Enoch Powell’s assertion that “all political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure” has frequently proved true.
That is, unless you’re David Dimbleby.
Hosting his tenth and final election night coverage for the BBC this evening, Dimbleby is marking the end of a famed association that has spanned more than three-and-a-half decades.
Dimbleby, 78, first anchored the BBC’s election coverage in 1979 — in which Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party swept to power, gaining a 5.2 per cent swing in the vote from the Labour Party.
In the years since, he’s chewed the fat off every election for the BBC, he’s had some particularly memorable moments. Particularly in 1987, Dimbleby was caught out on air nibbling away at a Mars chocolate bar.
More than 35 years on, and a few election snacks later, the 2015 General Election was due to be his election broadcasting goodbye. But after the announcement of a snap election in April this year, Dimbleby was coaxed back once more to present to the nation the ebb and flow of election night.
Speaking to the RadioTimes ahead of the evening, he explained the great appeal of being at the heart of the UK’s defining day of democracy.
“It is the only time you actually know what people think. Polls? You can have them until the cows come home. What matters is what people say,” he said.
“And once you get that stuff in, you start to look for the stories and how politics reacts to the reality of what has happened. For me, the exit poll is the starting gun. For a political rollercoaster ride, and a night of thrills and spills.”
As for his predictions for this year’s results, Dimbleby is certain of only one thing, there will be a surprise or two.
“Contrary to the scepticism and lazy pessimism of the newspapers and the British media, it’s going to be a really fascinating night, and it will drive home some messages about our political system and the political appeal of different parties that no amount of polling or reading the papers will tell us,” he told the RadioTimes.
“It’s a theatrical drama, and the great danger is taking anything for granted.”