David Dimbleby wins the 2015 general election - after a recount

 

Whitehall Editor

One has been the face of the BBC’s General Election coverage for 35 years and despite turning 76 next year has no intention of stopping any time soon.

The other, a mere sprig at 55, is the young pretender who hoped and fought for 2015 to be the year that he finally inherited the mantle.

But Huw Edwards will have to wait after the BBC announced yesterday that David Dimbleby has won the battle to front election night for the ninth occasion.

Edwards believed he had been given a cast-iron guarantee by former director general Mark Thompson that he would finally replace Dimbleby in 2015.

But that move angered and upset Dimbleby, who thought he was still quite capable of hosting a marathon nine-hour overnight broadcast.

Under Thompson, he accepted that there was little he could do.

Asked in 2010 whether he was prepared to stand down and give Edwards a chance to do election night he said: “I am not going to retire voluntarily. I don’t have any instinct to make way gracefully. I shall be dragged kicking and screaming from my chair.”

Everything changed, however, after Thompson stood down as director general to eventually be replaced by Tony Hall – himself a ripe 63 – whom he had known well when he was Head of Current Affairs at the BBC between 1996 and 2001.

Dimbleby is said to have personally lobbied Hall to reverse the decision and give him one last night in the chair. And yesterday he finally won.

The BBC announced that Dimbleby will front the corporation’s coverage from 10pm-7am.

In some consolation to Edwards he will take over as lead presenter on the Friday “morning after” programme and will host coverage until 10pm that night.

However, Dimbleby will be back on air on the Friday night, 8 May, presenting a special post-election edition of Question Time, discussing the vote and the prospects for the next government.

Dimbleby will also present the local and European election results programme in May this year.

In another consolation it was also announced that Edwards, the presenter of BBC1’s 10pm news, will become the BBC’s sole lead anchor for its general election night coverage after 2015.

Oddly, given he is a Welshman, he will also take charge of its coverage of the Scottish referendum in September this year.

The BBC’s director of news James Harding tried to gloss over any previous differences.

“This election is likely to be one of the most complex and closely fought in recent times and we are delighted to have such an experienced team to lead our coverage,” he said.

However they may still be a fight over who has the right to chair any televised leaders debate should the parties agree to hold them again in 2015.

In 2010 they were fronted by Dimbleby but no decision has been made on what might happen next time around.

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