BBC mulls replacing David Dimbleby as anchor for next general election

Question Time host may be moved aside for Huw Edwards or Jeremy Paxman in 2015

He has been the host of the BBC's general election results since 1979 but now a question mark hangs over whether David Dimbleby will be the corporation's main anchor the next time the nation goes to the polls.

BBC bosses have started to consider in earnest the thorny question of who will host the corporation's coverage of the next general election in 2015.

Despite the 74-year-old Dimbleby doing an 18-hour stint during the last election night, as well as being a formidable chairman on the BBC's flagship political show Question Time, the BBC is understood to be looking at potential alternative hosts.

The arrival of a new director general Tony Hall and James Harding, the director of news, earlier this year has sparked a drive to modernise the BBC, looking to its future and putting the next generation of presenters.

There has also been drive to feature more women on air, under Hall's tenure the BBC has installed Mishal Husain as a presenter on the Today programme.

And in May, Huw Edwards, 52, took over presenting the BBC's coverage of the local elections from Dimbleby.

BBC News is already planning its 2015 general election coverage, discussing details such as how it could broadcast from BBC studios in Salford, Elstree and Glasgow.

In the past, particularly under former director general Mark Thompson, an admirer of Dimbleby, the BBC has been quick to confirm the broadcasting veteran as its general election anchor.

But this time executives have been unusually reticent about Dimbleby and his role as they wrestle with the issue of who might follow in the footsteps of a broadcasting legend.

According to sources, Edwards is the internal favourite to succeed Dimbleby in the general election chair, along with 63-year-old Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman.

Another Newsnight host, Emily Maitlis, could also play a bigger role, having been part of the team during previous election results, as has Jeremy Vine.

According to BBC sources it "would not take a genius" to work out that having done the recent local elections and being the BBC's "go-to" man in the event of a big crisis news story, that the unflappable Edwards would be a leading contender to succeed Dimbleby.

Edwards is being seen as the 'heir apparent' for commentating on big national occasions, having been given some of the events that may have perhaps traditionally been seen as Dimbleby's, such as the Royal Wedding in 2011.

An insider claimed one option could be that Dimbleby could continue to be part of the BBC's general election team but share duties or move into a different role.

"Why will the corporation not commit publicly to David Dimbleby doing the next general election?" asked one source.

There is also the question of who will front the BBC's edition of the televised leadership debates.

Last time it was Dimbleby and education secretary Michael Gove said on Question Time recently: "There's only one thing about the debates that I would insist on, that you chair them David."

Dimbleby will be 76 by the time the nation decides the next government but it is unlikely he would give up his anchor role without a fight.

In 2010 he told the Times: "I am not going to retire voluntarily".

When asked if he would give Edwards a chance to do election night, he replied: "No, I don't have any instinct to make way gracefully. I shall be dragged kicking and screaming from my chair."

His father Richard was known as "the voice of the nation" and Dimbleby is considered by many viewers to have taken on that mantle as one of the jewels in the BBC's crown.

When he commentated on the funeral of Margaret Thatcher in April his gravitas and experience led one viewer to tweet: "And immediately you feel comfortable #Dimbleby."

A BBC spokesman said: "The next general election is expected to take place in two years' time, in 2015, and it is far too early to comment on plans for the BBC's election night programming."

Dimbleby was unavailable for comment at time of publication.

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Tara Conlan

The GuardianTramp

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David Dimbleby

The son of broadcasting legend Richard and brother of ITV current affairs presenter Jonathan, David Dimbleby is well known as the serious face of BBC TV, hosting weekly politics discussion show Question Time and major events such as general elections, the Queen's golden jubilee and the funerals of the Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales.

19, Mar, 2004 @11:26 AM