Yesterday’s Sunday Times reported how our traditional general election night is under threat from more and more councils wanting to move their count to a Friday.
Although there are some understandable reasons for this (principally the extra logistical burden of new checks against postal vote fraud), overall losing the drama of Thursday night through to the early hours of Friday morning would be a backwards step because:
- The drama of election night is one of the rare occasions when a mass public audience gets interested in the details of politics and hears news and information at more than nano-soundbite length.
- As not much else happens overnight, the election results get more and better media coverage than they do during the day, when there are more interruptions from other stories.
- Switching counts to Friday risks having the immediate news dominated by exit polls – i.e. largely about the UK-wide picture, whilst squeezing out the stories about the huge variations taking place all round the country. (A more partisan point is that it also means reports are likely to be pretty much all about the Labour/Conservative battle as the overall Lib Dem share of the vote in exit polls – unless very dramatic – is likely only to be a very rough indictator of the party’s performance in terms of seats. Saying “… and we don’t know about the Lib Dems” is likely to pale very quickly.)
- Particularly in the internet age, speculation and wild gossip quickly fills a news vacuum. Better to be providing hard information sooner rather than later.
- Quick counts provide more security against problems with ballot boxes being tampered with or lost. Serious allegations of this only happen rarely, but it is certainly not unknown.
Prompted by ConservativeHome’s Jonathan Isaby, a cross-party campaign is being run to “Save general election night!” Other supporters include Labour MP Tom Harris, and I’ve also signed up to back it.
You can back the campaign on Facebook by joining the group and outside of Facebook you can back the campaign by blogging about it or helping spread this post.