Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Hosting Channel 4’s election night was a big ambition

Krishnan Guru-Murthy has said hosting a “serious” election night show with Channel 4 is a “big ambition” that he did not think he would ever get to do.

The news anchor, 54, is set to lead the election special for the channel alongside former BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis as the results come in after the polls close at 10pm on Thursday.

Throughout the night, the duo will be joined by The Rest is Politics podcast hosts Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, as well as some familiar faces from the reality TV show Gogglebox.

Speaking about anchoring the election coverage, Guru-Murthy told the PA news agency: “It is the big ambition I had, actually, which I didn’t think I would ever get to do…

“If anybody ever asked me ‘what’s the thing you’d still really like to do?’, for the last 20 years I would have said election night in the (David) Dimbleby role.

“Obviously that was never going to happen to me because I left the BBC 25 years ago and Channel 4’s election nights have always been very different, and we’re sort of alternative and have involved comedy, we’re a totally different take.

“This is the first time Channel 4 have decided that our job as an alternative public service broadcaster is to provide an alternative but serious, analytical news programme on election night.

“So, it’s the first time that we’ve really taken on the BBC and ITV on their terms as well. So, this feels like a big first and something I never really thought I’d get to do.”

In previous years, Channel 4 has offered an alternative election night show, with the 2019 special featuring comedian Katherine Ryan and TV star Rylan Clark.

Opinion polls are currently suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party will win a large majority this time, which would knock Rishi Sunak and the Tories out of power.

Voter intention surveys have suggested a Labour lead of about 20 points while massive multilevel regression and poststratification (MRP) studies, which forecast constituency level results, have consistently indicated a Labour landslide.

Guru-Murthy said the general election taking place on Thursday has “very high stakes”.

“This feels like a really big, historic moment that we’re going to remember for decades, potentially,” he added.

“There aren’t many in my lifetime, I mean 1979 and 1997 are the two massive political moments of election nights in my lifetime.

“I just about remember 1979 because it was about the beginning of when I was starting to be interested in politics as a kid, and I worked on ’97, and so this feels like it could be in that magnitude.”

Emily Maitlis deliver a speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival
Emily Maitlis will co-host the coverage with Krishnan Guru-Murthy (Jane Barlow/PA)

The news anchor, who worked on various BBC news programmes before joining Channel 4 News in 1998, revealed this will be the first time he has worked with Maitlis despite them both working at BBC Newsnight over the years.

He said: “It’s been really nice actually meeting her and, actually, it’s very easy because with our journalistic traditions being so close, if you like, our minds work in quite complementary ways, not the same but certainly complementary.

“We were talking yesterday about how we were going to approach different interviews that we’ve got booked through the night and it clearly works really well, so I’m feeling really good about it.”

In preparation for Channel 4’s overnight election coverage, which will run from 9.45pm to 9am, Guru-Murthy plans to stock up on snacks which fuelled him through his time on Strictly Come Dancing last year.

He said: “I’m going to try not to have sugar all night, because I think that could be a disaster, but I’ll have it there on hand for emergencies.

“My lesson from Strictly was that one can of sugar-free Red Bull, or other caffeinated drinks are available, about an hour before you begin is also quite good idea to keep you going.”

The Channel 4 coverage will also see broadcaster Cathy Newman present from the Labour and Conservative campaign HQs while Channel 4 News political editor Gary Gibbon will deliver analysis.

A team of reporters will also be at key counts across the country to capture the drama as the results are declared.

Guru-Murthy said he is unsure what their coverage would have looked like if Channel 4 had not avoided privatisation last year, but feels confident in the broadcaster’s commitment to investing in news and current affairs programmes.

He said: “We’re very much still in a space where the channel thinks first and foremost about how do you deliver your remit to be a public service broadcaster that provides an alternative view, and that serves different and minority viewpoints and young people and ethnic minorities, and all those sorts of things that are sort of in Channel 4’s DNA, without worrying about the money.”

Channel 4’s election night coverage, Britain Decides: The Rest Is Politics and Gogglebox, will start at 9.45pm.