The 2015 election will mark a watershed for election coverage – David Dimbleby will present his last BBC General Election programme, having featured in every once since 1970. He started out with a full head of hair, presenting from counts up and down the country before taking over the headline role in 1979 and has not let go since.
For those into election coverage, BBC Parliament sometimes shows entire run-throughs of previous elections, with giant analogue swing-o-metres, bulky computers and big interviews. Not much has changed really, with the same mix of interviews, vote counts and time-filling speculation. Sure, Election 2015 will have more data, quicker reactions and more sophisticated polling, but the coverage will essentially remain the same. It’s also worth noting how tough the job is, as the first several hours are a waiting game, with results not generally coming in until 1 or 2 in the morning.
To see how election coverage has evolved over time, there’s a great YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/1w3uG6a) which has archived coverage going back to 1945.
The BBC’s 2015 coverage will be two-handed, with Dimbleby hosting the overnight coverage of the vote (10pm – 7am) and Huw Edwards taking over from Friday morning and until 10pm that night. However, Dimbleby will return to the hot seat on Friday night, presenting a special post-election edition of Question Time. This will make particularly good viewing if voters return a hung parliament and panellists become embroiled in the complexities of coalition negotiations. Perhaps, a hung parliament is not the result Dimbleby personally wants as in 2010, he broadcasted for five days straight as no clear winner emerged. However, another hung parliament may act as a sort of election broadcasting swansong for him.
Born in 1938, Dimbleby has been the BBC’s commentator for a wide range of special broadcasting events including, but not limited to, the State Opening of Parliament; the programme marking the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the funerals of Princess Diana and the Queen Mother. Alongside Sir David Attenborough, he holds a ‘legendary’ status you can’t imagine other current presenters ever attaining.
Dimbleby comes from strong broadcasting stock – he is the son of the late Richard Dimbleby, former World War II war correspondent and presenter of Panorama, which Dimbleby also presented – and elder brother to Jonathan, who presents ‘Any Questions’ on Radio 4 and anchored the ITV’s General Election coverage in 1997, 2001 and 2005, but ultimately could not quite match his brother’s panache for the role. However, this does not seem to have transcended into a sibling rivalry – when asked in an interview about ITV’s plans to hold a riverboat party with the likes of Kevin Spacey and Richard Branson, David Dimbleby remarked: “They’ve got Jonathan Dimbleby, what do they need Kevin Spacey for?”
It is remarkable to think that David Dimbleby has anchored General Elections spanning half a century and in doing so, seen political big beasts such as Thatcher and Blair form governments and seismic political change. David Dimbleby, we salute you!
- David Dimbleby waiting outside No. 10 in the 1970 election
- David Dimbleby Panorama with Leader of the Opposition Margaret Thatcher
- David Dimbleby introducing the 1979 election coverage
- David Dimbleby grilling Gordon Brown in 1992
- David Dimbleby getting a scorpion tattoo