row of ballot boxes

It’s election day which means two things, firstly #dogsatpollingstations is trending, and secondly political nerds will be staying up to watch the results come in. It may seem mad to pull an all-nighter on a week night, especially given the fact that the Conservative party have maintained a strong lead over Labour in the polling and are expected to win a solid majority. However the results of the last two general elections, and of course the 2016 referendum, were surprising to say the least, so if you do want to stay up, here’s our guide for what to watch out for (and when to fit in your coffee breaks).

10pm – Exit poll

The first big event of the night will be the release of the exit poll at 10pm. This will give us an idea of how close the vote has been, and will indicate the likelihood of you winning your office election sweepstakes. If the exit polls predicts another hung parliament, pour yourself a very large cup of coffee and strap in for a tense night. If it predicts a large Tory majority lay off the caffeine but remember that the exit poll has been wrong before so you cannot use it as an excuse to go to bed.

11pm – First seats

The famous race between the UK’s fastest ballot counters in Sunderland and Newcastle will be over before midnight and the first results of the night will be announced. As both seats are solidly Labour they aren’t likely to change hands. However significant gains for the Tories will tell us whether there are any cracks in Labour’s “red wall”, and let you know whether the Conservative party gamble in the north could pay off in case you accidentally fall asleep prematurely.

12pm – And… breathe

After the excitement of the first seats declaring, there’s likely to be a lull in the action. This might be your only opportunity of the night to have a proper break, so you could spend the time reading analysis of the exit poll and getting into furious twitter arguments. My advice would be to take a tactical nap instead.

1am – Workington man time

1am is likely to be the first round of genuinely interesting results. Firstly, we’re going to find out whether the Tories play for the “Workington man” has been successful, or whether he was simply a figment of a think-tank’s imagination. Labour are likely to be fully on the defensive for the hour, as the results from Leave-voting Labour seats roll in. If they also lose Darlington or West Bromwich East, it’s going to be a long night for anyone wearing a red rosette. Corbyn fans might want to open the whiskey, but the next two hours will be the busiest of the night so limit yourself to a small glass.

2am – Devolved nations

Not to let the English have all the fun, 2am is probably a good time to check in with the rest of the Union to see what’s unfolding. A number of SNP-Conservative marginal seats will be announced, most notably Angus, which should give us a good idea of whether the SNP are going to run the table in Scotland. Although the resignation of the Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson was seen as a bad sign for the Conservatives, confidence has grown in the last couple of weeks that the Tories may be able to hang onto all 13 of their MPs in the region. By this point a number of Labour-held constituencies in Scotland will also be reporting. It’s expected to be a bad night for Labour in Scotland but these seats will be a good indication of whether they’re going to be wiped off the Scottish electoral map all together. People will also be looking to the Northern Ireland seats as the results of hard fought campaigns in Belfast West and Foyle are announced. North Down will also be one to watch as the Alliance Party look to beat out the DUP to win their second seat in history.

Finally, we’ll be able to see the direction of travel in Wales, as hotly contested seats like Wrexham and Vale of Glamorgan are announced. The Conservatives have been campaigning hard in these seats, as they hope that the historical aversion to voting Tory in the region is overcome by a strong pro-leave message. Plaid are expecting the hang onto their four seats, but any gains for the party of Wales look increasingly unlikely given the polling. Interestingly enough two Lib Dems in marginal seats, Cardiff North and Stockton South, have endorsed their Labour rivals in the hopes of denying the Conservatives. Which leads us nicely onto the next hour of your night…

3am – Its tactical voting time!

It’s been a much debated topic this election; are any seats going to be decided as a result of voters casting their ballots tactically, forming a remain or leave alliance? Well by 3am, we’ll have a good understanding of whether any last-minute voting switching has swung some of the most hard-fought races in this election. The results will be coming in thick and fast so there’s not much point in trying to keep up with every result announced. Instead, here’s a mini-list of the seats which could be decided by tactical voting by this point in the night:

  • Chingford and Woodford Green – Iain Duncan Smith is defending an incredibly small majority in this London seat and has been the primary target for Labour’s Momentum. This is potentially the most likely upset of the night, especially if the Tories are underperforming.
  • Putney – The current marginal seat is held by ex-Tory Justine Greening by only 1554 votes. With the Labour candidate only a few points down, the support of Lib Dem defectors could be enough to swing the seat.
  • South East seat of Esher and Walton – Remain supporters really seem to dislike Dominic Raab and the Liberal Democrats have been running hard in the area to unseat him. It’s an outside shot but one to watch.

By 3 am we’ll also know what kind of night Nigel Farage will be having, as the Brexit Party’s key target seat Hartlepool will declare in the early hours of the morning. If the party’s chair Richard Tice can’t win in this leave-supporting constituency, Farage will no doubt be pouring himself a brandy. You have no such excuse, so splash your face with cold water a keep your eyes glued to the BBC’s swing-o-meter.

4am – Crunch time

Once it hits 4 am we’re likely to know the broad trends of this election and whether there have been any seismic shifts in way different demographics have voted. The result itself may still be too close to call, but if the red wall falls as the results from Birmingham, Grimsby and Bolsover come in, it’s as good as over for Labour. Alternatively, if Corbyn outperforms the polling and holds his advantage in the north, all eyes will be on the ultra-marginals Labour won in 2017, namely Canterbury, Croydon Central and Ipswich.

This hour will also be key for the Liberal Democrats, as they fight for the pro-remain areas of South England like Cheltenham which they think are in reach. They’re also hoping that the Remain vote could lead to some gains in London, through high-profile campaigns in areas like Finchley and Golders Green and Kensington. On the flip slide, if the Lib Dems have a truly disastrous night, Jo Swinson herself might be at risk given her small 5339 majority in East Dunbartonshire.

5am – Johnson’s seat

If you’re still awake at 5am, reward yourself with a strong cup of tea and a biscuit. You might also be rewarded by the historic event of watching the Prime Minister lose his seat. While this is the longest of long shots, Johnson’s majority is down to 5,000 and Labour have run a strong local candidate against him. More likely you’ll just get to see Johnson have to stand next to Count Bucket Head and Lord Bin Face while the vote is read out because politics in 2019 is rather peculiar.

Some interesting individual outcomes to look out for in your sleep-deprived state include whether the Lib Dems will be able to steal Richmond Park from former mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, and whether former Tory Anna Soubry can hold onto her seat as a candidate for Change UK.

Once it’s gone 6am, the results will be trickling in at a fairly slow pace and unless the parties are still neck and neck and you’ve booked Friday off, I’d suggest taking your second tactical nap before getting ready for work.

7am – New day, new parliament

Unless something truly unexpected has happened, once your alarm clock goes we should know who the biggest party will be. Pour yourself a massive cup of coffee as we find out whether Caroline Lucas has kept her seat in Brighton Pavilion and whether St Ives has finally fallen into the hands of the Lib Dems.

If Johnson has won his majority, look forward to a January exit from the EU, and if it’s another hung parliament start getting use to the idea of doing this whole thing again in the not too distant future.

If you want to get in touch with our public affairs experts then email Ben Wheatley, practice director of our public affairs practice, here.