9.55pm – Midnight

Ian Jones, Jack Kibble-White and Steve Williams on BBC1 and ITV’s 2001 Election Night

First published June 2001

The 7 June 2001 edition of the thrice-weekly Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks (audience demographic: 16-24 year olds) featured a somewhat laboured (no pun) call for first time voters to turn out. Hollyoaks‘ resident comedy duo, Max and OB, cut short a visit to their local to clumsily point out the importance of voting. “You’ve gotta have your say,” cautioned Max, and on cue the whole nation switched off their sets and headed for their polling stations. After exercising their democratic right, we can imagine that Max and OB downed a shandy before retiring home to follow the election coverage on the television. But which side would they have watched?


As in 1997, the BBC’s title sequence begins with a shot of the White Cliffs of Dover, and takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the UK. But never let it be said that, even though we’ve got a very similar team for the umpteenth year running, the Corporation aren’t afraid to innovate. Why, they’ve got a new theme tune, for a start, replacing the normal Rick Wakeman-composed ditty. The title sequence includes images of some of the main events of the last parliamentary term – Foot & Mouth disease, fuel protests, and so on – as if to point out that maybe Labour won’t have it their own way tonight and we could be in for some surprises. Or at least, that’s what they hope.

David Dimbleby takes his seat behind the swish V-shaped desk in what looks like a model for the next Live & Kicking studio. We’re then sent off on a whistle-stop tour around the UK, which goes very smoothly indeed – Robert Hall is in Sunderland, really getting excited about how quickly they could declare their result. There are some sweeping camera angles in this bit so we can see cars with ballot boxes arriving at the station and helpers darting into the counting centre with them. In contrast, Anna Ford has the bum job of the night – she’s reporting on Boris Johnson’s attempts to win Henley.

We’re introduced to the studio team, and Peter Snow unveils his new toy for the evening – the “laser beam swingometer”, which is similar to the usual swingometer, but projected in front of him like a roulette wheel. There’s also his “electoral staircase”, where we’ll be able to see how near Hague gets to the door of number 10 – basically this is the old “battleground” chart, only slightly more whimsical. Peter shows what the result could be if there’s a massive swing to the Tories, and it’s nice of him to bother.

Jeremy Paxman’s up on the studio gantry, behind a desk resembling a bath. He’ll be joined by an array of politicians throughout the night. Next to him, Fiona Bruce holds the fort in the “coffee shop”, which later in the evening will, promises Fiona, be the location for “celebrities” and “humour”. Joining David at his desk is election night regular Professor Anthony King, statistician Alison Park and BBC political editor Andrew Marr. We see them deep in thought and making copious notes. All the on-screen personnel have to wear apolitical colours, so Andrew wears a lurid green tie, which rather unpleasantly strobes all night.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Dimbleby opens ITV’s coverage with cocky grandeur. This is to be big, live, long and with no adverts. He is keen to acquaint us with how it will go in ITV’s especially built, two storey election studio. Whilst the studio might be impressive, we love the graphics and the gimmicks best of all. Jonathan obviously thinks ITV have the best tricks this year and is positively beside himself as he introduces Dermot Murnaghan and his “astonishing array of virtual reality graphics”. We cringe, knowing that the BBC would never be so gauche as to use such an outdated phrase as “virtual reality”. Nonetheless, Dermot’s virtual House of Commons and virtual Great Britain are all great. Best of all is the “smileometer” which allows us to assess the progress of the two main parties simply by the grimaces and smiles across the face of their Leaders. Fantastic.

