Box Fresh: A 2017 General Election Special

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.

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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