I’m going to be up all night for this Scottish referendum business. Over the last five years or so, I’ve done a few of these all-nighter things. The 2010 general election; Obama-Romney. Three Academy Awards ceremonies, for some reason. And, bizarrely, the Eastleigh by-election in March last year (we all got incredibly excited about that one, which sounds odd in retrospect).
They all – even Eastleigh – had something in common: the people on the telly had something to talk about. All night. Exit polls, usually, or the dresses: Lembit Opik’s mint-green off-the-shoulder Givenchy for his defenestration in 2010 was particularly striking.
But tonight, there’s nothing. For a very simple reason: none of the broadcaster or anyone else has commissioned a damn exit poll. So I’m watching the BBC, and its coverage is basically a mix of Question Time ask-the-audience nonsense (“So, Alice McWhosit from wherever, you voted No. Why should we care and who the hell are you?”) and those godawful montages-over-swelling-strings that they normally use when England get knocked out of the World Cup, except with footage of Alex Salmond doing the ice-bucket challenge, instead of Roy Hodgson looking sad.
As much fun as it is to watch Huw Edwards and Douglas Alexander’s hunted expressions and increasingly desperate efforts to restate the point “this is a big deal” in new words (or Nick Robinson trying to explain why exit polls wouldn’t have been any use because it’s uncharted territory, again), it really would have been nice if they had something new to say. Over at the Grauniad, James Ball points out that the lack of exit polls isn’t good for democracy, because the data adds to our understanding of how voters behave; but more importantly, it’s bad for those of us who actually have to watch the damn things. What I’d give for Peter Snow and a swingometer right now.
(There was a YouGov poll carried out earlier, which gave it comfortably No, 56/44. And the great Dan Hodges has called it for No as well. But that’s not quite the same thing.)