The big screen behind Jonathan is – he advises us – ITV’s “election monitor”. He is in a state of excitement now that will last into the wee small hours and talks in hushed tones as we are able to witness the last few votes being cast before the polling stations close. A minute away too from the release of ITV’s MORI exit poll we get a little clock counting down in the corner, just so we know, and we’re presented with some of the “most memorable images of the campaign”. Then …


Big Ben digitally strikes the hour as the rushing graphic reminds us that ITV is the home of the ten o’clock news. The prediction is for a Labour landslide. They reckon Blair’s majority will be down only four from the last election. The turnout though is very low, perhaps only 63%. Jonathan Dimbleby’s main sparring partner for the night has been sitting opposite him patiently for the first five minutes, but it is only now that John Sergeant (for it is he) is allowed to speak. “(The Tories) have effectively wasted the last four years” is his damning pronouncement. There seems to be little else to say at this point and few people to speak to, however Jonathan reassures us that we will be hearing from the “big league politicians” as the night progresses.

In the meantime, Dermot starts to put that virtual studio to use as the exit poll results are represented by a number of different graphical devices. Meanwhile, taking a little tour round ITV’s interactive results service (available via ONdigital), one cannot help but be impressed by how comprehensive it all is. You are able to follow the vote of any constituency you want. Unfortunately, the service fails just before midnight, never to return. Never mind, once Dermot has finished we are introduced to our third lynch pin of the evening (alongside Messrs Dimbleby and Sergeant), Professor Colin Rallings. For some reason the Prof isn’t allowed to sit with the two J’s so every time we want to speak to him we need to find him sitting at his desk in ITV’s custom built studio. Rallings will prove to be – along with Sergeant – ITV’s most able political commentator, seemingly able to provide a salient answer to any banal question that Jonathan throws at him.

The BBC/NOP exit poll also predicts a Labour landslide, with a majority of 160 and a swing of 0.1%. On cue, the BBC team mobilise. John Prescott appears on the big screen behind David Dimbleby’s head. There’s the usual post-exit poll ritual of David trying to get them to say that they’ve won, while Prescott says they’ll wait for the actual results. David makes a comment about punching voters, eerily at the exact point that John’s earpiece becomes unreliable. He hears him well enough to say that this incident was “regrettable”.

Peter Snow gets his laser beam swingometer out and shows us what would happen if this poll was completely correct, but doesn’t get out his mock-up House of Commons until 10.06pm, some two minutes after ITV. Also Peter can’t walk through it like Dermot Murnaghan can, although he’s not letting that dampen his enthusiasm. That said, he seems very unsure about what the Liberal Democrats might do tonight, helpfully saying that “they may go up or down”. Jeremy Paxman’s joined by Michael Portillo, as he was at this point in ’97, and Portillo says exactly what he said then – “we’ll wait for the real results”. Jeremy asks incredulously, “Do you really believe your campaign was good?” in a tone of voice we’ll hear a lot of tonight.

At 10.10pm we head back to Sunderland and Robert Hall is getting very animated indeed about the time of declaration. So exciting is this, we get to see a ballot box being taken out of the polling station and being transported to the counting centre, although it’s uncertain exactly what the purpose of this little vignette is. Robert then rushes into the hall and speaks to the returning officer. The returning officer doesn’t want to reveal “the secrets of how they do it”, but does promise that it should be “a lot of fun”. Let’s hope so – we’re missing Big Brother for this, where housemate Helen has just revealed she wouldn’t vote Tory because they’re “stuck up”.

On ITV Jonathan Dimbleby thinks Labour are “virtually claiming victory” already. Their obligatory outside broadcasts from each of the leader’s homes then follows with the customary “leader going to vote” story being told three times in quick succession. Hague’s little moment is accompanied by already gloomy debate in the studio regarding his political future. Then, there’s a problem. We cut for a moment to Charles Kennedy obviously ready to be interviewed, and then for some reason back to Jonathan, who obviously confused, proclaims that we are watching “Election 200 … 2001″. With that it is back to Kennedy and an apology from Jonathan.

When it comes to interviewing Jonathan is certainly no Paxman, however he does accuse Kennedy of having a “bit of cheek”. Throughout this encounter we can just make out what sounds like a crossed line. The interview is curtailed however as Jonathan now has someone else to speak to, namely John Prescott (fresh from the Beeb) and Michael Ancram. However, Jonathan in his enthusiasm continually cuts across both of them. “This is a double disaster,” he suggests to Ancram. “We fought one of the most disciplined campaigns … ” begins Ancram in retaliation, but it’s too late Jonathan is off again, apologising for doing so, but turning instead to Prescott. Interviews over, Sergeant reflects that Prescott is looking very downbeat for a winner.

