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By Jim Hancock

By Jim Hancock

They know it all over!

Jim looks back on fifty years reporting on General Election nights for Granada and the BBC.

ELECTIONS NEAR AND FAR

According to senior Tories Mel Stride and Suella Braverman, its all over. There’s no need for the poor bloody infantry of Conservative activists to get in the last of the votes. Mel and Suella have run up the white flag.

Some are trying to put sophisticated interpretations on this gutless behaviour. They say it is to scare Tory doubters into going out to vote or make Labour complacent. I’m not having it. In fifty years of reporting General Elections (see below) I have never experienced such fatalism, and in Braverman’s case naked ambition for the Tory leadership.

Whilst we await the actual vote, a brief word on elections abroad and then a trip down memory lane.

I wrote some weeks ago that the Democrats should get a new candidate. Joe Biden is proving stubborn but the widening poll gap with Donald Trump must surely be the last straw. The need for an effective opponent for Trump is made even more essential following the Supreme Court ruling which gives the ruler of America more power than the Stuart and Hanoverian kings that used to rule there.

In France let’s hope the cooperation between candidates opposed to the National Rally will prevent Europe’s most powerful country from having its first far right government since the Vichy regime in World War Two.

ELECTIONS PAST

Not being at a count or in a studio tonight, gives me withdrawal symptoms.

I first took an interest in General Election night in 1966 when I was still at school and Harold Wilson gained a thumping majority. I was taking my degree exams at Manchester University in the hot summer of 1970 when Ted Heath won a shock victory. Ted got many things wrong, but he saw the future for this country after Empire and took us into the Common Market.

The seventies were a time of short term governments. I was frustrated in February 1974 not being able to report on the first General Election of that year called by Heath. Piccadilly Radio was only preparing to go on air. Heath called the poll to answer the question; Who Rule Britain, the striking miners or him? Not you mate said the public and Harold Wilson was back with a minority government.

So, my first election as a reporter was the second General Election of 1974 when Harold narrowly won his fourth election. My most vivid memory was interviewing the Shadow Environment Secretary in the Piccadilly Hotel. With her prim voice, she was a woman who had ended free school milk for older children as Education Secretary, and surely didn’t have a political future as a result.

Well by 1979, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister as the General Election heralded profound change. I was a junior reporter at BBC Look North by then. I remember a row with the pompous MP for High Peak, Spencer Le Marchant who refused to appear on a constituency profile. Thatcher reached her peak with a big majority in 1983 and by 1987 I was at the great Granada TV as Political Editor. I clashed with the lady in an interview about water privatisation. I suggested the water companies would only be interested in profits. “Profits? Profits? Aren’t Granada interested in profits?” she said pointing a gloved hand towards my chest. The press officer apologised to me. I said I was delighted to capture vintage Thatcher.

In 1992, I was working on the results programme out of Granada’s Albert Dock news HQ on the surprise news that Labour leader Neil Kinnock was far from “Alright” as he had claimed at a rally a week before polling. But the victorious John Major got his comeuppance five years later. I was back at the BBC, by now in Oxford Road. I said to John Major that after eighteen years in power, he couldn’t beat the feeling that it was time for a change. There was a long pause before he went into the usual stuff which told me he knew I was right. A poignant thought for today’s situation.

My last two elections as the BBC’s North West Political Editor was covering the Blair victories in 2001 and 2005. At the end of the latter campaign, I quoted from Shakespear’s Julius Caesar, “If we meet again, we’ll smile. If not, this parting was well made”.

“Look what happened to him!”, exclaimed Tony, perhaps casting Gordon Brown in the role of Mark Anthony!

In 2010 I was in the Radio Merseyside studio when the leader of the Liverpool Lib Dems pleaded with Nick Clegg not to do a deal with the Tories and in 2015 was working with Radio 5 Live’s Tony Livesey on the defeat of Ed Balls.

Since then it has been my pleasure to be Downtown’s  Political Editor covering Brexit and the eventual implosion of the Tories we shall see tonight.

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