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Box Fresh

Box Fresh: A 2017 General Election Special
John Tatlock , June 9th, 2017 15:23

We forced our TV critic in residence John Tatlock to live-tweet last night's General Election, in this special edition of Box Fresh he reports back from the most extraordinary of nights in.

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Last night, just before the polls closed at 10pm, a nation anxiously awaited what has become any UK election night's key reveal: just how trippy was David Dimbelby's election night tie going to be? Dimbelbey is an old pro, and he didn't disappoint, with a eyeball-jangling number, half your nan's curtains, half bordello wallpaper.

There was also the matter of the exit poll. Exit polls have now correctly predicted the outcome of the last five general elections, and as is now known, last night's was a complete surprise to pretty much everyone, indicating the hung parliament we now have.

Alongside Dimbelby was the BBC's political editor, Laura Kuenssberg. Kuenssberg has attracted a lot of online ire in recent years for percieved anti-Labour (and in particular, anti Jeremy Corbyn) bias. I have to say, I can't get myself too worked up about this; when it's so obvious what way someone leans, well, they're not exactly misleading you. There's no question, though, that she spent the first hour or so of last night's coverage looking like her pet budgie had just died.

Overall, there was a dour mood in the BBC studio all night, which jarred hilariously with the batshit over-the-top presentation that has become the channel's election shtick. Dimbelby and Kuenssberg sat behind an enormous circular desk in a bright white room, stuffed to the gills with bits of tech and various background figures dotted around, like an Apple Store designed by Hieronymus Bosch.

Fittingly, stats presenter Emily Maitlis's area of the studio has been upgraded from 2015's giant iPad to a stupendously wide, bevel-less, high-def touchscreen monstrosity, replete with nifty transitional animations and sound effects.

Over on ITV, they've brought a big TV out in the corridor for the same task. One suspects that when Maitlis is bored of a weekend, she just phones up someone from ITV and whispers "Retina display, suckers" before hanging up.

ITV's election studio set is far more... pragmatic. It's obviously not the standard newsroom, and looks like a recently-refurbished food court in an out-of-town shopping centre. Commentator Robert Peston has a commendable tie game, deploying a TV-damaging shocking pink oblong, but visual fripperies are otherwise thin on the ground.

And then... nothing happens for ages. I don't know why I always watch election coverage. Well, in this case, I did so I could write this and tweet about it all night over on tQ's Twitter feed. But really, all that's happening is that some people are counting votes, and they'll tell you when they've finished, but honestly, it might not be for hours, sorry.

The BBC's solution to this is, as always, to banish Jeremy Vine to some terrifying low-res virtual world with extremely shoddy ambient occlusion. Three-dimensional graphs burst out of the floor as speculates and gesticulates wildly.

ITV take a slightly different tack, and attempt to grip the viewer with hours on end of ex-chancellor George Osborne unabashedly slating the Prime Minister for having run a shoddy campaign, and of course, he's absolutely right.

There's been so much noise around the Labour Party's internal divisions, that it's gone almost unnoticed what terrible disarray the Conservative party is in, but within a couple of hours of the exit poll, and the first results starting to come in, Tories are breaking ranks all over the place. Anna Sourby castigates May for running a "dreadful" campaign, and back over at the BBC, there's open discussion of the need for May to resign. Ken Clarke appears to harrumph and chortle his way through and extremely civil denunciation of his own party for basically everything they've done for the last decade. This is not what anyone was predicting earlier in the day.

ITV enter a state of acute confusion. I don't have the exact quote, but my notepad has it as "We thought it would be a Brexit election, but it seemed not to be, but perhaps it's a different Brexit election than the one we thought". So, er, yeah.

As the night wears on, Kuenssberg catches her breath, and with no chance to simply cheerlead a Tory win, she turns out to be an actually rather good on-the-fly political analyst. Also, as her fundamental love of crowing over the misfortune of others reasserts itself as the shock dies down, it's a treat to hear her sticking the boot into May.

My personal highlight of the night was seeing Nick Clegg lose his seat, giving the bizarre statement "you live by the sword, you die by the sword". Well, yes, Nick. That'll be a sword made out raised tuition fees rammed up your jacksie by an electorate with a raised youth turnout. Please do let the door hit you on the way out.

By about 5am, I'm feeling pretty dazed. The numbers are such that it would take some kind of act of an evil god to prevent the hung result, and yet... It's like the last half hour of James Cameron's Aliens, where you can't quite be sure whether the android Bishop can be trusted. So I stay up. Iain Duncan Smith pops up talking about stability, as it's not his own party that's both caused and been ripped apart by this shambles. Jacob Rees-Mogg does the same, while looking like a shit Harry Potter. Dennis Skinner holds onto his seat because he's Dennis God-Damn Skinner, so of course he does.