At 10.15pm we leave the election for a bit on BBC1 to have a roundup of the rest of the day’s news, with Michael Buerk in the news studio. In the Radio Times, this is billed as lasting 35 minutes, the same as usual, but in fact the bulletin’s completed within five minutes, as if nothing much has happened. We’ve seen this elsewhere today – the ITV Evening News, for example, was read by John Suchet on his own, rather than the usual two-presenter format, as if nobody else could be bothered coming in.

After the regional news and weather, we’re back with David Dimblebly in the studio. He sums up the main points so far, referring to graphics that don’t actually appear on screen. Then a further cock-up comes from Tanya Beckett in East Ham who’s unsure as to when David’s thrown to her, which is his fault for failing to introduce her properly. At 10.25pm we’ve got the first editions of tomorrow’s papers, and all are very amused by the Mirror’s front page which tells the Labour party to “GET BACK TO WORK”.

Andrew Marr informs us what we’re likely to see over the next 24 hours and tells us that Tony Blair should be in Number 10 by 11.30am tomorrow, which is lucky for the BBC who are planning to go off air at lunchtime. David seems very distracted, interrupting Andrew during an obvious summing-up sentence, when if he’d waited 10 seconds Andrew would have stopped talking anyway. We’ve got to go to Charles Kennedy, who’s interviewed in his garden for five minutes. This is different to 1997, when Paddy Ashdown was grabbed in a scrum of reporters and asked one question. That’s the BBC’s first gain of the night.

Back at ITV we have one of their wonderfully spurious and pointless ideas. Reporter Katie Derham is going to travel around the country to gauge the voters’ mood. Starting in Edinburgh, she tells us she has a “trusty helicopter” which will take her to Manchester and then Birmingham. She is too jolly though, as if she is reporting back for GMTV. “Why bother?” is the question as Jonathan Dimbleby then proceeds to inform us that ITV have a reporter at every counting centre anyway. Next a little more explanation on the mechanics of ITV’s broadcast: as each result comes in we are advised that they will appear in a “headline flash” which will in turn update “all the graphics including the virtual reality graphics”. As if to stress the point as to how innovative this broadcast is going to be, we then hand across to Mary Nightingale who advises us that this is the “most interactive election programme ever”, and then having said little else we cut to Dermot who is walking very slowly and deliberately across his virtual reality studio lest he knocks over a computer generated vase, or – more likely – walk straight through one of the benches in his virtual reality world.


David Dimbleby’s getting very restless on BBC1, waiting for something to happen. He’s continually fiddling with his glasses, putting them on and then removing them. This’ll make it a bugger to edit if they release the highlights on a video.

One of the most welcome parts of election night is that almost all of the BBC’s staff is sent out to report. Thus Huw Edwards is stationed outside William Hague’s house, although it’s very dark and he could really be anywhere. Hague isn’t going to appear for a while, and Huw seems a bit irritable, but David’s constant interruptions are not helping. Anthony King speaks at last at 10.35pm, saying that the Labour party are in line for something “quite remarkable, a second term”, before adding that the Tories are “in the asteroid belt” – King seems to be trying to patent a catchphrase after 1997′s legendary “It’s an asteroid hitting the earth!” line.

Peter Snow shows his electoral staircase again, but then it all happens, as an actual staircase is wheeled on so Peter can climb the stairs along with his graphic. This is something that ITV didn’t count on, especially as Peter’s enthusiasm means that this section is threatening to turn into something along the lines of Think of a Number. Throughout the night we get snippets of information scrolling along the screen – news of seats soon to declare and other election news, and at 10.40pm this reports that two people have been shot at a polling station in Derry. However this fact then goes unremarked upon by everyone in the studio, as Jeremy wants to know if he can speak to John Maples or not.

