When Newsnight started thinking about interesting ways to cover the election, how on earth did the idea of speed-dating with politicians get thrown into the hat? In Monday's programme, we revealed the winners and losers in an experiment that yielded some surprising results.
If you were ever to have a date with a political candidate you might be grateful for the knowledge that it could only last three minutes. Less gratifying, however, might be the added knowledge that you have a further fourteen three-minute dates to follow immediately afterwards.
Three minutes is long enough to do many things. Boiling an egg springs to mind. But is it long enough for a party candidate to persuade a floating voter to buy into their party's policies and ideologies? At the idea's inception there was a vague notion in the Newsnight office that seeing the same candidates having to sell themselves over and over again would make for amusing television, particularly if the party candidates could be representative of not only the main parties but also the ones our floaters may have never even heard of.
Newsnight's editor took the trouble to remind all concerned that there was journalism to be injected into the project as well. A properly diverse range of potential voters was chosen, with a balance of ethnicity, age and gender taken into account. Only the absenteeism of the older women upset this conscientious arrangement.
The set-up was simple. Fifteen tables were laid out with our party candidates sat at each. After three minutes with a candidate a bell rang and each voter moved on to spend time talking with the next candidate. Each candidate was forbidden to reveal the identity of their own party.
The scoring method was very high-tech indeed. A simple tick on a voting slip if a candidate had impressed and a cross if they had left the voter cold. A total of ticks per candidate at the end of the evening decided the winner.
Of course pulses were also taken throughout the course of the evening. Newsnight discovered that the main parties, Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats, were not doing as well as the smaller parties, who seemed more successful at simply chatting with their voters.
Voter attitudes seemed to evolve as they moved between candidates, with questions becoming more ambitious as time went on. The Legalise Cannabis Party representative found a match made in heaven with a voter who also believed that tax on cigarettes should just go straight to the NHS.
The evening produced some surprising results, with Mabon Gwynfor from Plaid Cymru and Stefan Tymkewycz from the Scottish Nationalist Party being the clear winners. Each of the main parties scored negative results.
Whether any of our potential voters found true political love is open to interpretation. They may have just wished they had spent their three minutes boiling an egg.
This report was shown on Newsnight on Monday 25 April.
Grahame Leon Smith
Christian Party Alliance
Monster Raving Loony Party
Newsnight invited a wide-range of political parties to offer candidates for the 15 places that were available on this project. For a list of all parties standing please see the website of the Electoral Commission.