnight’s Lewis Goodall. Bouncing around, and deploying all the excitement of a Duracell Bunny, he kept us all entertained with notional swings and, as Peter Snow would have said, had “just a bit of fun”.
Talking of fun, the brown stuff really hit the fan on Saturday evening when it emerged that Keir Starmer has sacked Angela Rayner as Party Chair and Campaign Coordinator. Twitter went wild, but as ever, it was at least 20 minutes, if not longer, before Sky and the BBC started reporting it. And this is the main point of this review. Twitter is far better at reporting election nights and days than the cumbersome mainstream media ever will be. I always use Twitter as a primary source when I’m presenting on LBC on election nights and I can therefore report things to my audience way ahead of Sky or the BBC. Frankly, if the @BritainElects Twitter feed ran an all night Twitch video stream they’d clean up among those of us who class ourselves as political geeks. While the BBC won’t report a council result until all the wards have been counted, @BritainElects bring you results ward by ward. Geek heaven. And you can interpret a lot from those results.
Later in the week, I decided to listen to the LibDem Podcast to see what they made of the results. This podcast isn’t exactly welcoming to anyone who isn’t dyed in the wool LibDem. It’s a perfect example of the phenomenon of podcast navel gazing. There is a rolling cast of around five or six LibDem activists who chew the LibDem fat each week, but they never actually introduce themselves. They assume we know who they are. This was the first time I had listened to the podcast and it was irritating that I couldn’t work out who they were and where they came from. It did become clear as it went on, but an introduction is surely elementary.
I certainly found it really interesting to hear about their respective experiences on the campaign trail, especially when one of them was fully expecting to lose but pulled through by only 100 votes.
Given the LibDems only gained 8 council seats, fell under the threshold to be considered a main party grouping in the Scottish Parliament, only gained one local council and polled 1 per cent in the Hartlepool by-election, you might be forgiven for thinking this might be the podcast equivalent of attending a wake. But not a bit of it. Straws were clutched. Pearls were held. Tunnels had lights at the end of them. In fact it was all jolly encouraging. Bless, I thought. It’s the hope that kills you in the end. I know. I support West Ham.