Jeremy does get to speak to John Maples, and then talks to Lord Falconer at the desk. He asks him if we “should trust the opinion polls like we trusted the projected customer figures for the Dome”, which is a riff that Jeremy returns to throughout his conversations with him. He then goes on to fluster Shirley Williams by telling her to “be quick”, even though the Sunderland South result is still two minutes away. There’s another bit of information to comment on, though – Sunderland’s turnout is 48%, which all assembled agree is “terrible”.

The pace is picking up a little now on ITV where we visit Bernard Ponsonby in a horrible studio in Glasgow. He lets us know what he is going to do for us this evening (Scottish analysis) and introduces his colleague, Professor Bill Miller who is, and will, remain mute for the next two hours. As we return to the two J’s we get the first repeat (of many tonight) of the ITV Election 2001 sting, accompanied by a nice camera sweep down and over that custom built two-storey studio. Then it’s over to Jon Suchet for a brief bulletin covering the day’ s other events. It is apposite then that the main story is Jeffery Archer’s trial. This a night when the Tories are going to be made to suffer again for their past misdeeds.

Back on the election trail, James Mates is in Sunderland South, traditionally the constituency which declares their result the quickest. Mates helpfully informs us that they use a special grade of paper to aid a fast count. Jonathan Dimbleby advises the reporter “we will get back to you as soon as the count has started … finished.” Meanwhile Nicholas Owen has been following the progress of the actual ballot box in the St Thomas ward (another one of those crazy ITV ideas). He is very jolly but can think of little insightful to say, finally plumping on asking one of the counters “do you think you know what you are doing?” before wishing him the best of luck with his counting. Then it’s that ITV Election 2001 sting again, before poor old Jonathan has visible difficulty with his earpiece.

The first declaration of the night is indeed Sunderland South with its go faster paper. A comfortable hold for Labour sees a small swing to the Conservatives, and at last we have something to get our teeth into. What does it all mean? Colin Rallings thinks it is pretty insignificant. Sergeant, still in contemplative mode, chips in that we should not get too pious about a low turnout. But ITV doesn’t know the meaning of the word “pious” as another visit to Dermot and his virtual smileometer soon reveals. A brisk interview with Lord Tebbit follows. “Lord Tebbit, it looks pretty dire doesn’t it?” asks Jonathan. As Tebbit concedes the point, Jonathan tries to persuade him that the Tory campaign on Europe was misjudged. However, Tebbit remains pragmatic and elusive claiming that he thinks Hague should stay, and responds that it was the economy, “stupid”. Once he’s gone, Sergeant quietly agrees whilst Jonathan wrestles with his earpiece again.

Ahead of the Sunderland result on BBC1 Tony King predicts a Labour total of about 21,000, and the variance on this is what we should look out for to see what might happen. The actual total is 19,921, which is promptly analysed to within an inch of its life. Tony King suggests that the swing of 2.7% is “not as good as we suggested”. Peter gets out the swingometer and refers to “the result” as if we’ve had about a hundred results in.

We go over to “Nick” Witchell – and that’s how he’s billed on screen – in Conservative target Romford, where he mentions that the Tory candidate is pro-hanging, has had visits from Norman Tebbit and Margaret Thatcher, and has been accompanied on the campaign by his pet pit bull terrier, called Spike. Thank you for that, Nick. Eventually we get to hear something about the shooting in Derry, as Denis Murray appears from Belfast. He says that the results from Northern Ireland could be “hugely significant”, which is good news for the Beeb as they’re looking for reasons to get people to stay up.

