Fight for your right to stay up all night

The tradition of politicos that gave us the famous quip ‘Were you still up for portillo?’ is under threat by new voting laws. New requirements to check postal ballots could mean a shift to next day counting. First the swing-o-meter goes now this! It wasn’t like this in my day ye know etc etc….

I was up for Portillo and it was memorable but the bigger memory [Editor: fuzzier surely] was four friends and I drunkenly celebrating Chris Patten’s defeat in 1992 much to the annoyance of neighbours. Any other election night memories from the political nighthawks out there?

  • I seem to recall Kinnock going to Labour HQ with a nailed-on grin after the ’92 defeat. Glenys was glowering a couple of paces behind. But yes, Portillo was the big one. He made a good attempt at looking dignified as little Stephen Twigg was strutting about (alas, look what happened to him). I hadn’t heard anything about the shift to next-day counting, though. Is that a UK-wide thing or just in NI? It would be a shame if it happened: one of the great treats of elections is staying up to watch those nondescript local government officers having their two minutes of fame with the cameras turned on them as they say something like: “I Horace Bracegirdle, being the returning officer for Such-an-Such, hereby declare…” blah blah blah. Wonderful.

  • fair_deal


    NI has had next day counting for some time the say it is for security reasons also they chose to be thorough in their counting here rather than quick (comes from having to handle PR elections).

  • Christopher Stalford

    I remember watching the first result in the 1997 election – I think it was Hamilton South – 10% swing to Labour. I turned the telly off and went out for a chinese take-away! Came home and went to bed!

  • Fraggle

    “and went out for a chinese take-away! Came home and went to bed!”

    Did you not stay up to eat your take-away or did you sit in a bus shelter eating it or something Christopher?

  • @ fair_deal

    PR is for the Assembly, is it? Westminster is first past the post, surely? I’ve remembered now about the next-day counts, too. I seem to recall that it prolonged the then Mr Trimble’s agony for hours or even days.

  • fair_deal


    Yes they are differen voting systems but the methodological/careful approach is consistently applied meaning they are slower than their mainland counterparts.

  • lib2016

    Having to wait, sometimes for days with the accompanying hysteria about the opinion polls, the tallymen etc. in the South all adds to the interest for political nerds.

    In fact there’s great relief that the introduction of voting machines in the rest of Ireland was so discredited that the continuation of all that ‘outdated’ carryon is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.

    On this subject, if nowhere else, I’m all for tradition.

  • Alan

    Oh dear –

    1979 – Campaign – one feminist is asked will you be voting for a woman – answers “Not THAT woman.”

    1979 – Election night horror story – Peregrine Worsthorne : “We have just won the class struggle.”

    1997 – The Balcony dance at Labour HQ – but then I was dancing too!

  • Henry94

    Next day counting is the norm in the south and can be just as exciting.

    The real killer would be electronic voting where the results are in as soon as the polls close.

  • Christopher Stalford


    Fine. I consumed the take-away THEN went to bed.

    The best election count I was ever at was Strangford in 2001 – a real nail-biter.

  • Cato

    Would a security service, which is so morally vacant that it permits its own IRA agents to murder other IRA agents and indeed innocent civilians, have enough respect for democracy and the rule of law that it would never tamper with ballot boxes to ensure that its preferred candidate won an election here?
    I am not contending for a second that this has gone on but I do wonder whether it would be such a surprise.