🌅 Subscribe to the Waugh Zone and we’ll send you the key takeaways from election night bright and early on Friday morning.
After five weeks of often bitter campaigning, the UK’s first winter election for nearly 100 years will finally be over at 10pm.
There will be some curveballs that no one has expected, some seats that go against the trend and plenty of bloodshot eyes of viewers and politicians at the end of it all.
Here’s our guide to how to follow the results through the night.
10PM - Exit polls
The BBC/ITV/Sky ‘exit poll’ is the big moment that could mean the difference between going to bed early or pulling an all-nighter. Conducted by Ipsos Mori across 144 polling stations throughout the day, it uses a mock ballot paper for people to complete in line with how they just cast their vote. Statistical modelling and sampling are used to produce a forecast.
Exit polls have been pretty accurate, getting the Tory seats bang on in 2010 and just three out in 2017. But 2015’s pointed to a hung parliament even though David Cameron won a narrow majority. If things are tighter than assumed in this election and the exit poll points to a small Tory lead within a margin of error, it could be a long night as everyone checks the real results with the prediction.
Don’t forget that postal votes are not captured by exit polls, and even though attempts are made to compensate, they may not pick up any material advantage one party may have built up before today.
You’ll also have to choose which broadcaster you fancy, though Twitter is often a good guide to alerting you when to flick the remote to different channels for a bit of drama. For me, the BBC’s big draw is the don of polling, Prof Sir John Curtice. But ITV have some fascinating guests including Jon Lansman, ex-May spad Fiona Hill, Ed Balls, George Osborne and Ruth Davidson. Sky have John Bercow, Channel 4 have Rylan and Tom Watson, which should be fun.
11PM - The first result of the night
The race is on between Houghton and Sunderland South and Newcastle Central to post the first result of the night. Although Sunderland famously gave us that electrifying first Leave result in the 2016 referendum, Bridget Phillipson’s constituency will stay Labour, though everyone will be poring over the vote shares to see if the Brexit Party has done some damage - and if the Tories are on the rise in the north east. The key thing is that we will have some actual results to check whether that exit poll is roughly right.
Workington, much touted as a Tory target, is expected to declare. Labour have been quietly confident, but again watch for Conservative vote share even if they don’t win. We will also get an early clue to how well the SNP are going to do, as the result is declared in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, which Labour won in 2017 by a wafer-thin majority.
Watch for Darlington, which will be the first real test of how accurate the YouGov/MRP polling analysis has been. The MRP predicted it would go Tory for the first time since 1959. Labour’s Jenny Chapman (Keir Starmer’s loyal shadow Brexit minister) has long advocated a second referendum but the seat was 56% Leave three years ago.
Wigan will be held by Labour but is worth keeping an eye on to spot any North West implications for Leave seats. Nuneaton, which used to be a bellwether seat, will tell us whether it is now a solid Tory constituency. Remember under Tony Blair places like this voted for Labour in three straight elections.
A mass of seats are declared in this witching hour. Another MRP-predicted Tory gain is Wrexham, which has a new Labour candidate after MP Ian Lucas stood down. Tory insiders have long been saying privately they could make serious gains in north Wales.
Bury North and Bury South could give us clues to seats that Tories often need for a majority, and the latter has a substantial Jewish population that have been urged to abandon Jeremy Corbyn by former MP Ivan Lewis.
Labour will be hoping to win Putney from the Tories, if enough Lib Dems have voted tactically in this heavily Remain seat (another test for that MRP poll).
Hartlepool is the Brexit Party’s biggest target with Richard Tice their candidate, and though few expect him to win, just how close he comes will be worth noting. Great Grimsby, where Labour’s Mel Onn has been fighting for her life, should tell us if the ‘Red Wall’ narrative is real or hot air.
I’ll be watching Leigh in Greater Manchester closely, as many Labour insiders are extremely worried about Andy Burnham’s former seat, which has been Red since 1922.
In Yorkshire, the party is similarly very jittery about an under-the-radar presence of the Brexit Party which has been masked by Nigel Farage’s plunging support in the national polls. Dan Jarvis’s Barnsley Central could be one to watch.
In the West Midlands, West Bromwich East and West will be fascinating as if the Tories take either they are in for a very good night indeed. Further south, Labour can take Watford for the first time since the Blair years if the strong Lib Dem vote shifts tactically for Chris Ostrowski.
In Scotland, if the Tories take the tight three-way marginal of Lanark and Hamilton East from the SNP, they will be on course for an impressive set of results.
Now results come thick and fast, with several ‘Were You Up For Portillo?’-style moments in the offing. Will the Lib Dems snatch Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton seat? He sits on an enormous Tory majority of 23,298 but this gin-and-jag stockbroker belt constituency is a heavily Remain area which used to have a very pro-EU MP (who has backed the Lib Dems).
