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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