Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 7 September 2009

RIP general election night?

According to The Sunday Times, election night may be no more. Some councils are thinking of moving their counts to the next day for practical reasons.

Lib Dem Voice and Con Home are amongst a number of blogs who are trying to start a "Save general election night" campaign.

I have been a devotee of election nights (general, local, European etc.) since I first stayed up all night to watch the results of the 1992 general election roll in. I love the drama, the fact that the politicians sometimes don't know what is going to happen and to be able to witness history unfold only a few hours after the electorate has delivered its verdict like when Portillo lost his seat in 1997. I often book the next morning, or even full day off work so that I can enjoy the hours long results programmes and I for one would be very sorry to lose this.

You knew it was coming - however, I am of a slightly unusual breed. I am fairly obsessed with politics but I am in a pretty small minority. Most people I suspect would not particularly miss the overnight drama of the count and in fact many would not even realise anything had changed.

Mark Pack on the LDV post referred to earlier has a list of reasons as to why moving the count would be bad and I agree with them but I am not convinced that many people outside of politics would be persuaded by them.

Given how strongly I have argued for change in all sorts of other areas of politics (electoral reform, written constitution, devolving power etc. etc.) I think it would be a bit hypocritical of me to campaign to retain the late counts given that the main reason I would want them to remain is because I personally like and enjoy them. I am at least willing to listen to the arguments for moving the count (more time for checks against postal vote fraud apparently being the main one).

I hope ultimately that we do retain general election night counts and that perhaps other ways can be found to resolve the problems some have with the current setup but I accept that sometimes things need to change. When I argue for things like electoral reform for example, I am always grateful when others listen to and engage with my arguments as to why we should change so the least I can do is extend the same courtesy to those arguing for reform of the counts.


Letters From A Tory said...

We certainly should save election night, but it should be moved to a Saturday night in any case to get more people to the ballot box.

Mark Thompson said...

That is certainly a reform I could get on board with LFAT!

I remember learning about the historical reasons for why elections are held on a Thursday when I did politics at A-level nearly 20 years ago and they seemed hopelessly outdated even then.

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

Like the post. There are other arguments in favour of delaying the count than just the fraud one - it's cheaper, the staff will be more alert, etc. More here.

Purple Man said...

Election nights need to stay and as mentioned, moving them (and polling day) to weekends would definetly be a positive development.

Charles said...

As with all these things, it is the symbolism that matters.

One of the great strengths of British democracy is the "Day of Judgement" effect, reminding politicans, at least once every 5 years, just who is the boss.

The idea of a vote being taken and the very next day the former PM being escorted out of the back door of No. 10 while the new leader goes to the Palace is very important.

(and also a reason against PR...)

Simon Fawthrop said...

The people have spoken and the change should be immediate.

If we start delaying the count and hence the official result we could end up with a PM who has been removed by the electorate taking critical decisions.

Yes,I know this happens in the USA and look at the mess it leaves as the country in in political limbo for 2 months.