David Dimbleby is the only constant as Brexit sends us into the unknown

James Gill has woken up confused and frightened after a momentous EU referendum result – but at least there's one familiar face


Unlike my colleague, I didn’t stay up to follow the EU Referendum results as they came in. She saw the tides turn in a momentous, potentially calamitous night. I woke up in the middle of the storm.


As I write, David Cameron has confirmed he will resign, and every graphic shared on Twitter looks like a life support machine gone badly, badly wrong.

It’s all happening so very fast. There’s just one constant for people following along on TV or with a headphone in their ear at work: David Dimbleby.

He was here in 1975, when the UK voted In. And he’s here in 2016, when the UK have made the decision to Leave. It’s scant consolation as we head into the unknown – but at least it’s good to see a familiar face.

Ahead of the EU referendum he said he was expecting another marathon broadcast, and the BBC veteran has been true to his word.

We’re in the eye of the storm without a captain, to borrow Cameron’s haggard analogy. But at least Dimbleby has the binoculars.

It’s not just his show of stamina every polling night, “busking it” (his words) for 11 plus hours at a stretch. It’s the reassurance that the 77-year-old with the loud tie has seen more governments, prime ministers, economic crashes and referendums come and go than anyone else, and the hope that that ‘long view’ can settle the short term panic.

“I’ve never really taken much notice of contracts,” he said ahead of the referendum. “I turn up if they want me.” On a morning like this, we have wanted him more than ever.

“Just before 10 o’clock when we started this programme I said that it was a momentous day for Britain because it was no less than defining what kind of country we wanted to live in,” Dimbleby said as he signed off, 11 hours later. “And the answer to that question, which is one that has haunted politics for a long time, whether we should be In or Out of the EU, has been resoundingly answered.”

That is the BBC line, the impartial Voice of the Corporation. But then, the follow-up. The Dimbleby kicker.

“It’s been a big and busy night.”


Wry understatement? Bewilderment? Concealed excitement? Impossible to tell. No one knows what Brexit will bring, but one thing’s for sure – after a few hours’ kip, David Dimbleby will be up again to find out what happens next.