Roll up, roll up for the 1979 show

Roll up, roll up for the 1979 show


Will you stay with it for the WHOLE 15 hours?

The BBC Parliament Channel has developed a splendid tradition of re-showing a full general election results programme from the past on Bank Holiday Mondays. You get it as though it was live as it happens and it lasts a very long time.

For political anoraks these re-showings are quite an occasion and can sometimes be exciting even though, of course, we know the outcome. You also get insights which very much add to your own view of what happened.

Well today, starting at 9am it’s the 1979 general election – the one that saw the end of the Callaghan government and brought Margaret Thatcher to power. The programme continues for fifteen hours until, I guess, Britain’s first woman Prime Minister has taken up residence at Number 10.

One thing I recall about that historic night and the day following was Bob McKenzie’s commentary as Maggie was being driven up the Mall to the Palace. From memory from thirty years ago he said something like “..whatever your view of the outcome of the election let us marvel for a moment that here is a transfer of power taking place solely because of the votes millions of people yesterday. Democracy is very special and something we should always treasure ….”

Whether I’ve got the words right we’ll see later on but the sentiment is spot on.

It’s perhaps worth adding that since that day, thirty years ago, there has been just one change of government – in 1997. These are rare events in the life of our nation.

Mike Smithson

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