Election night under threat

OVER the years, the live TV coverage of General Election night has provided some memorable moments.

Who, for example, could forget the stunned expression on Michael Portillo’s face when he unexpectedly lost his seat in 1997, or David Mellor getting heckled after being voted out in the same year?

But, this could all be a thing of the past at the next election.

For as many as one in four UK councils are reported to be considering abandoning the customary Thursday night count in favour of a Friday count.

Welwyn Hatfield Council, for one, has yet to decide.

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“At the moment, when the General Election count will take place is undecided,” a spokeswoman said. “It is anticipated that a decision will be made in February 2010, unless an election is called before this date.”

Worryingly, for those of us who enjoy the all-night election coverage, this is also the position of many other local authorities in Times Territory.

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Both Stevenage Borough Council - which organises the count for the town’s constiuency, which includes Datchworth, Codicote and Knebworth - and St Albans City & District Council - which counts the votes from Kimpton’s electorate (for Hitchin and Harpenden constituency) - have yet to make a decision.

And a North Hertfordshire District Council spokesman admitted: “We will not make a final decision until we are notified whether the General Election will take place on the same day as the local district council elections.”

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, for Broxbourne Borough Council, which counts the votes from Cuffley and Northaw, has indicated that it will keep with tradition.

A spokeswoman said: “The council’s intention is that the parliamentary count will continue to take place immediately after the close of polls.”

And Donald Graham, the chief executive and returning officer at Hertsmere Borough Council, added: “There is a certain buzz to election night and I know politicians are keen to get the results as soon as possible.

“We have counted on the night of local by-elections this year and we will be counting the next General Election on the night too.”

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