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July 5, 2024

How Politico and New Statesman election parties toasted Labour’s landslide

Press Gazette reports back the election night (party) frontline.

By Bron Maher

Press Gazette’s editorial team report back from two of the hottest election night parties in town.

Politico’s party was billed as an all-nighter and Bron Maher set out with plans to see it through to the bitter end:

5:30pm: Press Gazette editor-in-chief Dominic Ponsford divvies up the haul of politically-themed booze he has been sent by Sky News (along with a pair of Adidas Sambas). UK editor Charlotte Tobitt drinks a Beth Rigbeer, Dom has a DaiqRishi and I have a MargKeirita, which, in a positive omen for the presumptive next regime, is surprisingly strong. I convince myself that this is not, in fact, a very stupid way to start a 12-hour night.

7:20pm: The Politico bash is being hosted in the offices of PR firm Brunswick. Unlike some of the other publisher-sponsored events going on, this one promises that it will run all night: bacon sandwiches and barista-made coffee are billed for the morning. Arriving guests are handed an election night bingo game and a card on which they are invited to guess the exit poll seat predictions to win prizes. While typing this passage up I direct a lost Lionel Barber toward the bathroom.

Politico's exit poll guess card and an election night watch party bingo card. Picture: Politico
Politico’s exit poll guess card and an election night watch party bingo card. Picture: Politico

7:30pm: The party is taking place in a wide lounge bounded by a low stage on the far end and a bar along another. TVs beam Sky and GB News to the broader partygoing group, but the press room gets BBC News. The organisers expect tonight’s party to be largely populated by journalists, comms folk and the people that make up the glue of Westminster politics: fewer MPs, more aides and lobbyists.

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8:30pm: There’s limitless booze on hand. There is also a lot of chatter about what might be going on at the other parties tonight. We speculate as to whether any of their attendees will come here once their taps are turned off at midnight.

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9:30pm: The room is packed. The few present members of the outgoing regime leave to spend the moment of judgement with their chosen family at Tory HQ. At this point Politico’s journalists are still merrily hanging about socialising, but for most of them this is very much the start of a long work night: be it the flagship Playbook email or the various industry-focused newsletters, Politico’s readers are expecting to wake up in the morning with something in their inbox that can explain the new world. Stepping into the quiet of the bathroom, I find my ears are ringing.

CNN broadcasts from Politico's election night party. Picture: Politico
CNN broadcasts from Politico’s election night party. Picture: Politico

9:50pm: People huddle toward the front of the room like they’re waiting for a new year’s countdown. The hosts bring out espresso martinis to help carry everyone through the immense span of time remaining: the first result won’t be for another hour, and it will be five before we learn the fates of numerous Conservative ministers.

9:59pm: The crowd is giddy. The screen switches from Sky to BBC News: turns out free Sambas cannot, in fact, overcome tradition. The TV is also late — a BBC push notification declaring the exit poll arrives a full 30 seconds before the screen gets there, but anyone who notices gamely stays schtum.

10:00pm: A solitary shocked giggle precedes a swell of amazement and whoops — and then the din immediately drops back as people chew the exit poll over. It’s a big majority, no doubt, but it’s not as big as some of the MRPs were projecting. Audio of the moment below:

10:10pm: People are reading Twitter. A snap discussion of the results by Politico staff on stage is kept admirably concise.

10:30pm: Three enormous crates of pizza appear, provided by Brunswick clients Domino’s.

11:00pm: Away from the buzz, it’s all heads-down in the press room. The next morning’s edition of Playbook will be more than 6,000 words long.

11:05pm: Word arrives that, over at the New Statesman party at the National Liberal Club, they are already on their second play-through of D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better.

The press work room at Politico's election night party.
The press work room at Politico’s election night party (before the exit poll came in). Picture: Politico

11:20pm: The incredible amounts of pizza have disappeared, and with them two-thirds of the crowd. Those who remain are enthusiastic, but I begin to grow concerned that this party may not sustain itself through the wee hours of the night, depriving me of precious colour. I just had a coffee, though, so I’m evidently not going anywhere.

11:30pm: At some point the television showing GB News has been turned off.

12:00am: The photographer heads home. It’s still hours yet before the results really pick up. A few clusters of people are still hanging around, but there’s no sign we’re about to see an influx of partygoers seeking safe port after being kicked out elsewhere. As much as I had planned on milking this night for all the copy it was worth, I am starting to feel as though I am intruding on someone else’s work space.

12:30am: I’ve seen enough: it turns out not even a historic election result and limitless alcohol can overcome Londoners’ impulses to go home at midnight. Hours before Rishi Sunak would do the same, I concede defeat.


Things really did get better at the New Statesman election bash

The New Statesman election night party at the National Liberal Club had a strong 1997 vibe and, yes, D-Ream was on the playlist – writes Dominic Ponsford.

Big names spotted at the bar included columnists Janice Turner and Suzanne Moore, Sunday Times executive editor Ben Preston, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, former Observer editor Roger Alton, novelist Howard Jacobson and many more political and media luminaries. The club’s cavernous function room was packed and there was a sense that, like The Sun, folk were flocking to the winning team.

Editor Jason Cowley introduced “a promising young journalist” called Andrew Marr to kick off proceedings with his take on the campaign so far. Freed from the shackles of BBC impartiality Marr can tell us what he really thinks nowadays and he said, far from the campaign being boring, he had watched the implosion of the Conservative Party with unrestrained glee.

Marr drew big laughs when he read out the start of Allister Heath’s election day comment piece in The Telegraph which was headlined: “The UK is about to enter a nightmare much darker than anyone yet realises.” Marr juxtaposed it with a Telegraph business article which said: “Traders are being urged to buy British stocks and bonds amid predictions of a crushing Labour election victory.”

Guest speaker David Lamm said when (not if) he starts work at the Foreign Office he will be much nicer to the Europeans. He also noted that in the whole 20th century, Labour were in power for just 23 years, so this was a moment to enjoy and savour.

We watched the release of the exit poll on big screens (all tuned to the BBC) and it was greeted with rapture from the largely left-leaning crowd ahead of the first Things Can Only Get Better dance- and sing-along.

There were no cocktails on offer, just wine and bottled lager, but hard liquor was not needed last night – most were high instead on the sweet smell of success.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan arrived at 10.45pm to give what felt more like an American political rally speech with pauses for cheering. It was short but sweet, setting the mood for the rest of the night as people began to flock towards the photobooth clutching cardboard cutouts of Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband.

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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