The easy-chair election 

4 May 2023


Cover of the TVTimes

From the TVTimes for 27 September – 3 October 1959

EVERY day from now until the day before polling day in the General Election ITV will keep viewers in close touch with the ever-increasing drama of the hustings.

Never before has television made such an active contribution to the political life of the North. Party leaders say they have been surprised and overwhelmed by the determination of the ITV companies to play such a prominent part in bringing all aspects of the campaign right into people’s parlours.

Apart from the party political broadcasts – which are seen throughout the country – Granada’s studios will put out their own programmes introducing Northern candidates to their constituents and putting into perspective the latest election developments.

Most ambitious operation of all, appropriately called Marathon, will be seen from Monday to Friday next week, and on Monday and Tuesday of election

Candidates in every constituency in the Northern ITV area are being invited to make personal appearances in front of the cameras to debate election issues with their opponents.

Each will make an uninterrupted statement, to which rival candidates will have the right to reply. The order in which they appear is being decided by ballot.

Invitations are going out to 153 constituencies.

The debates will have independent chairmen. Bill Grundy will be in Manchester, David Plowright in Leeds.

Plans for this intensive coverage of the election were first laid nearly two years ago, after ITV had made history by televising the Rochdale by-election.


Two men are filmed standing behind a row of open ballot boxes

ITN cameraman Douglas Hardy filming the preparation of ballot boxes for Election Day-by-Day


This was the first time any election had been seen on television. Northern viewers were able to watch interviews with the candidates and with the electors. On the day of the poll they were taken into Rochdale Town Hall where they saw the votes being counted, and heard the Mayor declaring the result.

Then the cameras went into the square outside and recorded the scene as the candidates went on to the Town Hall balcony and addressed the cheering crowds.

This was, in fact, regarded as am exciting dress rehearsal for the General Election. The lessons learnt during the Rochdale campaign have been invaluable in helping to map out the programmes which are now going out to viewers in the North.


Cameras mounted on the chairs in the viewing area point into the main hall

Preparing to film an election result


After the Rochdale campaign was over one newspaper had this to say about the advent of TV electioneering “This was TV doing the job it can do better than anyone else.”

And another said: “Overnight Rochdale has changed the nature of democratic politics… and television is established as the new hub of the hustings.”

A third added, soberly: “It might not sway a single floating voter one way or another, but it might well make people conscious of their responsibility.”


Bill Grundy points a microphone ay a woman

Bill Grundy interviews a voter


What other special programmes are being prepared?

The first of the week’s election programmes will be at 2.20pm on Sunday when ABC present On Your Doorstep, a 25-minute programme in which leading journalists in the North and Midlands will discuss subjects of vital interest to electors.

The same evening, from the Didsbury, Manchester, studios, there will be a 15-minute bulletin giving the latest election news from the North.


Cameras point at people sat behind a semicircular desk

In Marathon, candidates in the North will talk about their policies before the cameras


Monday – Nomination Day – will see the first programme in a two-part Granada feature on How an Election Works. Prepared by experts on electoral law, it will give a factual and objective account of what will be happening during the next 10 days.

It will explain how candidates are nominated, and how the vast and complicated machinery of the election is put in operation.

The party political broadcasts on Monday and Tuesday will be followed by a Granada presentation, Fast Focus, in which Northern newspapermen will give their off-the-cuff impressions.

This technique was used very successfully after the recent Eisenhower – Macmillan “fireside chat.”

More special programmes will be televised during election week.


A film camera points at a man interviewing a woman in the street

The Travelling Eye will be going out to seek electors’ views



Saturday (Sept 26)
10.0 – Labour Party Political Broadcast

2.20 – On Your Doorstep
11.30 – Election news bulletin from Manchester

6.10 – How an Election Works
10.0 – Labour Party Political Broadcast, followed by Fast Focus

10.0 – Conservative Party Political Broadcast, followed by Fast Focus


10.0 – Labour Party Political Broadcast, followed by Fast Focus

10.0 – Conservative Party Political Broadcast, followed by Fast Focus

10.0 – Liberal Party Political Broadcast

In addition, Independent Television News will continue their 10-minute Election Day-by-Day each night from Monday to Saturday.


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Liverpool, Monday 15 July 2024