In the end election night was really quite exciting – one that both entertained and surprised in equal measure.
It was my fifth general election as a journalist and was by far and away the most momentous since my first night working at the polls in 1997. Although Friday’s result was not quite as resounding for the Tories as it was for Tony Blair’s New Labour 18 years previously, there were still some great ‘I was there’ moments.
When I say I was there, I was sat in my Marks & Sparks’ pants trying to keep up with the nation’s favourite curmudgeon, David Dimbleby. It was a strange old telly marathon for me as it was the first time I had pulled an ‘all-nighter’ without the aid of takeaway pizza and bags full of cheap confectionary.
Election night was the first real test for my theme park shame-induced diet and I passed with flying colours, which is more than can be said for the UK’s political pollsters who are now as discredited as the call centre saps who try to convince the public they may be owed some cash from an accident they may or may not have had.
Not since Michael Fish flippantly reassured a lady caller to the BBC that there was no chance of wind on the eve of the Great Storm in 1987 has a forecaster been more wide of the mark.
But in a way the ineptitude of the so called experts, whose off beam predictions had contributed to one of the most cautious campaigns in history, actually made election night even more interesting.
Once the 10pm exit poll made the earth shattering prediction that David Cameron’s Conservatives were likely to be the largest party the nation really sat up and took notice. It was then election night came alive and millions of night owls, news junkies, new parents and keen voters dispensed with a good night’s sleep, to be witness to a moment of history. An unexpected one at that.
Nights like these always start slowly and after three early declarations in the North East there was absolutely nothing to keep us entertained apart from fevered speculation and the promise of seeing Ashdown and Campbell eat a hat or kilt.
Even a foray into the brave world of Channel 4 political coverage didn’t work for me – Paxo really doesn’t suit funny. But it was the result in Nuneaton, which claimed the prize for the best election backdrop– a bizarre daytime Middle England setting, that the exit poll made sense.
It was one Labour simply had to win to have a chance of victory and the Tories increased their grip on it. We all could have gone to bed then but we had been enticed away from our pillows.
I missed Balls’s demise because the drama was stretched out until I had fallen asleep. The excitement had got to me but I am sure it won’t be long before mainstream politics bores me again.