Off camera on the EU campaign trail

Nigel Farage on Vote Leave bus in South Yorkshire
Image caption His own way of conducting a political campaign- Nigel Farage UKIP leader on the top deck of his 'battle bus' in South Yorkshire

When political managers and spin doctors are fighting one of the tightest elections in living memory they will often go to the point of absurdity to ensure television pictures tell the message they want.

With the EU Referendum stubbornly stuck at neck-and-neck for weeks before we went to the polls stand-offs between TV crews and party organisers demanding to "check the shot" before their politician steps off the battle bus became an everyday occurrence.

Even with that level of scrutiny it did not always go to plan.

Take the prime minister's visit to drum up support for the Remain campaign among first-time voters in West Yorkshire.

On paper it was foolproof: a photo opportunity in a school library discussing the issues with sixth formers followed by an interview with me in a nearby empty classroom.

Two little words

It almost became the stuff of dreams for the front cover picture editors of "Private Eye" because of two simple words that were really not part of the spin doctor's script.

The first word was on a wall behind the spot in the classroom where my camera crew had set up to record my interview.

It was festooned with umpteen big and colourful cardboard cut-outs of words intended to improve the vocabulary of young minds.

Seconds before David Cameron walked in I spotted there was a notice pinned to the wall which would have been right alongside his right ear.

It said: "The word of the week is - Specious".

Image caption Word of the week is 'specious'- not the best classroom display to have behind the prime minister during an interview

Any 11-year-old who had been paying attention in the previous English language lesson would know that Mr Cameron was in grave danger of being labelled with a word that means "superficially plausible".

Afterwards I explained this to the school principal and she let me into the secret of the other word that might have turned the entire visit into farce.

"We had to move the table in the library where the sixth formers were due to sit with the prime minister. We noticed that it was in the section where there were three big signs behind him describing what sort of books were on the shelves."

The signs said "fiction, fiction and fiction".

Boris's bus ticket

At times this Referendum campaign deteriorated into one of the bitterest election slanging matches I have ever covered. Yet there was still room for the odd chuckle.

Nigel Farage provided most of them.

From the top deck of his vintage open-topped battle bus he was supposed to be addressing assembled South Yorkshire activists with a pep talk.

But he couldn't resist giving an unscripted photo opportunity to the assembled camera crews by waving his arms around to conduct the campaign theme music - "The Great Escape"- when it started blaring out from the loud speaker system.

The opening words for my BBC Look North script that night just about wrote themselves: "Nobody conducts an election campaign like Nigel Farage".

The battle buses themselves created a few more unintended smiles.

UKIP campaign organisers allowed so many camera crews to follow Mr Farage on board before it headed off for a meet-the-people session at Chapeltown near Sheffield that it grounded as it tried to drive out of the gates of the cricket club where we had all met up before the event.

The noisy crunching sound and the startled look of the driver were all captured on camera and broadcast several times that night.

When Boris Johnson came bounding down the steps of his bright red bus to address the assembled crowds in York nobody noticed it had parked on double yellow lines... except one of the local traffic wardens.

But the battle bus blushes were all forgotten a couple of weeks later as the results of the counts came into the Yorkshire Regional counting centre at Leeds Arena.

After all, Nigel and Boris finished up having the last laugh.