We Spent The Day At Sky News To Find Out What Will Happen On Election Night
The Debrief: Election day is a mere two days away - here's what you can expect on election night...
Election day is almost here. On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of ballots will be counted through the night across Britain.
For the first time it’s not simply a battle between the Tories and Labour but a serious contest between six parties: Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, UKIP and Green. And, the truth is, it’s still too close to call.
Nobody really knows who will be in charge of the country once the votes have been added up. Because of this, Thursday evening is set to be one of the most dramatic and unpredictable election nights in recent history. It’s as close to the X Factor as politics gets.
With days to go, The Debrief spent a day behind the scenes at Sky News to find out what to expect from their election coverage...
In the newsroom everybody’s buzzing around. There are live images coming in via satellite from Nepal of a teenager who’s been rescued from the rubble after last week’s devastating earthquake. Now that Princess Charlotte has made her grand entrance, they’re waiting on one thing: the general election.
All eyes are on who might have their finger on the nuclear button, the final say over our schools, student loans, hospitals and pensions once the people have spoken on Thursday. Will it be Dave, Ed, Nigel, Nicola, Natalie or Leanne?
Historically, TV presenters and their producers pull an all-nighter, reporting the results as they trickle in. The winner, though, is not clear until the next day. This year may be a little different.
Sky’s election night coverage, Decision Time, will begin at 9pm on Thursday. The polling stations across the country’s 650 constituencies will close at 10pm. An exit poll (based on what people have said about who they voted for as they leave the polling station) will be reported at around 11pm and may give an early idea of who might make up the government. However, these aren’t always reliable, so be wary of anyone declaring an early win.
As it stands, the polls and the experts are suggesting we will have a hung parliament as in 2010. So it’s not just election night that matters – it’s likely to be the next morning, afternoon, day and possibly even week after.
The Con-Dem coalition, which has been in charge for the last five years, took five days to negotiate, but bargaining could take longer this time around because things might be messier.
It’s likely that the Lib Dems won’t have enough MPs to help make up a majority with either the Tories or Labour (as in 2010). On top of this, MPs are far less willing than before to accept deals struck on their behalf (see Nick Clegg’s decision to get into bed with Cameron and the fate of the Lib Dems). The Tories, for example, have demanded an internal vote on any new coalition agreement involving their party. All of this is only likely to delay things.
So that’s what we don’t know. Aside from the fact that David Cameron can’t say tampon out loud and that it was great to see some female politicians hugging on stage before a debate, what do we actually know?
1. The first constituency expected to declare its results is Houghton and Sunderland South (they’ve been first for the last five years). However, it will still be far too early to tell the end result.
2. Sky’s anchor Adam Boulton and political analyst, the aptly named, Michael Thrasher, will be unpicking the numbers to identify winners and losers as the night goes on.
3. In Sky’s special election studio there’s a wall of screens – screens on screens on screens – standing in front of it is like how I imagine it would be to see the world through the eyes of a fly. Each screen will show a live feed from a camera at one of 275 results declarations; all operated by journalism students.
4. At around 1am several Northern Ireland constituencies are expected to announce their results. At around 3am the producers and presenters will be on their seventh coffee as Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, should be the first leader to find out her constituency’s results. If she wins, this will be the Green Party’s second seat in Parliament.
5. If you’re still watching at 4am, Labour leader, Ed Miliband, is expected to find out results for his seat, Doncaster North. This will be a key point for the analysts in the studio because several key marginal seats that could decide the overall outcome are also expected to declare around now.
6. David Cameron’s safe seat in Oxfordshire and Nick Clegg’s slightly less safe seat of Sheffield Hallam should follow at about 4.30am. The results for Clegg are expected to be a key indicator as to whether the Lib Dems will be a contender in any coalition, so if you’re still going this is one to look out for.
7. At 5am Decision Time will start broadcasting live from Westminster and will remain there until a government is formed, however long that takes! Between 5am to 6am other seats will declare their results, including that of UKIP leader Nigel Farage who will find out whether he has a secured a place in the House of Commons.
8. Sky’s Sunrise presenter, Isabel Webster, who has been reporting on the election campaign so far, told us the real challenge with this complicated election has been language: ‘It’s about asking difficult questions but making it relevant to our viewers.’ She says it’s the journalists’ job to make sure ‘everyone knows how this is going to affect them personally’.
9. Isabel also points out that ‘young people are consuming news differently’. It’s true: when was the last time you sat in front of the TV and caught the 6 o’clock news after Neighbours?
So whether you stay up all night, check in in the morning or follow up in the afternoon, it’s likely you’ll be in front of your laptop (as usual), with mobile phone (where it always is) in hand.
Sky will also have live minute-by-minute coverage and analysis on their website, mobile app and, believe it or not, on Snapchat. Jess, the Snapchat producer, tells me that her job is ‘about reaching an audience who might not be watching the channel.’ She hopes that you’ll ‘see a Snapchat and go off to read more about that particular story.’
If, like 2010, there’s no outright majority when we wake up on Friday, it won’t be decision time at all. Last time, we knew by around 10am that we had a hung parliament. So it won't be just a long night, but a long week. The debate about which combination of leaders could hold power will continue as long as their bargaining with one another does.
So, hopefully there will be more videos like this one to keep us going…
The Electoral Commission has provided data on the count start times across the country, you can find out when your constituency will begin here.
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