The polls close in


The polls close in Britain in just under two hours. C-SPAN 2 will be running BBC One’s coverage of the returns, and if you like political theater, I highly recommend tuning in.

First, there’s Peter Snow of BBC and his swingometer (again, nothing to do with Austin Powers). Snow is an institution. He frenetically runs across the BBC set commenting on each seat as it comes in, while at the same time giving viewers the overall electoral picture. Backing up snow is the BBC’s graphics that put the red-and-blue maps of US networks to shame.

Second, election coverage in Britain is more reality TV than public affairs TV. In each individual constituency, all the candidates hear the results at the same time and in the same place. Gathered in what looks like a junior high gym or a fire hall, the candidates stand together on stage with big colored ribbons on their chests. Then, without any hint of inflection in their voice, an election monitor calmly reads the results. I’ll never forget in 1997 watching government minister after government minister see their political careers go down the toilet as upstart Labourites beat them (the shock on Michael Portillo’s face — and on Stephen Twigg’s — when the young Labourite Twigg beat the Defense Minister in Enfield Southgate was priceless). And all they could do was grin and shake hands.

All night, BBC will go from constituency to constituency to get the results. I’ll be watching and blogging the results as they come in.