Well five years ago, I though that I would try and do a sort of guide which would show when the key seats were due to be announced and why they were key seats. If memory serves, it wasn’t an exact guide and results came later too. I could have had a quick nap at about 1am too, maybe I would have stayed up for Caroline Lucas winning her seat as well.
So, undaunted here’s this years (approximate) timetable of events.
Normally the first event will be the exit poll (due when the polls close at 10pm). Like last time, which successfully predicted the result, the BBC, ITV & SKY News will have a shared exit poll. As I pointed out 5 years ago, the exit poll hasn’t always been as accurate. Famously the 1992 exit poll predicted a hung parliament with Labour as the largest party, rather than the outcome of a Conservative majority of 21. Less famously, the BBC exit poll in the October 1974 election predicted a landslide for Harold Wilson, rather than the majority of 3 he ended up with.
The most striking thing about watching repeats of the coverage of past elections is the speed that the counts take place. It used to be the case that after the first results there would be a trickle before most of the results being announced between 1-3am. And a lot of results being announced on the Friday as well. So much for Iain Dale & Tom Harris campaign, from five years ago, to ‘save’ Election Night.
Now what happens is that there will be a couple of results around 11-midnight with the trickle starting from 1am onwards with results scheduled to be rolling in at breakfast time tomorrow. With the added complication of Council elections in England, what does the schedule look like this time around?
The first seats to declare will be in the North east, with the uber safe Labour seat of Houghton & Sunderland South scheduled to declare first at about 11pm. Lat time around, it declared at about 10 to 11 so we will see if it breaks that record. Also declaring before midnight five years ago was both Washington & Sunderland West and Sunderland Central. All are safe Labour seats so what we will be watching for will be swing to or from Labour. Increased majorities suggest a good night ahead for Labour, while a decrease may well signify a second Cameron term.
The first result from outside of the North east is due about 1am and there are a couple of seats that could be this election’s Basildon or Birmingham Edgebaston – harbingers of the oncoming result. Both Dagenham & Rainham and Tooting might provide an early indicators of whether Cameron can bridge the gap to win a majority for his party, the Conservatives need a swing of 2.5% to oust Sadiq Khan from his Tooting seat. On the other hand Dagenham & Rainham would require a swing of 3%, wins in either or both seats may indicate a Cameron majority. Meanwhile Nuneaton is a marginal Conservative seat Labour need to take to win, a swing of 2.3% is required to take this seat. Labour’s performance here will be a proper early sighter of Miliband’s chances of victory.
Milliband’s own prospects will become a lot clearer when the flow of results gains momentum at about 2am. Northampton North needs to be taken by Labour if it is to win, winnable at a swing of 2.4% to Labour. Meanwhile two Welsh seats due to declare at this point might provide evidence of whether Miliband could be heading for a working majority. Both Carmarthen East & Dinefwr (held by Plaid Cymru – 4.7%) and Carmarthen West & Pembroke South (Tory held – 4.25%) are around the swing of 4.7% Labour needed (before any losses here in Scotland are factored in) to win a majority. Wins in both of these seats will point to a shock majority for Labour, while Battersea might be just out of reach for Labour, requiring a swing of 6.15% for Labour to win it. A win for Labour here would normally point to a comfortable Labour majority of about 40-odd. Normally…
Speaking of Scotland, of course, this election is not the simple straight Labour versus Conservative fight. Nah h-Eileanan an Lar is scheduled to declare at about 1:30am, but the scale of the predicted rise of the Sturgeonistas will become apparent from 2am onwards. East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow (Labour’s 26th safest seat in Scotland – SNP swing required 14.3%), Lanark & Hamilton East (23rd – 14.5%), Glenrothes (10th – 20.3%), Rutherglen & Hamilton East (5th – 22.4%) and Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeith (2nd – 25.1%) – all scheduled to declare about the 2am mark and a fairly good spread that will indicate the depth of the so called SNP surge. Also declaring around this mark will be Fife North East, the fourth safest Lib Dem seat in Scotland. A swing of 15.1% is required from the SNP, if they take this seat it’s likely that the SNP surge is not confined to Labour seats.
Scheduled to declare from 2:30am are another couple of key seats for Labour. The seat of City of Chester will be vital for Labour if they are to win, with a 2.75% swing required, while Cleethorpes needs a swing of 4.8% to Labour. Meanwhile up here, both of the Dundee seats are due to declare. It will be a huge upset if the SNP’s deputy leader Stewart Hosie is unseated in Dundee East. If the polling is to be believed, it would be a shock if the SNP failed to take Dundee West too, fifth on the SNP’s target list. Also due to declare is the seat of Kilmarnock & Louden which is the first ‘Scottish’ Labour cabinet minister to be in the firing line, Cathy Jamieson.
The results will now be flooding in and the narrative of this election will be taking shape. Of interest will be the seats local to this blog, and incidentally the highest profile targets for the SNP. The shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, will find out if he has fought off the challenge of the SNP’s 20 year old candidate Mhari Black. Also due to declare around the 3am mark is the neighbouring seat, where Jim Sheridan will be aiming to hold off Mark Newlands. Meanwhile up the road in Barrhead, Jim Murphy will find out if he had held on to his East Renfrewshire seat or whether the SNP challenger Kirsten Oswald will unseat him. Away from the so called ‘Jockalypse’ the results will continue to indicate who will be the next prime minister. For example a win for Labour in Peterborough, with a swing required of 5.4% would normally indicate a small Labour majority. On the other hand, if the Tories take Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East, the swing of 1.8% required is the same swing needed for the Tories to get an outright majority. Also declaring around this time will be Bristol West which is a target seat for the Greens.
We will be in the thick of the results by the time 4am rolls around. The safe seat of Whitney is due to declare around this time and this will bring us the victory speech of David Cameron, whether it is a declaration of victory nationally or a concession of defeat is another matter. The same thing applies when the Labour seat of Doncaster North declares and Ed Milliband makes his own victory speech. Half past Four is the scheduled time for Gordon to declare and for, presumably, the return to Westminster of one Alex Salmond. Political death… pah!
By the time both Cameron & Milliband are elected, we should know which way the wind is blowing in the new parliament. For the political anorak though, there is still some drama to come. Sheffield Hallam is due to declare around 5am, where we will find out if Nick Clegg can retain his seat in the face of a strong Labour challenge. Also due to find out his fate will be Cleggs lieutenant in the treasury, Danny Alexander with his Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey constituency due to declare then too. For the really hardy souls, both Caroline Lucas & Nigel Farage should find out their political fates around 6am. Just in time for breakfast.
Of course, that timetable is bound to change, however this is just a guide, just a bit of fun as someone with a swingometer once said. By all likelihood, unless the polls have failed to pick up some late swing, 6am only marks the start of the horse-trading as the parties come to terms with the new political landscape.