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Radio 4's election bunker

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Rupert Allman Rupert Allman 10:00, Monday, 5 April 2010


Imagine if you will a swan. Now think of the legs pumping away under the surface. Welcome back stage to BBC Radio's Election Night Special.

We know the nation has never been less in love with those who represent us, so the looming General Election promises to be both brutal and dramatic.

And what you see here is the work that's already underway to make sure that drama is captured on BBC Radio in hours, possibly days, after the polls close.

It is the technical stage on which will play out a string of successes, failures, shocks and surprises. If you'll excuse the military metaphor, it is our bunker through which we hope to deliver the results from around one hundred outside broadcasts.

A challenge in itself, made even more challenging when at times the country's Returning Officers are making declarations at the rate of more than one hundred an hour. Nor is the operation confined just to London. We have similar projects underway in Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast to ensure that you, the listener, gets to hear from the most significant players and most telling results no matter where or when that might be.

It's like the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Our mission to boldly go to that key individual who stands up in front of a tired and sometimes emotional crowd and says "I being the returning officer for Trumpton South..."

Glamorous it is not. The showbusiness end is upstairs where, on the night, you'll find Jim Naughtie, Carolyn Quinn and our election number cruncher, Phil Cowley. Phil makes sense of of the numbers, Carolyn makes clear the state of the parties and Jim invariably makes a complete mess of whatever is left around him. They, like us, can't wait for it all to start.

Election sofas

The benches, we think, came from the second series of the Apprentice. The rug looks pure IKEA.

Welcome to what has been alternatively dubbed our 'second home' or 'Martha's Vineyard'. I'll explain. As part of the Election Bunker, we've an annex that'll swing into action once the General Election has been called. As you may have read elsewhere, part of the schedule will change to reflect all the news from the election campaign.

This includes the World At One which will last an hour during the official campaign. As part of these longer programmes, listeners will get the opportunity to question the party leaders. Martha Kearney is, of course, your lunchtime host. She will use part of the programme to host a broader political discussion on what TV-types call 'the soft sofa'. And with so many MP's standing down this year, we hope these red benches will provide a suitable perch for much lively debate.

They might also double as place for those, who in the long hours ahead, might need a lie down.

Rupert Allman is editor of BBC Radio's election coverage

Pictures of the bunker on Flickr.


  • Comment number 1.

    Here in my Smolensk butcher’s shop we are much bemusing at spectacles of British election. Yuri, my assistant, who is today make excellent horse livers sausage, is wonder why you not follow example of Vlad Putin’s managed democracy. It highly inefficient that opinion polls is close and you are possibly have well hung parliament. Here result is known in advance so no need even to vote. That is progress! We get on with run shop and earn extra from conceal firearms for local oligarch and protections boss Big Oleg.

    Approval ratings for your politicians is also big jokes! Putin is always have 90% plus ratings. But this probably because he so much more handsome than British leaders, and look like George Looney, only have less hair.

  • Comment number 2.

    Also, as Nick Robinson log closed, can you send him this? Many thankings.

    Hello Nicky from my butcher’s shop in Smolensk. Here today we are full of bemusal at story of business peoples and writing letters about National Insurings.

    In Russia, business oligarchs is not use newspaper columns influence taxations policies. That is very silly and inefficient. No, here is three methods. In Duma, most MPs is have extensive business interests – in oil, in set up ladies in plush Amsterdam flats, or in provide protections. So they more likely tax things that not hurt them, like supertax on set up opposition party, for instance. In local politics, candidates is also small business peoples (for instance have still for make potato and beetroot moonshine), so no problems. And if someone get out of line, then third method is treat politician like Paul Daniels is treat lady in box and make problem disappear.

    Anyway your politics is mess. British debt mountain is plenty bigger than Russia’s. This is tribute to excellent fiscals leadership of glorious Vlad – he is hotter than Beyoncé – and great mineral wealth of Motherland. It also result of unique system of welfare privatisations. Sir Peter Gershon and Martin Reed is miss big picture. You can have big service with small state. Example. Here in Smolensk, I am struggle get new tooths for mother. Big Oleg, who is local oligarch and organise my protection, is get me new set for her, made from finest vulcanise rubbers, very cheap price. He is also provide home help for many babushkas – Fat Mikhail is protect Aunt Irina from local youths by sit outside flat all night with pit bull. Oleg provide Meal on Wheel service (Cousin Dmitri is bring housebound food on unicycle), and also local school, St Vladimir of the Kalashnikov. Here is great training ground join Oleg outfit, and Oleg need serious brainpowers, especially in creative accountancy and global finance.

    So advice for future British administrations is simple. Let state wither away and little platoons (heavily armed) is move in. Provide efficient local service. Cost in bloodshed minimal, debt collapse and IMF very happy. So Tories onto something with community organisings and local initiatives. But Sir Cameron is need think bigger than Women’s Institutes and selling jumbles. I get Big Oleg give him ring. You have mobile number Nicky?

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    3. At 5:07pm on 13 Apr 2010, you wrote:

    Which rules? Please advise and I will edit post

  • Comment number 5.

    Things just got a lot worse, as there's every indication that claimants and disabled people will be fall-guys for the victimisers on the right of both main parties. Some people cannot make progress themselves, without walking all over other people. The news for the Political parties is that claimants and the disabled are also people and also have a vote. We hear and are sorely hurt by the prevalent tendency to lash out and look for scape-goats for politicians to lever themselves back into public favour. Well that is the sum of heaping blame and abuse upon claimants and the mentally ill. I think we need to use our vote wisely and if that means backing hitherto-outsiders like Nick Clegg and Vince Cable - who undertake to improve funding for the mentally ill as sound economics - then Back them we Must, and Back them we will.

  • Comment number 6.

    Getting back on topic... Can't believe that Radio Four still uses magnetic audio tape, or are they achieve reels from previous election campaigns?

  • Comment number 7.

    Boilerplated, I understand the tapes were from the archive! Things are pretty 'tapeless' at Radio 4 these days...

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi gcdavis, You'll find the BBC's messageboard and blog house rules here.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog


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