I love voting. It's your right and duty. So, having exercised my
democratic right, I slipped home to take in the results. Remote control
in hand, I sized up the choices. This was the real contest, not the one
between Tony Blair and William Hague but between the Dimblebys, Jonathan
It seemed wholly appropriate that ITV should have preceded its election
programme with a political version of Dennis Norden's tired show. Its
purpose-built studio of gleaming structures looked the part. A confident
Jonathan gave us the rundown of the night ahead. But this grey
hanger-like set soon gave way to the truth.
Sunderland was up first and it was only the absence of Stuart Hall that
convinced me it wasn't It's A Knockout. Sunderland shaved a fantastic
two minutes off its record-breaking time. We ran with the runners and
talked to the counters. I needed some substance and pressed the
I'm straight into Michael Portillo kicking off with Paxman. Paxman had a
rolling panel of three MPs throughout the night, whom he bantered with
and tortured at various intervals. He was a good foil for David Dimbleby
who had his own panel of three political experts to draw on.
Enter Peter Snow. He was rightly smug as he revealed his laser
swing-o-meter, an amazing radar that swung back and forth, changing
His virtual steps to Downing Street were too much. I felt scared for him
as they slid out and he prepared to run up them. Time for a change, what
was Dermot Monahan up to?
Dermot's swing-o-meter was pure Saturday night, come on down, Cilla.
A graphic 3D slide rule with the heads of Blair and Hague at either end,
which smiled or frowned depending on swing. Dermot's big trick was his
virtual reality. He was in the House of Commons as it filled up with MPs
then in Downing Street with an array of counting graphs. I was
Then we caught up with Katie Durham playing Anneka Rice, starting in
Scotland then flying to London. I felt sorry for Martin Bashir, who had
to stand outside the Tory Party headquarters all night.
I flicked back to the BBC and there I stayed. I wanted to hear about
politics and to watch lively debate. I could live without their annoying
"cafe" of celebrities but visits to it were rare. Overall, the
presentation was more accurate and the interviews more informative.
Ultimately, though, the winner is television. To watch democracy unfold
in your living room is precisely why I voted in the first place.
BBC's Vote 2001: The Verdict versus ITN's Election on ITV
Time 9.55pm to 6am
Ratings BBC averaged five million (36 per cent share). ITV averaged 2.3
million (17 per cent share)
Advertisers during ITV coverage included McDonald's, Norwich Union,
Dulux, NatWest, Citroen