But the SNP are hoping for their own big scalp in Jo Swinson’s East Dunbartonshire seat. The party ought to take back Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam around this time, though if they don’t then the Corbyn student factor really is bigger than assumed. Dominic Grieve, aka Dominic Cumming’s bete noir (the No.10 adviser curses Grieve’s name whenever he hears it), will find out if going independent really has worked in Beaconsfield.
In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein are hoping to oust DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds in Belfast North. In Chingford and Woodford Green, Iain Duncan Smith is fending off a huge Momentum-driven challenge by Labour.
Chuka Umunna is hoping to pull off a shock in Cities of London and Westminster (which must be tight as Boris Johnson broke convention and voted for the Tory candidate rather than for himself in Uxbridge).
Labour ought to have found out by now whether it has defended classic Lab-Con marginals like Bedford, Bolton North East and Blackpool South.
But there are also some traditionally ‘safe’ Labour seats at risk from the Brexit factor too. Could veteran Labour thinker Jon Cruddas really lose Dagenham & Rainham? Will Labour Leaver Caroline Flint lose Don Valley? Bishop Auckland has been Labour since 1935 but has been steadily losing vote share to the Tories and only a 0.6% swing is needed to go blue.
If Richmond Park declares this early, Sarah Olney will have taken it from Zac Goldsmith in the heavily Remain seat in West London. The only reason it was later last time was the tightness of the result (45 votes) and four (yes four) recounts.
All eyes will be on Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s old seat where Phil Wilson has bravely backed a second referendum despite a strong Leave vote locally. Watch too for East Renfrewshire in Scotland. If the Tories hold on to it, they’ll be doing well north of the border despite early fears that Scots losses to the SNP would make life very difficult for a UK-wide majority.
Bassetlaw, which has been Labour since 1935, is a top Tory target after the departure of Labour Brexiteer John Mann. Reading East and West (often crucial for any government majority) are due, but so too is another M4 corridor classic marginal in Swindon South, currently held by justice secretary Robert Buckland.
Boris Johnson’s own seat of Uxbridge and West Ruislip is due, so we should get a speech from him that reflects how well or badly he’s judged calling this entire election. If Labour pull off the shock of the night and oust him, and yet the Tories win a majority, would the party appoint an interim leader until he won a by-election?
Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has been shut away in a padded room since his Grenfell remarks, can only lose North East Somerset if every Lib Dem backs Labour and if Remainer Tories stay at home. In short, it would be quite a surprise. Cheltenham ought to be an easy Lib Dem gain but if they fail then the Conservatives are doing well.
Two shocks from 2017 are up around now, with both Kensington and Canterbury due to declare. Many in Labour fear ex-Tory minister Sam Gyimah will split the vote and let the Tories retake Kensington. There’s no three-way split in Canterbury, but Rosie Duffield (who suggested on Peston last night the Tories could get a majority of 15 seats) will need the student vote again and every Lib Dem vote she can get.
In a normal year, Labour veteran Dennis Skinner would be tonight set to succeed Ken Clarke as the Father of the House of Commons, aka the longest continuously serving MP. But if the Tories take his Bolsover seat it would be a heck of a symbolic triumph for Johnson’s ‘get Brexit done’ strategy. Similarly vulnerable Labour Leave seats are in Stoke on Trent Central and North.
Watch for everyone’s Twitter hero David Gauke as South West Hertfordshire declares. Like Grieve, the odds are hugely against him, but if he pulls it off we can all hope for a cameo from his dad. Another Tory Remainer-turned-independent, Anna Soubry, will learn if her own gamble pays off too in Broxtowe.
Labour will be hoping they can pull off some London victories that show their strength in the capital of Remain (yes, that’ll be the capital). Chipping Barnet is held by cabinet minister and Vote Leave campaigner Theresa Villiers.
Lots of people will watch out for Finchley and Golders Green to see if Luciana Berger has convinced Jewish and other Labour voters to oust Mike Freer (or whether she’s just massively split the anti-Tory vote). It will also tell us whether voters prefer Johnson’s ‘Love Actually’ or Hugh Grant’s (he campaigned for Berger, as well as IDS and Raab’s opponents).
Labour should by this stage know how good or bad a night it’s having but if it hangs on to Weaver Vale it will be doing better than many expected.
6AM - Who won the election?
A handful of seats will be outstanding, but if you’ve survived this long you’ll probably need some strong coffee to keep you going through the rest of the day. If Johnson wins, we can probably expect a brief victory speech to activists, and ditto for Corbyn.
A Tory win would see a PM speech on the steps of No.10 mid morning. If all the polls are confounded and there’s a hung parliament, his statement will sound altogether different.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.