Jeremy Paxman’s back and talks to Michael Portillo a bit more, with Lord Falconer and Shirley Williams remaining virtual bystanders. Lord Falconer is probably pleased with this, as when Jeremy does speak to him, it’s to do a joke about the Dome again. Shirley Williams calls Charles Kennedy a “spinless” leader, which nobody bothers to make a joke about. There’s a small argument, to which Jeremy responds “The campaign’s over now, enough point-scoring”. Portillo threatens, half-jokingly, to leave, but Peter Snow’s got some interesting facts for him – the results of an opinion poll they’ve been carrying out. It says that 34% of people believe that Labour have had the best policy on Europe, and that most ex-Tories wouldn’t return as they “wouldn’t improve services”. There’s some good news for Portillo, as 34% of current Tory voters think he should take over as leader, while former Tory voters prefer Kenneth Clarke.

We go back to Jeremy who asks Portillo what he thinks of that. He begins, “Let’s talk about the issues”, to which Jeremy responds, “No, let’s talk about the leadership”, while Portillo is actually talking about the issues. It seems that Jeremy is mostly happy to go for the jugular, and if this means they don’t answer then that’s OK.

Turning to Lord Falconer, Jeremy then asks what the new Labour government are planning to do in the next term. Lord Falconer says that he isn’t going to answer that as they’ve only had one result. At the moment there’s a great deal of treading water, an odd lull before the next interesting thing happens. So it seems rather pointless for Jeremy to cut off Shirley Williams just as it looks like we’re about to get something resembling a debate.

On ITV it’s time for our first regional opt out. But it’s brief, allowing Ponsonby to ask us rhetorically “can the Scottish Tories win a single seat?” Back in London, the now wistful John Sergeant cites Portillo and Tebbit as the “wise heads” of the Conservative Party. Meanwhile Jonathan Dimbleby reports that already scathing criticism of the Tory campaign has been voiced by John Maples (reiterating points he’s already made on the Beeb).

Mark Austin is at the Labour front-line, braving out the embarrassment of Survivor‘s appalling ratings. “You’re a great survivor – as it were – Mark,” giggles Jonathan. Mark is cold and obviously the joke prickles. We get little more out of him and so ITN’s other pinup Dermot tells us that to win the election Hague needs “get this – a swing of 11.5%”.


On BBC1 it’s back to the desk, where Anthony King says that the Conservatives had “no chance” of winning, and he and David Dimbleby say that they should have spent the entire campaign emphasising Labour’s failures in the last term. Perhaps they should have said this at the start of the programme, rather than make us wait up all night. Andrew Marr joins in, saying that the Tories should have made it clear that you could be “young, black, gay in the party”, and notices that only John Maples has called the current situation “awful”.

For the past 10 minutes ITV have been all over the place. First of all the two Js speculate on the possibility of David Blunkett for Home Secretary, and then it’s a quick return to Dermot’s virtual area as he informs us “we are now predicting a 183 majority for Labour”.

A check in with some Liberal Democrat party workers provides the night’s most disastrous interview thus far, as they either have absolutely nothing to say or struggle to speak English. “A rather stunned response” decides Jonathan Dimbleby, before speculating on the current whereabouts of William Hague. Wherever he is, he won’t have given in yet, decide the two Js. Another quick interview follows with the supposed future Home Secretary. Jonathan puts the question to him, but predictably Blunkett side-steps. He is apparently far more worried about the prospects of the re-election of Estelle Morris. In fact so worried is he that every sentence he utters during this interview concludes with him clucking in Mavis Riley fashion “I just worry for Estelle.”

Meanwhile, reporter Colin Baker is in Oldham – with bigger worries on his mind than the fate of Estelle Morris. If It’ll Be Alright on the Night has taught us anything it is that Baker can always be relied upon for an amusing mishap or incident and sending him to such a troubled location is almost a guarantee that there will be fun and games at some point. He might just be the best reason to stay up in what looks set to be a night bereft of surprises. This time though, it all passes off without incident.

On BBC1 David Dimbleby is getting very restless; “We’ve been rabbitting on for an hour and a quarter, and we’ve only had one result”. We take a look at people counting all around the country, but then they realise that during this lull it’d be the ideal opportunity to visit Fiona’s coffee bar. This set does appear to actually have a staffed bar on it, but we never get close enough to see this properly. Instead, Fiona talks to Tim Rice and Tony Robinson, although she loses points by introducing “Tony Robinson, or Baldrick! I bet people always call you that!”. Robinson looks unimpressed. After they’ve spoken, we then meet some Conservatives, although it’s never made clear exactly how they’re attached to the Conservative Party – seemingly they just vote for them.

