Staying up? The key timings and pivotal seats to watch for

1 hour ago

By Sean SeddonBBC News

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Settle in, folks – it’s going to be a long night.

Our election night watcher’s guide includes key timings and the pivotal seats you should watch out for as we wait to find out who will be the next prime minister.

We’ll also be telling you where you can watch, listen and read everything you need to know about the results from across the BBC.

So if you’re staying up, we hope you’ve got Friday booked off and you’re stocked up on snacks and coffee. Now make yourself comfortable.

22:00 – Exit poll marks the start of results night

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This is the first big moment of the night. Voters in more than 130 constituencies are polled across the country on behalf of broadcasters.

The results allow BBC analysts to forecast approximately how many seats each party has won across Britain. The exit poll isn’t always exactly right, but more often than not it gives a good indication of where we’re heading.

The result is being projected on the BBC’s London HQ, Broadcasting House.

Staying up past then? We’ve got you covered.

Online: Follow all the election developments and results on the BBC News website and app, where we’ll be running a live page through the night with analysis from correspondents and experts.

TV: The BBC’s Election 2024 programme with Laura Kuenssberg, Clive Myrie and Chris Mason begins on BBC One and BBC News at 21:55 BST. You can also keep up to date by tuning in to the BBC News Channel and the Election 2024 livestream on BBC iPlayer.

There will also be dedicated results programmes in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

23:00 – The race to be first

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Sunderland used to be famous for getting the first result out but this year it could come from nearby Blyth and Ashington, a new seat.

This is traditional Labour territory but includes towns where voters have switched to the Tories in recent years.

The important thing to watch out for here will be the size of any swing towards Labour, which will provide the first bit of hard data pointing to how the party has performed nationally.

Remember, all result timings are estimates and could change.

Radio: Check in with Nick Robinson, Rachel Burden and Henry Zeffman on Radio 4 and 5 Live. The Newscast podcast team are hosting a watch-along with 150 listeners at the BBC’s London HQ. A special edition of the podcast will be available on Friday morning. Listen here.

00:00 – The calm before the storm

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Not many results are due in around midnight – can you resist the urge to go to bed during this lull?

There could be an early eye-catching result in Swindon South, where Labour hope to unseat former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

That would be ominous for Rishi Sunak – and he’ll also be concerned if the Liberal Democrats make an early breakthrough in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

01:00 – Results trickle in

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Starting to feel those first flickers of tiredness? Well, it’s about to start picking up.

The big result to look out for is Darlington, which the Tories took from Labour in 2019 under Boris Johnson. Similarly, watch out for Wrexham at around 01:30.

To put it simply, if Labour isn’t winning this sort of place back, it probably isn’t winning.

In Basildon and Billericay, we’ll find out if Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden’s relocation to this usually safe Tory seat has paid dividends for him.

Keep your eyes peeled for Rutherglen, which is due to be the first result from Scotland. We’ll start to find out if pro-independence voters have stuck with the SNP, stayed at home or switched to Labour.

Online: Remember, you can see all the results online and they will be updated throughout the night.

International users can access all BBC News election content on BBC.com.

02:00 – Results come in thick and fast

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Boris Johnson won a string of seats in traditional Labour heartlands in the Midlands and northern England in 2019 on a promise to “get Brexit done”.

Watch out for places like Bolsover, West Bromwich and Hartlepool.

They’ll start to give us a sense of whether the Conservatives have held on to these so-called red wall constituencies or whether Labour has won them back.

If you’re reading this shortly after polls close and wondering what time to wake up in order to see the big moments, this would be a good time to set your alarm for.

According to BBC polling guru Prof Sir John Curtice, an eventual result could be forecast by broadcasters around this time in the event of a landslide. It wouldn’t be official – it would just mean that based on the results so far, the BBC and others might feel confident enough to “call it”.

Between 02:30 and 03:00, we’re expecting the pace of declarations to really pick up – so if you’ve got to get up for work soon, walk away now while you still can.

Watch for Na h-Eileanan an Iar – this island constituency off Scotland’s west coast might have the smallest population of any in the UK, but it will give us an early sign of whether Labour are breaking through north of the border.

In Northern Ireland, the performance of the DUP could be the story of the night.

Party leader Gavin Robinson is facing a strong challenge from Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance Party, in Belfast East, while in South Antrim, the Ulster Unionist Party thinks it has a good chance of returning to Westminster by beating the DUP.

The DUP is also under pressure from Alliance in Lagan Valley, which is the seat formerly held by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson – who resigned as DUP leader earlier this year when he was charged with historical sex offences, which he denies. That result is due a bit later.

03:00 – For whom the bellwethers toll

If you’re staying up, get some coffee and strap in – because if alarm bells aren’t already ringing for one of the two main parties, they soon will be.

Bellwether seats like Nuneaton and Stevenage are hotly contested places which have switched between Labour and Tory. The party that wins in Dartford has gone on to form a government at every election since 1964. Keep an eye on Scarborough and Whitby too.

In short, if Labour are winning these seats, they‘re likely to be on for a comfortable majority – and if they’re not, then the pollsters may want to keep a low profile for a while.

