7 May 2015

The exit poll – kicking off a night to remember

I was expecting surprises. But I thought I knew what kind of surprises. That exit poll left me momentarily stunned, and the guys in the graphics department so gobsmacked it took them a while to punch the figures in… (The resulting delay at least gave me time to tease Jeremy Paxman about his suits.)


The exit poll is always the first big moment of the election night. And on the Channel 4 Alternative Election programme, it was my job to analyse them live as they popped up on the screen.


I’d prepared various different scenarios, the most likely of which – according to the opinion pollsters in the last few weeks – was for the Conservatives to win the most seats, but with Labour not far behind. I’d planned roughly what I’d say if Labour was in the lead, and also if the SNP surge had faded away.

Several polls had suggested the Liberal Democrats wouldn’t do as badly as expected, so I’d weighed that up too.

In the end, though, the preparation was useless, because the figures looked so unlike anything I’d dreamt up. By putting the Conservatives within spitting distance of a majority, the exit poll has kicked off a night to remember.

If those numbers are right, some very big names are going to be pottering round their gardens in the next few weeks, wondering what went wrong.

And if Labour really has done worse than it did under Gordon Brown, then Ed Miliband will be one of them. So too will Nick Clegg. We’re live at his count in Sheffield Hallam from 3.30am so stay tuned for that.

Can this poll – which the BBC, ITV, and Sky News each paid tens of thousands of pounds to secure – really be right though? The swings from Conservative to Labour we’re seeing in the seats declaring now in Northern England give some room for doubt.

But what those Sunderland seats also show is just what a disruptive force Ukip has turned out to be. Ukip has come second in two of them, suggesting they may have deprived Labour of votes elsewhere in the country. That alone might end up proving the exit poll right.

Then again, there are reports from Labour that Nigel Farage may have come third in Thanet South.

In other words, until we get the results in, we’re all in a state of confusion.

The night is young. There will be some huge upsets is about all I can say with certainty right now. Do watch me and Gary try to make some sense out of all of this. It should at least prove entertaining.

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6 reader comments

  1. H Statton says:

    When the exit polls came in last night in at 10pm I felt utter despair. I did not expect in my wildest dreams the Conservatives to potentially win by a majority (albeit wafer-thin).

    Labour has spent too much time preaching at its own choir rather than trying to reach out to other party supporters, going beyond the party faithful. Not unlike the other battle buses and camp appearances that were staged in church halls, schools, full of traditional supporters, and or course – pubs.

    The Labour Party Faithful know their own ethos and ideology – the task at hand is to introduce and spread the ideas to peoples of other parties, reassuring them that government has all the United Kingdom interests in both heart and mind, and these are the very centre of its concerns.

    After-all, this is about keeping the UK together now. Although I’m not quite sure how that will happen, given such a resounding success in Scotland by SNP, capturing all but three seats.

    Now we appear to have a political schism across the Scottish border with the Conservatives. There was always going to be repercussions following the #IndyRef. For the first time people in Scotland planted their Saltires and The Royal Standard of Scotland on the map, and from where I’m sitting they are going nowhere soon.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    C4 News coverage was utter garbage. I stopped watching after five minutes of the tory divvy, Jeremy Paxman.

    I watched RT. Much better, more concentrated, and even more humour.

    1 out of 10. And that’s just for using the word “Election.”

  3. Barbara. Robertson says:

    Cameron campaigned tirelessly. His mandate was clear ,lower taxes,two million more jobs , deficit halved etc, now the country wants him to finish the job. He has a clear majority so hopefully his plans and of course those of George Osborne and the rest will not be slowed down.

    I am immensely relieved that insanity did not prevail, to vote in those who would spend more and borrow more was a frightening scenario.

  4. H Statton says:

    I’ve just watched More4’s ‘The Vote’ on Channel 4 online – Rather funny. Shame it clashed with C4’s election night coverage.

    If you can’t get to see ‘The Vote’ online, I believe it’s on 4seven on the telly, Saturday 9th May at 11pm.

  5. anon says:

    well to use politician-speak..squeak? sorry being flippant, I don’t know about about any of that but what I do know, well think is -thank goodness for Prince Charles and his letters and his whole persona, surely the docleaf to the nettles of the politicos, I really admire him and although the young Royals are being promoted as the salvation and future of the monarchy whoever is advising HM is surely missing a trick here?, in light of public disillusionment Prince Charles; day really has come surely

    his letters etc are more in tune with what people want to see than perhaps some think? just my thoughts

  6. anon says:

    forgive me for suggesting this but after the march of a relatively weak armed group IS. that the West pretends cannot be stopped, or their vehicles destroyed by air power, pity such weapons seem to lack the capability they used to, could the next story be the ask why on earth the Government would seek to introduce a way to muzzle the press,

    this is so outlandish and untoward that even a newly appointed Cabinet Minister has risked is first appointment by leaking the letter involved,

    why the extremis in such legislation,

    if one wanted to look on the negative side of this, to first announce that the people investigating powerful people including some MPs of terrible evil crimes are to have the budgets cut, then to announce that a means will be introduced so that the press can be stopped from running stories might to some suggest that something is not right at all

    perhaps journalists at Channel 4 news might have to consider putting their summer holidays on hold in case a really big story breaks (or tries to) ?

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