Vintage election nights: the time a painter had to come on screen to extend the Swingometer

I have always remembered the classic moment when, during the BBC general election night TV coverage of 1970, a painter had to be brought on to extend the swingometer. This was because the Conservative swings were unexpectedly high, and the swingometer didn’t go far enough to cover some of them.

In these days of high tech, it is difficult to believe that such a thing happened. Indeed, as I have recalled the incident over the years, I don’t think many people have believed me.

Well, now for the first time I have found footage of the incident, courtesy of the BBC Archive (which itself has been archived). Click here to see Cliff Michelmore introduce Bob McKenzie, the swingometer and the painter.

There is an assortment of election night footage in the archive.

Another clip that caught my eye, is this one of Sue Lawley rounding up the results for London and the South-East in October 1974.

Up until then, BBC Election Night coverage had been a virtually all-male preserve, bar the odd bit of Barbara Castle and secretaries rushing hither and thither in the background with bits of paper.

So, Sue Lawley was a welcome end to the male domination of Election Nights. We knew her well in the West Country, from her time on BBC Spotlight South-West. In fact, she once opened a fete in our Cornish Town. She gave out pieces of cake to the fete-goers. I queued up for some, but when I got to the famous broadcaster (bearing in mind I was ten years old at the time) I was completely speechless. Fortunately, the word drought ended when Ms Lawley said “Do you want some cake?” to which I replied “Yes, please”. This brief exchange has, I believe, given me the right over the years to say that I have “met Sue Lawley”.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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This entry was posted in General Election and TV and film.
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One Comment

  • Interestingly no seats at all for the Liberals in London and the South East – despite a vote of 18%! It looks from the map on Wikipedia that the nearest seats to London where the Isle of Ely and the Isle of Wight.

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