Thursday, 6 May 2010

"Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night"

I've never seen anything like it at a UK election. A massive, congo snake of people queuing outside my local polling station to vote this evening.

There's talk of turn out being close to 70 per cent, which would be phenomenal. (Mind you, my constituency is Bethnal Green and Bow where ballot stuffing means turn out could be 120%)

Job done, I'm reporting for duty at my Westminster desk and I realise I'm ending the campaign where I started it, and where I spent almost the entire time - in front of a computer screen and a television.

I've covered every other election on the road and I've been deeply frustrated this time to be flying a desk, or I was until I read Andrew Sparrow's excellent final dispatch on his Guardian live blog last night.

Andy's been typing about 14,000 words a day (I know, incredible) since the beginning of the campaign. Although he argued too that the best place to be was out meeting voters he's concluded that with rolling news, twitter, blogs, popping to a press conference and getting the occasional phonecall from the frontline he's been as close to the modern general election as it is possible to be.

Each election campaign I've covered has become more and more of a televisual event and this one, with the three live debates, the process has reached it's zenith. That means that you'd hardly know there was an election going on in lots of constituencies as phonebanks take over from door knocking.

But if the turnout at my polling station was anything to go by the television, and the momentous nature of this election, has boosted interest.

I'm also struck that after all that 24/7 media absorption - starting at dawn with Today/Aithris na Maidne and ending long after that crash edit into Newsnicht Scotland - I still don't know who will be the winner tomorrow morning.

I've read, watched, twittered, blogged, swingometered and seat projected my way through the last four weeks and, like everyone else, I end up clueless about how things will be a few hours from now. Exciting isn't it?

Tom Harris has already got the quote of the day from Bette Davis in All About Eve: "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night".

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