Then it’s time for the promised “humour”, with Alistair Beaton, Anne Leslie and Martin Rowsen. This is not really a laugh riot, with Beaton coming up with the hilarious line “I think the electorate have been disgusted by what they’ve seen over the last month”, and in fact the biggest laugh comes from the exchange: “Anne Leslie, would you vote Tory?”/”No.” Still, Martin’s drawn a cartoon, which we get to see.

Anne MacKenzie in Edinburgh looks ahead to tonight’s results in Scotland, and says that “Edinburgh Pentlands and Ayr look rather better for the Tories than the polls would suggest”. You note that earlier these were referred to as “our polls” or “our prediction” – now they’re “the polls”.

It’s now 11.20pm and, at last, we’re going to have another result. Or are we? We cross to Sunderland North, but they’re not ready yet, and in the interim David asks Robert Hall exactly why Sunderland bother being so quick; Robert suggests that it’s “to be seen”. It’s bad luck for Sunderland, though, as Hamilton South are declaring and we dart straight there for the result. The returning officer gets the winner’s name wrong, to much hilarity. We get the usual statistics and graphics, and this time they include the turnout and how this varies from the last election, which we didn’t get in 1997. Then we get the Sunderland North result, which ITV don’t bother with; there’s no comment on the wild applause that the BNP candidates seem to have received in these seats.

David throws over to Jeremy Paxman. “Thanks Jeremy” replies Jeremy. He’s joined by Anne Widdecombe now, who’s always good value for an eventful interview. Sure enough, she takes umbrage at the current situation being referred to as a landslide, and a disaster for the Tories, as “the story is changing all the time”. She refuses to concede that Labour have won, and indeed says, “If we have lost … if we have lost”. Jeremy says that “your campaign was 12 solid days on saving the pound, and it’s still here!”, producing a pound coin from his pocket to “demonstrate”. Paxman doesn’t need Day Today-style gimmicks like this. Lord Falconer looks extremely bored.

We join John Pienaar in Birmingham, who’s looking forward to the Birmingham Yardley result as it’s thought that “Labour’s rising star Estelle Morris might lose her seat”. David points out that “The Sun claims Estelle Morris will be Education Secretary, which is where we get most of the information about Mr Blair’s cabinet”. He also refers to Morris as “the man” and quickly corrects himself. Andrew Marr says that the best thing about election night is “all these quirky upsets”; so stay tuned, folks …

On ITV Jonathan Dimbleby is keen for us to listen to the Tory’s Lord Taylor as it appears he might have something interesting to say. In the event, he actually does, and his open criticism of Hague is the most enthralling moment yet, claiming – as he does – that the Tories are alienating ethnic minorities. True to course for tonight though Jonathan cuts him off to bring us the Hamilton South result. There is slight interference on the feed from the declaration and the result itself (a slight swing towards the SNP) is adjudged to be of no significance. However, ITV are predicting no Scottish seats for the Tories – despite the apparent Conservative confidence over Edinburgh Pentlands. They are now claiming that Labour will win 421 seats (their best result ever), the Conservatives will drop to 150 (their worst result ever) and the Liberal Democrats will secure 58 (their best since 1929). These are seismic political predictions, but yet there is still a growing sense of anticlimax. Hangdog Sergeant pauses to consider the relative success of Charles Kennedy’s campaign before finally concluding that “in the Commons he is often not very impressive”.


Gordon Brown joins David Dimbleby from his count, smiling slightly less than he did at this point in 1997. David’s tickled by the Mirror’s “GET BACK TO WORK” headline, as he asks Brown about it, an hour after he’s asked John Prescott. Predictably, David asks Brown if “Tony Blair will remain Prime Minister for the full term of this government” – Brown doesn’t claim that he can’t hear him, and instead says that of course he will. What else did you expect, David?

