The nostalgia for the all-night election show is overdone. Before the 1970s it was normal for many constituency results, especially rural ones, to be counted and declared the next day. When Harold Wilson's Labour Party narrowly won in 1964, it wasn't until the following teatime that the result from Brecon & Radnor was declared and Mr Wilson could be sure of his invitation to the Palace. The Chinese exploded an atomic bomb and the Russians deposed Nikita Khrushchev overnight, but the delay in forming the government didn't seriously harm the national interest.
How many of us stay up long enough to hear David Dimbleby munching on a Mars bar? For most elections, the broad outcome is known almost as soon as the first results arrive, before 11pm, historically from Guildford, Sunderland South or Torbay. In 1979, the well-balanced James Callaghan went to bed early, aware of his fate.
When the first marginals results appear an hour or two later, then the game is up – as Neil Kinnock knew when Labour had its "Basildon moment" in 1992, failing to hook Essex Man. I well recall working for the BBC in May 1997. After a few historic swings of 10 per cent-plus came in, the Blair landslide was certain. I put up my feet and enjoyed the show. True, it was worth waiting up for Portillo, but why should local authority workers and the rest of the nation have to fight fatigue just for the sake of a few anoraks like me?Reuse content