At almost exactly 6am, the election is officially called as a hung parliament. I hear the first mutterings of a Tory alliance with the DUP, and decide that is a horror for another day, and switch off the TV.

None of the shambolic parties that compete for the public's confidence have won it. For a brief, lucid moment, None Of The Above holds sway. The sun is up, and it's going to be the most beautiful day.

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Dante
Jun 9, 2017 5:03pm

First thought comes to mind that this was in many ways a mirror version of the American election. A perceived outsider with some strident views, hated by most of the media and with some questionable bedfellows versus a female politician with a chequered history of all her own as a result of her establishment membership, that came back to haunt her in a very tragic way (for us the people). Not sure Corbyn's brand of 70s communism coupled with endorsements from TV presenters and grime stars is the answer to all our problems but nethier are the Tories. Have we muddied the swamp with freshwater??? Answers on a postcard please.

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John Tatlock
Jun 9, 2017 6:06pm

I'm not a fan of Corbyn, myself, but "communism"? Come on.

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Dante
Jun 9, 2017 7:05pm

In reply to John Tatlock:

Ok 70s brand of leftist politics make sense??? For full disclosure I voted LibDems for tactical reasons. I'm glad of this since as it has given me a rather neutral perspective (as neutral as neutral can be) not a massive Corbyn fan but May MUST go!!!!! Anyways back to the Alice Coltrane retrospectives....

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John
Jun 9, 2017 7:57pm

Hope you enjoy getting to know Arlene Foster and the DUP. She's a nice woman and her party have some very interesting and progressive policies regarding women, gays and ethnic minorities. I'm sure you'll get on like a 'house on fire'. Enjoy!

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Jun 10, 2017 12:47am

In reply to Dante :

A checquered history? It was monotonously incompetent. She was completely out of her depth in this campaign, and soon we'll be rid of her and her platitudes. Say what you like about Corbyn's policies, at least he can have an adult conversation about them.

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Jun 10, 2017 7:59am

The UK government, as part of the good Friday agreement, is tasked, along with the Irish government to be an honest broker in the peace process. how can it perform this role if it's done a deal with the DUP? How can it possibly remain impartial?

The BBC has put it like this. It hardly emphasises the seriousness of what has happened. The Tory government are willing to put peace in the island of Ireland at risk in order to stay in power. I suspect we will hear very little about this in the English press.

Another potential problem is the planned restart of negotiations for power-sharing in the province.
Typically the British government tries to act as an honest broker between Republicans and Unionists. But if Mrs May is doing a deal with the DUP, that could make it harder to reach an agreement with Sinn Fein.

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John Tatlock
Jun 10, 2017 10:49am

> I suspect we will hear very little about this in the English press.

Oh, I don't know about that. I think this is going to really blow up in their faces. Within days, probably.

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John Tatlock
Jun 11, 2017 9:58am

Insightful couple of comments there. Well done.

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James H
Jun 12, 2017 9:16pm

A bit middle class and cosy this, isn’t it? Let’s all have a bit of a laugh and write something pithy and navel-gazing while the nation tries to prevent inner city kids starving and people dying on trolleys in hospital corridors at the most important political crossroads of the last 50 years. Kuenssberg’s biased against the left but it’s OK as long as it’s obvious. Presumably you feel the same about The Sun and The Daily Mail? Nothing at stake here – just some liberal journo bait.

Thank fuck the grime kids don’t read The Quietus is all I can say. Mobilise now. Jezza for PM and fuck austerity.

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Dante
Jun 12, 2017 9:23pm

Put down the pipe James.....

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John Tatlock
Jun 16, 2017 12:40am

In reply to James H:

I can see how you could read this article that way, and I suppose that's my fault. But honestly, that's not what I was trying to get at. This is the TV review column, so we thought it would be worthwhile to have a bit of a dig at the whole bizarre spectacle of election coverage. But I honestly don't in any way think any of this stuff is trivial. For the site generally, I'd point you to the article just before the election made up of accounts from social workers, nurses, doctors, emergency service workers and more, detailing in no uncertain terms how the conservative government is dragging the country into the ground. For myself, I can only resolve to try to write with more clarity in future, but I really didn't mean what you think I meant.

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Spencer Bavin
Nov 3, 2017 9:00am

You make so many great points here that I read your article a couple of times.

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