Houghton is the first result the BBC don’t show live, with “LAB HOLD” flashing up on the screen instead. This isn’t mentioned by anyone for another five minutes, as we’re now taken on a whistle-stop tour of various counts. We see Kenneth Clarke in Rushcliffe, and David quotes what Clarke has been saying over the course of the campaign. Oddly, it sounds as if David is attempting to do an impression of Clarke while he quotes this. David’s observational skills don’t seem to extend to basic facts, though, as he points out Arthur Scargill and mistakenly calls him leader of the Socialist Alliance. We then alight on a face of BBC elections past; Esther Rantzen, who is supporting her former producer Shaun Woodward in St Helens South. That’s followed by a trip to Kensington and Chelsea, where there’s a candidate dressed as a crab. “It’s just a bit of fun,” says David.

Guto Hari reports from Cardiff and looks forward to tonight’s results from Wales, some of which he forecasts will be “very close”; so stay tuned, folks. It’s then back to Peter who wheels out his staircase again for the next bit of ladder-based hilarity. Charles Kennedy is pictured on a landing between two staircases; below him are the seats the Liberal Democrats have at the moment, above him are the seats that they’re hoping to gain. Peter wonders whether Kennedy will be going “upstairs” or “downstairs”, and predicts that they’ll have 54 seats – that’s “upstairs”.

Over on ITV, one of tonight’s lip smacking story prospects gets a suitably arch talking up from Jonathan Dimbleby who bills it as “Peter Mandelson the Prince of New Labour versus Arthur Scargill – King of Old Labour”.

On BBC1 Jeremy Vine’s in Hartlepool. He gestures at the door through which Peter Mandelson will be entering the leisure centre later in the evening. But there is some news, as Vine spoke to Arthur Scargill earlier, and asked him how many votes he’d be “half satisfied” with; Scargill’s response – “one”. John Ware reports from Wyre Forest, where there’s an independent candidate standing, and it looks like he’s got a chance of winning. He says that the turnout is “very high”, and the Labour party are disappointed about that.

This is the BBC’s cue to discuss the turnout again, with David calling it “astonishingly low”. He talks to Tony King about this, who is “certainly against” compulsory voting. David says “You’re not suggesting, are you, that those people who didn’t vote are all lazy and couldn’t be bothered?” which sounds oddly forceful. Tony King says “no”, unsurprisingly. They’re estimating a national turnout of 60% which “Andy” Marr thinks is “amazing”.

Jeremy Paxman speaks to Kenneth Clarke from his count, but nobody mentions David’s antics earlier on. Instead Clarke says that we’re in for “an interesting, unusual night”, which is probably what Jeremy wants to hear to stop people going to bed. He also says that his problem is that “I don’t agree with my party over the pound”, to which Jeremy pulls a face. As Big Ben is projected on the big screen, so we can see that it’s coming up to midnight, Alison Park points out that Tony Blair’s failed in one aspect – New Labour was all about “connecting politics to the people”, something the turnout’s failed to illustrate.

On ITV Gordon Brown is next to face Jonathan Dimbleby. This is a thoughtful and interesting interview although the opening question (“Was it your campaign wot won it?”) reasserts again that Jonathan is no Paxman.

Now the results start to come in a little faster. Time to engage second gear? Malcolm Rifkind is still trotting out “wait and see”s and seems glibly confident of his own chances. We are told that Torbay will declare soon. This apparently is a key result, so we cut straight across to see very little happening. In time the two J’s conversation begins to wander. Sergeant believes the Tories have lost the campaign because it turned into a comparison between Hague and Blair. Over to Colin now for a little more chatter, as everyone waits for something to happen.

Now we are in business. It’s Bill Roache – loyal supporter of Hague! Bill bemoans in strident terms the media treatment of his beloved leader, essentially calling “foul” on the whole election.