This is my 35th year in the BBC. I have covered every general election since 1987 and have presented countless election results programmes since then. But this December 2019 election provided my first overnight stint in the anchor’s chair, a stint which includes revealing the result of the Exit Poll at 10pm precisely. There are many millions watching our coverage worldwide and it really is one of those moments when you feel a great sense of responsibility. You are supported by the best news team in the world, and you are expected to deliver a results programme which upholds the BBC’s reputation for quality and fairness. But you’re doing so in a world where toxic cynicism and accusations of bias (from all sides) are adding to the pressures on the entire team. And you realise yet again that the real purpose of many of the attacks is to undermine trust in institutions which have been sources of stability over many decades. The apparent purpose, in short, is to cause chaos and confusion.
So my first duty is to thank all my BBC News colleagues for their hard work and dedication, resisting the sometimes appalling levels of pressure from political parties and their puppets in parts of the press and elsewhere. Providing a fair and balanced account of a complex election campaign – with feelings running high on all sides – is difficult enough. Trying to do so while dealing with relentlessly vitriolic attacks is doubly challenging. So I want to pay tribute to my colleagues for doing their best every day on behalf of the licence payer.
I should say a few things about notions of ‘bias’ and the attacks (from both left and right) on journalists who are trying their best to provide a duly impartial service.