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How to win a by-election and still lose your deposit

Michael Crick | 18:10 UK time, Wednesday, 9 July 2008

This by-election must be the most bizarre that I will ever cover. Twenty-six candidates, an all-time record, which is especially remarkable given that neither Labour, the Lib Dems, UKIP nor the BNP are putting anybody up. Mathematically, it's actually possible to win this by-election and still lose your deposit - that would require a pretty even spread of votes as to save your deposit you need more than five per cent.

voting203.jpgThere's also been talk of a record low turnout - the previous record was just 19 per cent when Hillary Benn won the Leeds Central by-election in 1999 (I think it was). However, talking to voters on the street of Cottingham today, I was struck by just how many people said they would definitely vote tomorrow or would probably do so, which rather suggests that the Leeds Central record is likely to last a bit longer yet. And it was pretty clear from what people were telling me that David Davis will emerge victorious tomorrow.

When I turned up this morning I had a mischievous thought that we could track down all of Davis's 25 rival candidates, film them, and leave Davis out of the piece altogether - and then afterwards get Jeremy to say "you'll find a list of the other candidate on our website". However, my editor at Newsnight wasn't too keen on the idea, but when I mentioned it to David Davis this afternoon he thought it was a hilarious suggestion and assured me he would never have complained.

Instead I've spent the day tracking down and interviewing as many contenders here as I could find. And I hereby claim the all-time British broadcasting record for the number of candidates interviewed in one day in one parliamentary constituency - a magnificent 13. These include Miss Great Britain Gemma Garrett, and David Bishop of the Church of Militant Elvis. The former Newsnight presenter David Icke, however, was surprisingly camera shy. He told me he thought I would, in his words "take the piss". Goodness gracious, I wonder what gave him that idea.

Join the talking point: The great British liberties by-election?


  • Comment number 1.

    David Davis won't lose his deposit, despite being the clown who caused this stupid by-election.

    The trick is to guess who will come second. I bet on the Greens.

  • Comment number 2.

    You've striven manfully Michael if you don't mind me saying so, to give this farce some significance, despite it having none, other than to finally show what one suspected when he failed so miserably in the leadership contest ie. that DD is an irredeemable twit.
    It's summed the man up, IMO, that every time one's seen him in this 'Campaign', he's been thrilled to bits with himself and giggling his face off-'Golly, I'm on camera again; this is fun.' For me, he's trivialised the very issue, that he claims to care so deeply about.
    Very odd, and a real shame. British politics needed the man, one thought he was 5 years ago.

  • Comment number 3.

    Last night's report on the David Davis bye-election was a bit like a new BBC comedy on television:- you knew what was going to be shown before you saw it, you knew it wouldn't be either amusing or informative and, worst of all, you knew that, having seen it, you would wonder why you bothered to watch it in the first place.

    The scene at the David Davis election meeting summed it up. There appeared to be a room filled with local electors listening to contributions in support of Davis, from a Labour MP and Ms Shakrabati of Liberty. But we were not allowed to listen to any of the contributions, by the speakers or by way of questions from the body of the meeting.

    The only sounds we heard were from three individuals outside the room:- complaining that they were not allowed to speak at the same meeting. Who were they ? Why, if Crick thought that they were worthy challengers to Davis, did he not seek to arrange a debate between them and Davis ? And the same question is raised, also, with respect to the young woman who had been subjected to an horrific rape ordeal and who believes Davis is wrong on the DNA list issue and the Green Party candidate who appeared to have some interesting points to make.

    The only conclusion one can come to, I think, is that the failure to allow a televised exchange of views at the by-election simply reflects that, for Michael Crick and the BBC, this by-election was not a serious political event and could not, therefore, be treated as such. Pity. It might have allowed people in the country at large to listen to something more than sound-bite arguments in favour or against recent trends towards the further diminution of civil liberty.

  • Comment number 4.

    I actually attended that meeting, so I can tell you a bit about what happened to the filming there. Firstly Mr. Crick only had one cameraman, and they did seem more keen on the things that went on before, after and outwith of the meeting, rather than what was said inside.

    In addition to Bob Marshall-Andrews (the Labour MP) and Ms. Chakrabati, there was also Rachel North present, she was a victim of the 7/7 attack. They all gave good speeches, in their different ways, and there were some pointed questions from the audience, including from those who - for one reason or another - disagreed with David Davis. However with only one cameraman, who was in any case not focusing on the meeting, only a brief and uninteresting chunk was shown. I guess the cameraman was present for 10 minutes out of 90 (and I think I am being generous). Mr. Crick did attend much of the meeting though.

    I don't think it's a deliberate process by the BBC as such. But what clearly happened was that an over-arching strategy was decided before filming as to the sort of output they wanted, and then the filming was arranged to suit that strategy. The strategy was to have a zany / interesting / sideways look at a very English political eccentricity - by-elections.

    The downside is that information, education, decent political debate (etc) were all sacrificed in the name of good TV. They even missed out on the Labour MP's very amusing speech plus a minor political scoop he unveiled there in respect of the former Chief Whip - the cameraman was outside filming 5 people have a row about access to the event, something to which the 100 people inside were oblivious.

    Can you have both amusement and education? Yes. Two cameraman and Mr. Paxman closing the piece by saying "if you want the watch that meeting in full, get yourself off to that Iplayer thingymyjob".

  • Comment number 5.


    David Davis will not lose his deposit because he wanted to leave office and caused the Prime Minister [and his officials] to hold a special election in his riding for his seat in Parliament!

  • Comment number 6.

    Well let's see -

    A 1960s pop singer, a champion of a 1950s pop singer, a mad cow, 2 religious fundamentalists, an ex-TV presenter who is presumably ferrying messages between the said fundamentalists and the big boss upstairs, an abacus salesman, a pet pcychologist, a couple of teachers, several independents whose only policy appears to be living nowhere near the consituency, a beauty queen, 2 turtle doves, 3 french hens, old Uncle Tom Cobbly and a cuddly toy - is it too late to get Brucie in as Returning Officer? "Didn't he do well?"

    There are going to be enough lost deposits in this one to pay off the National Debt. Hopefully, Davis' will not be one of them.

  • Comment number 7.

    3. At 09:25am on 10 Jul 2008, Undermouse

    4. At 11:51am on 10 Jul 2008, farmer-chrys

    Didn't catch the slot, but thank you both for what I believe to be better reporting of a news event than I can now ever expect from the national broadcaster.

    'But what clearly happened was that an over-arching strategy was decided before filming as to the sort of output they wanted, and then the filming was arranged to suit that strategy.'

    If true, an interesting way for objective information to be shared with the public, though not really how I like my reporting and editorial served up.

    Maybe a topic for future coverage. With apostrophes all correctly placed, of course.

    Must maintain standards.


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