Tag Archives: general election

Election TV

Now that it’s all over, I thought I’d post a quick summary of what I think happened on TV last week.

It’s fairly simple in my view. The BBC went way over the top with their election studio. It was grand and impressive, but despite the lack of presentation, ITV in their little studio on the Grays Inn road were getting all the results first. Sometimes, ITV was 10 or more seats ahead of the BBC. The BBC also did that horrendous ‘ship of fools’ stunt where celebs were given alcohol on a Thames boat, so they could comment on the results to Andrew Neil. Neil does a good job of serious interviews, but here he was charged with trying to elicit content from the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Joan Collins. I cringed as I watched them offer their views on the election.

The saving grace for the BBC was David “the machine” Dimbleby. This election was possibly his finest hour – or 24 hours. He started presenting live on Thursday evening and then went straight through the night and into the chaos of the next day. I’m not sure when he stopped, but I estimated he had gone through to Friday lunchtime – others told me they saw him on air later. Yet he looked fresh and confident throughout. What a performance!

ITV’s set may have felt a bit cheap and cheerful, but they did get all the results first, they had some decent analysis that was not overwhelming (another BBC fault with Jeremy Vine and his green screen) and they really included the online community in the show. They were first to run the Youtube videos of people who could not vote, they had regular looks at Twitter to see what was being said, and they had Will Straw and Guido Fawkes blogging live from the ITV studios.

Sky was informative – they know how to get an immense amount of information on the screen at the same time. Watching Sky news is a bit like watching one of those financial news channels in Asia – three news tickers thundering across the screen with images and audio commentary that are not necessarily connected. But Sky did manage to put a good show together – their major failing in this election has been their partiality.

Everyone knows the Murdoch press favoured the Conservative party, but when it starts feeling like that on Sky News then it’s dangerous for a news channel that should be impartial and informative.

So, in my view, it was ITV news wot won it. Alastair Stewart may get something of a career resurgence from this as he was a decent host during the leader debates (suffering the disadvantage of being first and having to interpret all those debate rules) and a very strong host for the election evening itself.

Next time, I’ll just stay tuned to ITV. I never thought I would be saying that.
Big Ben and London bus

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What is Clegg doing? The answer is Mandelson!

This is the Mick Jagger election. None of the parties are getting any satisfaction.

Yet, even though he failed to win as many seats as expected, Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems are now the kingmakers.

He promised to talk first to whoever had the most seats – the Tories – but why would he really take that idea seriously now? The Tory MPs will not want to work closely with the Lib Dems and the Lib Dems I have been reading online are all horrified that there may now be a partnership with Cameron.

It’s a recipe for disaster and Clegg must surely realise this.

Perhaps it is why he is now playing hardball with his demands. As he entered talks with party officials today, Nick Clegg made a statement saying he has four big priorities: 1. Fair tax reform 2. Education 3. Approach to the economy 4. Political reform to the electoral system

I think he might be able to reach agreement with the Tories on points 1 and 2 as their manifesto pledges are not miles apart there, but Clegg has very open views on how to run the economy and it is through transparency and devolving power from the treasury. Plus he wants a root and branch reform of the electoral system, to introduce a system of proportional representation – consigning the first-past-the-post system to history.

The Prime Minister is extremely weak right now. Clegg could do a deal with Labour that gives him control over all four issues and become a reform parliament. Labour and the Liberal Democrats could join together to lead as a minority government, or they could bring the nationalists into the fold – who would almost certainly join a coalition if money was thrown to their regions.

If Clegg could boot out Brown and announce a reform government with an interim Prime Minister (Mandelson or Johnson?) and Vince Cable running the economy then I think a lot of Labour and Lib Dems would be happier than getting into bed with the Tories. And if the focus is on electoral and economic reform then they could pledge to call a new general election as soon as the electoral system is ready for change – let’s say after one year.

One year down the line, with a PR voting system, the Liberal Democrats would stand a very high chance of getting real power – with a lot more seats.

Clegg could get a lot more of his own MPs into parliament, totally reform the electoral system, get his man running the economy, and keep British politics generally focused on liberal values by kicking the Conservatives out for a generation.

So why is he still talking to Cameron?

Brown is now a spectator

Gordon Brown has said that he will wait to see if the Tories and Lib Dems can reach a deal. He offered to be there to talk to either leader if they wanted to come to him.

Nick Clegg is now the kingmaker – even though his party only won around half the seats they had hoped for. The electoral landscape in the UK is shifting like quicksand today.

Can Clegg do a deal with the Tories? His party really won’t like it, but he promised to talk first to the party with the most seats… that does not mean the deal is done. The Tories and Lib Dems won’t be able to reach a formal coalition as their manifestos are so far apart, but they could reach an agreement on where to cooperate, agreeing to disagree on the rest or to plan some managed reform on issues they disagree on.

Clegg said he doesn’t want to do a deal with a damaged Labour party, but Brown has offered genuine electoral reform.

If Clegg can’t agree a deal with Cameron then perhaps the most likely outcome now is that Clegg will side with the Labour party, forcing a new Prime Minister with a Lid Dem Chancellor – with a focus on a complete reform of the electoral process and a plan to run a new general election within two years… Allowing the Liberal Democrats to win a lot more seats using a more proportional voting system.

But the bottom line is, it’s all out of the Prime Minister’s hands now. He is just a spectator.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Live blogging for Reuters

During key parts of the general election I’m going to be blogging live for Reuters on their UK politics homepage. Do take a look later for the leaders debate to see what is being blogged in advance of the event, as it happens on TV, and after for the analysis… look forward to seeing you there. I’ll be pushing a lot of my comments on Reuters out to my Twitter feed too.

…and they’re off!

As expected, the government are calling the election today.

It was something of an open secret anyway, but now that it’s really happening it feels exciting that the race is going to start in earnest. There is just a short month now until the election on May 6. I’m going to start planning for a relaxing day on May 7, after what promises to be a nail-biting finish. The end of New Labour, a surprise retention of power, or a hung parliament. I can’t remember it ever being this uncertain…