Well, 24 hours later and we’re still no wiser as to what exactly has happened as a result of the election. Actually, “no result” would be a description closer to the mark. The Parrot household was up until gone 4am and we were as clueless when we crawled to bed as we had been when the polls closed.
The BBC didn’t help cast much light on events, in fact their coverage was decidedly odd. Despite months of preparation and a whacking great budget, you’d think it was something they’d cobbled together at the last minute. David Dimbleby looked bothered and bewildered by what was happening around him, as if he had just been dragged out of bed and you could almost imagine that he had his pyjama bottoms and slippers on beneath his desk.
Jeremy Vine was meant to replace Peter Snow with a very high-tech version of the swingometer and I suppose you couldn’t fault the former’s attempt at the eccentricities of the latter. Jeremy had the same exaggerated hand gestures and stooped gait as he tried to explain the inexplicable, but he looked for all the world like he was practicing Tai Chi.
They wheeled out Robert Peston to give his view on how the stock market was taking it and he may have made some sense if I wasn’t concentrating more on his less than glib delivery that made me think he had been hauled out of the local boozer just after closing time. In fact, the whole team behaved as if they’d had their cocoa spiked.
We had two tellys on the go, BBC and ITV, and at one stage, the first had just the three Sunderland seats as results, while the other had six for Labour and three others. I suppose that is the problem with the media trying to be first with the result before it is officially announced. The reporter at Brighton Pavilion was happily declaring victory for Caroline Lucas and the Green Party before admitting that the count hadn’t actually started.
The way the woman in the studio had to keep belting the giant i-Phone to get it to work summed up the dodgy nature of the technology. At one point, Jeremy Paxman was grilling one of the Milibands and trying to get him to confess that Labour would consider a pact with the LibDems, but the audio link was obviously breaking up. Exasperated, Paxo asked his victim if he could lip-read his questions, but the answer was no. It was raining and the OB monitor had packed up.
The thing is that everyone knew that the result was going to be a hung parliament and yet it seemed that this was the one scenario that the commentators and politicians had failed to prepare for. Best summed up by Ed Milligan at 1:50am, “The people have spoken, but we don’t know what they have said yet.”
Best PR performance of the night though was John Mothersole, the Returning Officer for Sheffield, who was hauled before the Radio Five microphone to explain why voters had been turned away from the crowded polling stations when they closed at 10pm. I don’t know who gave him his media brief, but his “here to explain, not excuse” line was spot on and the most statesmanlike interview I heard.
But the BBC can look on the bright side and treat last night as a dress rehearsal because there can be no doubt that we’ll be here to do the whole thing again before the year is out.