Sir Keir Starmer will be watching from Holborn and St Pancras, where his result is due at around the same time as his predecessor’s. Jeremy Corbyn will be learning his fate down the road in Islington North, where he is standing as an independent.

Also watch Chingford and Woodford Green, where Labour’s attempt to unseat former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has been complicated by its former candidate Faiza Shaheen running as an independent.

Then there is Rochdale, where we’ll find out if ex-Labour MP George Galloway’s recent by-election victory was a temporary protest vote or if he’s there to stay.

In Wales, a good night for Plaid Cymru would mean holding on to their seats in west Wales – which, because of boundary changes, would mean beating Rishi Sunak’s chief whip Simon Hart in Caerfyrddin – and taking Ynys Môn from the Tories. They’re due around this time.

03:30 – Senior Tories in spotlight as floodgates open

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If you’re still with us by this stage, then in the words of Chris Mason, you clearly ooze stamina.

Now it’s going to get hectic. About one fifth of all the results are due to be announced in a 30-minute window from 03:30.

Attention will turn to senior Tories in seats where pre-election polls suggested they could lose. Watch for:

  • Cheltenham – Justice Secretary Alex Chalk
  • North East Somerset and Hanham – former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • Welwyn Hatfield – Defence Secretary Grant Shapps
  • Portsmouth North – Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt

There may be some high drama in Surrey, where Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is being pushed by the Lib Dems in Godalming and Ash. A sitting chancellor has never lost their seat but if things are going really badly for the Tories, that could change.

Elsewhere, we’ll get a sense of how the Lib Dems and Greens are doing.

Both Wimbledon and South Cambridgeshire are key Lib Dem targets, but the party will need a much bigger swing to win somewhere like Chichester, which is Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s seat. If they win there, they’re having a very good night.

In Bristol Central, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer has one of the party’s best chances of taking a new seat.

The party’s other leader, Adrian Ramsay, will hope to win in Waveney Valley – though we’re not expecting that result until closer to 04:30.

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04:00 – Sunak and Farage take the stage

Rishi Sunak’s constituency Richmond and Northallerton isn’t due to declare until around this time, by which time his party’s fate may already be sealed. This could well be the first time in the evening we hear him speak.

Reform UK has shaken up this election but will it make it into the Commons? At around 04:00, we’ll find out if Nigel Farage has won in Clacton, a race that marks his eighth attempt to become an MP.

Two other big Reform targets are due around that time, too – Richard Tice in Boston and Skegness and Lee Anderson in Ashfield.

Elsewhere, the picture in Scotland should be pretty clear after the Glasgow results are through. The SNP will feel it has weathered the storm if it limits any losses there – but Labour wins in Glasgow South and Glasgow West could indicate a real shift across the country.

Winning back Gordon Brown’s old seat Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy from the SNP would be a big symbolic moment for Labour, and the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn will hope to prevent any revival in Aberdeen South.

04:51 – A new day – and a new government?

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Noticed that strange glowing light at the window? That’s the sun coming up. If you’re still awake by now, give yourself a big pat on the back.

By the time it’s light, we are likely to know who will form the next government, because enough seats should have been declared for a party to pass the 326 seats needed for a majority.

In the event of a Labour landslide or a very comfortable win, we could already have reached that point earlier in the night, closer to 04:00. If the Tories have defied the polls or the election is close, it could come later.

05:00 – Last results come in

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If you are still up by now, you are either: a) extraordinarily caffeinated or, b) Professor Sir John Curtice. Either way, you have earned your election night stripes.

Mercifully, there should be a bit of a breather around this time as the pace of results slow – but there are some big ones still to come.

Deciding to run in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East led to Douglas Ross announcing he will quit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives due to internal party anger over his attempt to serve in Westminster and Holyrood at the same time. We’re due to find out if it was worth it.

Johnny Mercer is another high-profile Tory figure facing a tough challenge. Labour hope to take his Plymouth Moor View seat at around this point in the morning.

At around 05:30, we’re expecting to get Liz Truss’s result in South West Norfolk.

06:00-07:00 – What does it all mean?

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People who went to bed after the exit poll will be waking up to a set of results that is more or less complete, with counting only continuing in very close seats or ones that started late for logistical reasons.

If things have gone badly for the Tories, we could still see some big names losing their seats at this point – for example, Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker in Wycombe and Jonathan Gullis, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, in Stoke-on-Trent North.

Whatever the result, the focus will now start moving to victory speeches, recriminations, resignations and what the new government will look like.

Results night might be over, but really, the big stuff is just beginning – so if you’ve been with us all night, for goodness sake, go to bed.

Online: Follow all the reaction to the election developments and results on the BBC News website and app.

TV: Sophie Raworth, Jon Kay and Vicki Young will lead TV coverage on BBC One and BBC News into the afternoon.

Radio: The Today programme will be drilling down into the result from 06:00 on Radio 4. Global audiences can follow events, with a mix of dedicated UK election coverage and international news, through the BBC World Service.

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Sign up: A special edition of our Election Essentials newsletter will be sent to subscribers on Saturday – make sure you’re signed up here. There’ll also be an extra News Daily newsletter – sign up here to make sure you don’t miss anything.

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