An hour-by-hour guide to election night

It’s almost over. The fights that didn’t happen, the interviews that didn’t take place, the ice statues that melted, an election campaign that would make even the most hardened election nerd feel like the kid in Matilda that had to eat all the chocolate cake, is nearly at a close. There is little to do but settle in for a long night of bar charts, ridiculous graphics, and the unique sight of watching politicians’ entire careers evaporate live on stage whilst they stand on stage beside someone who paid £500 to dress up as a bin and get 14 votes.

The chart at the top of the page shows which constituencies will be key if the Conservatives are to be denied an overall majority. The data, taken from today’s release of the YouGov MRP model which forecasts that the Conservatives will win a majority of 28, shows the crucial constituencies and the estimated declaration time from the Press Association. Each constituency is coloured to show the party that won at the general election in 2017.

The exit poll will be released when polls close at 10pm, and over the course of the next few hours some of the races that declare early should give some clues as to whether the exit poll, and the constituency forecast models, were correct. For example, Houghton and Sunderland South is expected to declare at 11pm. The YouGov MRP model forecasts that Labour will win this by 14 points, so if the Conservatives outperform expectations it should give a useful early read as to how the night is likely to progress.

The chart is divided into four zones. The first zone shows seats that the Conservatives absolutely must win if Boris Johnson is to remain in post as Prime Minister. This zone includes seats where the Liberal Democrats are the main challenger such as Guildford and Eastbourne, and Rother Valley where Labour won in 2017.

If the outcome of the election sees the Conservatives winning seats in the first and second zones, but no constituencies rated by the YouGov MRP model as being more difficult, then parliament is likely to remain deadlocked as it was before the December 2019 election was called.

The number of seats that the DUP win could be crucial if the Conservatives end up in this zone, and seats such as North Down (expected around 1:30am) and the three Belfast seats that the DUP won in 2017 (around 3am) could become very important, notwithstanding the fact that a potential DUP supported Tory minority government may find it difficult to get the Withdrawal Agreement through the Commons.

If the Conservatives win all of the constituencies in the first three zones, but none of the constituencies considered more difficult, then they will likely have a small but workable majority. If they win all of the seats in all four zones, then they could be headed towards a landslide victory.

The first two absolutely crucial seats, expected around 1am, will be the Cumbria constituency of Workington, won in 2017 by Labour’s Sue Hayman with a 3,925 majority; and Darlington, won by Jenny Chapman of the Labour Party in 2017 by 3,280 over the Conservatives.

These are, in effect, must-win constituencies for Labour. If the Conservatives win them both, then the Conservatives are likely to be heading for a majority. However, should Labour hang on in both, then things could start to get interesting.

If Labour manage to survive in these two races, then the key races to watch around 2am where Labour are defending will be Wolverhampton North East, Bury South, Leigh, Stockton South, West Bromwich West and Wrexham. If Labour win all of these then it will be a strong indicator they may be in a position to form a government.

If the Conservatives haven’t made much headway in these Labour targets (and lose either of Wycombe or Vale of Glamorgan) it will start to look that the night is not going to go their way. On the other hand, if they win them all then they are likely heading towards victory.

If the Conservatives are heading towards victory, then it is around 3am that they will find out if they have been successful in winning Tony Blair’s former seat of Sedgefield.

From this point on, unless the results in zones two and three are breaking evenly, then it should be obvious which way the election has gone. Night owls will be rewarded with results such as Labour stalwart Dennis Skinner’s seat in Bolsover.

The last seats to declare have historically been constituencies in Cornwall, which usually come in around 10am the next morning. Should you have the stamina to sit up for these, then congratulations, you are a true election hero.

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