At the centre of the action: thoughts on covering the general election

Journalists can have two results to the news of an election. For most of us (excluding those in Scotland) the news of a third vote in the space of three years can stir up fatigue as a voter. However, it’s the reporter within us that gets excited, knowing that UK politics is about to change once more, and we’re at the heart of the action.

My set-up for the evening, as I reported on the count in Mid Bedfordshire.

Annoyingly, with the EU referendum taking place on the week of Glastonbury, I was unable to cover it. So, naturally, when the surprise general election was announced, I was quick to ask the local media if I could help out.

This led to me working with the Broadcast Journalism Council and Radio LaB in Bedfordshire on their programme, The Vote. I was sent off to the Mid Bedfordshire count – an ultra-safe seat for the Conservatives and their candidate Nadine Dorries.

The night started with me heading into the offices of Central Bedfordshire Council, worried that a mere student reporter would be turned away by the security guard or the receptionist. Thankfully, I was quickly handed my visitors’ pass and escorted to the press room.

There’s always a sense of community that comes with hanging out with other reporters in a press room. A feeling of mutual stress (in that we are all rushing to meet deadlines) and excitement fills the air as I get settled down – laptop powered up, shorthand notebook open and mobile phone fully charged.

It was 20 minutes later that I had my first ‘two-way’ (a radio term for having a back-and-forth discussion between a reporter and presenter). I painted the scene of the constituency and gave details of some of the candidates, before it was back to work.

It wasn’t long before the Liberal Democrat candidate came in to say hello, and I had my first interview of the night. Due to the rules in place around the count, reporters weren’t able to go into the marquee where staff were counting the votes, and so a member of staff had to go in and track down candidates on our behalf.

Once the first interview was out of the way, then things started to pick up. I had to edit the recording to get a solid 30-second clip, whilst also grabbing a quick snack (a sweet chicken sandwich which sadly, wasn’t too pleasant), composing tweets for Twitter and doing the occasional two-way. Much like in a normal newsroom scenario, work was starting to pile up, and the night started to pick up pace.

The Labour candidate was next to come into the press room for interviews, and it was whilst transcribing the recording that the news came through: the result was due to be announced shortly.

Plenty of Skype calls and phone calls were made to the studio as I sprinted into the marquee. A particular highlight at this point of the night was the fact that I posted news of the result ahead of the BBC – get in!

After that, I was able to speak to two more candidates and do a final two-way before packing up for the night. On the whole, regardless of the party allegiance, everyone was up for a chat – even when a serious election was taking place.

I was in a position which was new to me. My Friday Article posts on this blog are pretty reactive to political events, and save for my work experience at the press office of the Department for Work and Pensions, everything else has seen me respond to politics, as opposed to experiencing it first hand.

Being at the centre of politics during a general election is intense, fast-paced and exciting. Given the current state of affairs and the possibility of a second election, I can’t wait to return to heart of the action again in the near future.

If you fancy a look at what I got up to on the night, you can see my tweets on my Twitter profile, and listen to interviews with some of the candidates on my Facebook page.

We’ve been here before, but now a stronger Labour can hold the Tories to account | The Friday Article

It should have happened in the first instance. Ever since the result of the EU referendum was announced, Labour and Jeremy Corbyn could have made gains off the back of a vote against the political establishment. A crumbling Conservative Party, defeated by its own arrogance over the remain vote, could have been held to account for its mistakes. Now, in a moment of pure déjà vu, the Tories have returned to that very same state – except this time, the Labour Party will be there to hold them to account.

Photo: Andy Miah/Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.

Blairism has well and truly died – in its place, an appetite for socialism clearly displayed amongst the youth vote and the fact it simply wasn’t a landslide for the Conservatives. Now, Theresa May and the Democratic Unionist Party (or May’s successor) are trapped in a political stalemate: a minority government (even if it is with the appalling DUP) is not strong enough to deal with the mammoth task of Brexit. “There’ll be a second election soon,” predicted the former Labour MP on ITV News last night.

It could very well happen, and it’s essential that Corbyn uses this interim period to continue to build local support for Labour.  The Conservative majority diminished this time around, and could fall by even lower numbers should the state of play with the Con-DUP pact be so catastrophic. Much like how Labour MPs were subtly preparing for (and some, fearing) a snap election shortly after Brexit, Corbyn’s team and Labour members must continue campaigning and putting pressure on the Tories as though another election is imminent.

Now, there’s nothing in Labour’s way – there’s no coup or a sense of identity crisis which could throw Jeremy’s leadership into question. The party is now united, redefined, and is pushing out an anti-establishment sentiment which has been brewing for almost a year, and has now returned to the surface.

We’ve seen passion and engagement present amongst Labour voters. It’s important now, should there be a second vote, that election fatigue does not allow our young people to fall back into disenfranchisement – nor should a divisive Conservative and DUP partnership.

Labour must continue putting out its message in Parliament, and local communities need to do the same. A new wave of voters are engaged, and that’s not going away easily.

The fight is on.

A Fictional Reality: An Outsider’s Perspective

I have always been a night owl. Whether it’s the late-night book or blog post ideas which spark into life in my mind, or I’m engrossed in a book which distracts me from creeping sleep deprivation and how late it is. However, these have always been for leisure activities. It was Tuesday. I planned to do my first ‘all-nighter’. A title panicked students wish to claim should they need to complete an assignment at the last minute, or for a student journalist, something completely normal when an election or referendum takes place.

Energy and adrenaline came from a variety of places throughout the night, pushing away the tiredness. Lemonade from the student bar was the bubbly sweet tang which stuck my eyes open, and excitable discussions with friends kept my thoughts whirring until midnight. Then, as it went past midnight, the political circus was enough to engage me until the early hours.

The atmosphere was another contributing factor. Jubilant students cheered whenever Hillary Clinton’s face appeared on-screen with the news that she had won another state. Students, united in one clear notion and want for Hillary Clinton to win (save for a few small groups dotted around the bar who backed Trump), had come together to wish America well.

Tea soon replaced lemonade. The lemonade had lost its tang – whether Trump’s creeping victory had soured things or if it was because the drink no longer spiked up my energy levels, I didn’t know.

Caffeine only somewhat did the trick. Defeatism was the avenue to me feeling a little bit tired as the clock moved on to 3am.

I left the bar shortly afterwards as rain battered my black coat. It wasn’t quite the pathetic fallacy. The harsh cold captured some of my attention, but as I walked home, most of my thoughts were elsewhere. How is Trump winning? Why has American politics has become an even bigger topic of interest to us across the pond?

There’s something weird about being an outsider – free to comment on the politics, but without a vote, we can only watch as the results come in. We can only hope for the best for our US friends. The US media bridges the gap across the pond. We watch on, commenting throughout the night. It’s like we’re looking down on them like a father figure. After Brexit, some may see it that way.

I laid in bed. I needed the hour’s sleep. A 9am lecture later meant that I would have to get up at 7am to get ready. As the clock ticked past 5 o’clock, I decided to call it a night. The votes had stagnated, I knew what the result would be, and hoped I would be awake to see the final result to confirm my thoughts.

I was too late. I turned on the BBC to see Trump standing behind the podium, making an impassioned speech as the new president-elect.

*

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, we found out that Donald Trump is to be the 45th President of the United States. Earlier this week, I decided I was going to write a Friday Article on the result, but found that the points I wanted to make were too similar to the ones raised in this video by the spoof reporter, Jonathan Pie. Instead, I thought I’d save my reaction and discuss the US election in this week’s ‘A Fictional Reality’.