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13 September 2014updated 05 Oct 2023 8:51am

50 years of David Dimbleby

The nation’s longest-serving television presenter first took part in an election broadcast 50 years ago. Next year will be his last.

By harry harry

You can read the full version of this piece on our new elections site,

Next year will be David Dimbleby’s 51st since he first took part in an election broadcast. It will also be his last; the presenter will be 76 by May and the BBC has announced Huw Edwards will take over thereafter. Here are five highlights from his five-decade career:

1964 — He first took part in a broadcast with his dad aged 25

The US was mired in Vietnam, the Beatles were on their first world tour and Chairman Mao still ran China. Dimbleby had graduated from Oxford – where he was a member of the Bullingdon Club and left with a third – only a few years earlier. He may have been helped by having his father, the former war correspondent Richard Dimbleby, anchor the broadcast.

In an eager and polished pre-prepared speech from a count in Exeter, he spoke of how ‘Scrutineers and counters between them are checking the votes, not so much to get them done in a hurry out of civic pride, as to collect their fifteen schillings and get back home’. ‘Thank you son’, Richard said, as David handed back to the studio.

1970 — Interviewing Prime Minister Wilson as results come in

‘Prime Minister, Mr Heath has just said that he’s very much encouraged by the way the election’s going, what’s your feeling?

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Wilson wasn’t very much encouraged. The night ended with a near 5 per cent swing to Edward Heath’s Tories, who ended up with a 15-seat majority. Wilson would be back four years later for two more battles with Heath. ‘Prime Minister are you prepared to concede defeat?’ Dimbleby asked. ‘No, certainly not’ Wilson replied, pointing to the wild variations in the BBC’s computer throughout the night. (You can explore our seats calculator– and all the possibilities and predictions being made ahead of May 2015 – here.)

1979 — First broadcast as anchor for Thatcher’s election

‘A high poll we’re told, despite bad weather’, Dimbleby began…

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