Alex's Blog

Camera kit… check! Notepad and pen… check!

Add a press pass, crib sheets for the candidates and some emergency sugar-filled rations to get you through the night, and you’ve got possibly everything you’d need to report on one of the 2015 General Election counts.

Okay there’s a bit more to it than that. The night of the 7th of May (and most of the following day, to be honest) was definitely one of the longest working days I’ve had to do, but it was also such a great experience to give me a fantastic insight into UK politics.

With the 2015 budget announcement yesterday, it’s clear that George Osborne had been busy in the last two months (much to the horror of every person under the age of 25!), but it also dawned on me that I hadn’t ever written about my experiences from that day, which will no doubt go on to have such an impact on the next five years in the United Kingdom.

Having grown up in the sunny(ish) island of Jersey, where a lot of things are run differently to the mainland UK – including the government. I’d never really had much of an idea of how parliament works apart from what I’d seen on Have I Got News For You, but when I’d heard that my university had been approached by ITV Meridian to help cover the election counts in their region, I started swatting up!

I thought it would be a great opportunity, not just to work with another ITV region but also to get to grips with working as a journalist rather than just working in production, which is something I’d never had the chance to do before.

After reading up on our constituencies and candidates, whilst also trying not to comment on any candidates (which as an opinionated 19 year-old, trying not to tweet something about the parties doing something stupid proved to be a challenge!), we were ready to report on the election counts. Whilst back at the university, we had a team ready and waiting to edit our footage as soon as we returned from the count.

On the day of the General Election, it had been a real team effort even before the polls had closed. I had been taught how to use all the kit, which had been set up and the clever University of Portsmouth/ITV engineering people had set up a FTP system to transfer footage back to the newsroom in Whiteley as soon as we’d returned from the counts to the university.

All we had to do now was continue to pour over the folder full of information, double checking we had all the paperwork – including a sign we had to record at the start of the footage to help with the editing process (pictured below along my ITV lanyard and jelly bean-turned pencil tin, because who doesn’t love some corporate branded goods!)

After a fun taxi ride with Dave the taxi driver, we’d arrived at the leisure centre in Chichester where the count would be taking place. Unfortunately what nobody had told Dave the taxi driver was that we weren’t supposed to arrive at the count location until about 10:30pm – so we were just under an hour early. Well, I’m hoping the fact that we were there before the council’s PR team were there showed them how keen ITV Meridian were to cover the results!

At the time, this didn’t seem like much of a big deal – when the PR people arrived, we were shown upstairs to a balcony overlooking the hall where the count was taking place, we set up the camera and started tweeting away:

So we were there about four and a half hours before the actual count – I think the quality of my tweets started to deteriorate at the same speed my brain was wanting to fall asleep. Still an hour before the count was officially due to start, and I was already trying to make an important point whilst hash tagging the wrong year on my tweets… (which I didn’t realise until just now when I was gathering tweets for this post. Oh dear, me in the past, you had one job!)

I must have woken up a bit later because as soon as there was any actual news-worthy posts to be made, I was on it:

Okay it looks like my tweets that night were either important up-to-the-minute newsflashes from the constituency of Chichester, or just getting slowly more impatient (but it’s still a valid point!):

As we were situated up above, any photos I took had to be zoomed right in (hence the poor picture quality) but by 5 o’clock in the morning, the real fatigue started to set in – at least it wasn’t just me:

Nine and a half hours after we’d first arrived in Chichester – the result was declared, and the Conservative party candidate had kept his seat. This wasn’t the news we’d been hoping for – political views aside, Mr. Tory was the only candidate who was not willing to conduct media interviews.

We had to put our Plan B into place, rather than returning with no interview – which was one of the things we had been requested to film – after filming the count and some audience/supporter reaction shots, we caught up with the Labour candidate who we had chatted to earlier in the evening, who was more than happy to air his views on the future of the constituency.

Sadly this was never broadcast, probably for several legal and impartiality reasons, but it’s a shame because he was a great talker and a dream interviewee who spoke in perfect sound bytes – I remember thinking how much I’d enjoy doing the edit for that one.

To me, this had just re-iterated the importance of always having a backup plan, and as soon as the interview footage had been recorded, we quickly packed up our equipment because as it turns out my last message to the newsroom, informing them a further delay to the announcement of the result, hadn’t gone through and Dave the taxi driver had been waiting for nearly half an hour! (Sorry Meridian!)

Once we had said goodbye to Dave and thanked him for putting up with the constant to-and-fro communication all night long, we were back in Portsmouth and ingesting the footage from the night. Well, I say we, I think I was too tired to do anything by that point – I remember trying to use my university pass to get in through the front door of the building at 7:15am, and being rather irritable and wanting to start a fight with the glass doors for refusing to let me in. (with hindsight, this was a good idea as I probably wouldn’t have been tough ‘enuss’ to win in a fight with some double glazing)

After we had been let in through a side door, the team based at the university (and had worked just as hard as us all night long) ingested the footage, and provided us with an ample amount of takeaway pizza, which I remember eating and then wanting to have a nap on the floor of the chroma-key studio we were all sitting in, while waiting for a taxi to arrive and drop us off at home.

While we were waiting for our taxis to come and drop us off home (a rare luxury for a uni student, especially when someone else is paying for them!) I remember having quite a lengthy discussion about everyone’s varying degrees of success, filming at their constituencies, and even getting very political and just a little bit emotional about the result of the elections which had only just broken. I’m going to put that down to the extreme tiredness we were all experiencing.

A group of us shared a taxi back into Southsea when it arrived – driven by none other than my favourite person of the night: Dave the taxi driver! (that sort of co-incidence is normally reserved for living on the little rock known as Jersey). He’d been told to put off going home to get some well-earned sleep to come and give us a lift home – he was delighted to see it was me again as he joked “If I’d known it was you I wouldn’t have bothered” – that’s always nice!

I remember stumbling upstairs to my first floor flat and promptly falling asleep, only to wake up probably some time when This Morning would usually have been on, and the news that Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Nigel Farage had all resigned. (I’m still not entirely sure what happened there – did Nigel just refuse to accept his own resignation or what?)

With that, the path Britain will take for the next five years had been chosen – it was a bit of a surreal thought that after years of headlines filled with campaign trails, the impending ‘threat’ posed by the SNP and UKIP and the ineffectiveness of the Lib Dem coalition, it was all over.

The difference between post-Election Britain and pre-Election Britain is startling – when was the last time UKIP or Nick Clegg were mentioned in every single news broadcast? Britain has moved on and there’s very little left from the Election season which took over the country for such a long time – just the conservative party and this Vine, which will eternally haunt me in my nightmares:

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