No sleep for 24 hours – the brutal reality of covering the General Election on TV

No sleep for 24 hours – the brutal reality of covering the General Election on TV

Beth Rigby has compared reporting the General Election to being on a rollercoaster (Picture: @SkyNews)

After at least 24 hours with no sleep and working non-stop during the General Election, Sky News political editor Beth Rigby will want nothing more than a gin and tonic.

‘I’ll dive into a bucket of it because I don’t drink during the elections either,’ the 48-year-old broadcaster told ‘You’ve got to be clear-headed – it’s a marathon and not a sprint.’

Covering the General Election as a major TV anchor sounds nothing short of gruelling. For Beth, her day starts with an early morning run and afterward meet her boss for a working breakfast.

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The journalist will then travel to a hotel near Sky News HQ where she will buff up on her notes and research before heading to the studios for make-up at 7pm.

Two hours later, Sky’s General Election coverage officially begins. Chief presenter Kay Burley will anchor the night and will be joined by Beth, Baroness Ruth Davidson, and Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

Filming will wrap up ten hours later at 7am when Beth will dash to Westminster, shower, and change her outfit. Once it’s revealed whether we have a new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, or another four years of Tory leader Rishi Sunak, she will travel to Downing Street.

Beth interviewed opposition leader Starmer ahead of the General Election (Picture: Alison Jackson/Getty Images)

She also grilled current PM Rishi Sunak (Picture: Alison Jackson/Getty Images)

At this point in the afternoon, Beth may be able to take her first break in over 24 hours but more likely she will record her podcast Electoral Dysfunction with Baroness Ruth and Jess Phillips. Her final tasks of the day are recording the package for the evening news and writing an analysis of the events that have unfolded.

How on earth do you not collapse in a pile of exhaustion? ‘It’s the first draft of history and you’re living it,’ Beth responded. ‘It’s just immense; it’s so exciting; it’s so enjoyable; it’s so fascinating.’

She continued: ‘You just ride on the adrenaline. But you are absolutely wiped, absolutely dead the next day, the Saturday, like a zombie.’

Beth said she would likely be in ‘no fit state’ to work on Saturday – but starts reporting again soon after, from covering Parliament’s return to a NATO trip to Washington – before she is allowed a well-deserved break.

Beth said she will not sleep for hours and will work non-stop during the election (Picture: Sky TV)

‘I’m on the Rigby rollercoaster until my holiday at the end of July,’ she said. ‘But if there’s a massive moment – unless I’m physically abroad – I will come in and cover it.’

However, Beth admitted she sometimes struggled with the unpredictability of her schedule. ‘Every time something changes, it throws me for about half an hour,’ she explained. ‘I get really grumpy about it, and then I just go, “Okay, that’s what we’re doing.”

‘It’s hard constantly changing your diary, cancelling things, but I say to myself – if you don’t like it, don’t be a political editor. And the truth is, there’s nothing I’d want to do otherwise other than this.’

Born in Colchester, Beth studied social and political science at Cambridge and went on to gain a master’s degree in economic development studies at the University of London.

As well as Sky News, Beth will record her podcast with Baronness Ruth and Phillips after the exit poll (Picture: Sky)

After a spell teaching English in Portugal, she became a newspaper journalist for The Financial Times and then The Times before joining Sky News in 2016. She became the broadcaster’s political editor in 2019.

But despite having years of experience in journalism and broadcasting, Beth admitted she was still prone to pre-show jitters. ‘I always feel nervous,’ she said.

‘I always feel nervous when I’m asking a question at press conferences. I always feel nervous trying about to go on air.

‘Sometimes I’ve got proper heart palpitations – I can hear my heartbeat in my ears sometimes when I ask questions – I always feel like that before I interview a politician. I think it’s good to feel like that because you have to earn it every day.’

Beth admitted that she still gets ‘really nervous’ before interviews and going live on air (Picture: Alison Jackson/Getty Images)

The same goes for General Election night. Beth said: ‘I’ll feel the nerves in those when you know you’ve got to land the exit poll moment and say something that encapsulates what might be about to come in the night – and they are heart-pounding moments.

‘But then when you’re actually in the throw of – because I love the story, that’s what I love the most- so once I’m in the flow of the story, I totally relax and just really enjoy it.’

Does she have any specific fears on General Election day? ‘What could go wrong in the studio is that I have a brain freeze? I don’t know. The point is that, no, honestly, you’ve practiced it all. You prepare so nothing does go wrong.

‘There’s no secret to the success – it’s literally do the work – put in the work you get the results.’

Election coverage starts from 9pm on Thursday 4th July and runs throughout Friday on Sky News (Freeview 233).

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