Skip To Content
  • GE2019 badge

Here's What To Look Out For On UK Election Night, Hour By Hour

All you need to guide you through those key marginals, upsets, shocks, and surprises.

Congratulations, you made it to polling day!

It's been a looong five weeks of official campaigning, with a big Groundhog Day mood. But finally, the country goes to the polls today to elect a new government β€” the UK's third general election in five years.

Some 46 million voters will elect a total of 650 MPs to represent them in the House of Commons, in the first December general election since 1923. Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson says he had no choice but to push for an election now because of the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit.

Johnson is confident he can win an outright majority in order to get his Brexit deal over the line, but Labour's Jeremy Corbyn has focused on the NHS and other public services and hopes he has convinced people they need a change of government.

This has been dubbed the "Brexit election" but has become one that is more tied up in identity, as the country is effectively forced to choose between two parties moving to their extreme ends and led by divisive figures.

Polling stations are open from 7am until 10pm, and postal votes must be in by 10pm too. Eventually β€” finally! β€” it's time for the results which will be announced from each constituency throughout the night and into the early hours. BuzzFeed News has rounded up what to look out for, using estimated declaration times from the Press Association.

10pm: the exit poll.

This is the moment we've all been waiting for: the first indication of the final result. In recent years, this has often been extremely accurate, predicting the exact number of seats for the Tories in 2017. It did fail to predict a majority for the Conservatives in 2015, however, pointing instead to a hung Parliament.

Exit polls are different to other polls during the campaign because they are carried out after people have voted. For the Sky News/BBC/ITV poll on Thursday, Ipsos Mori will carry out tens of thousands of interviews with voters leaving 144 polling stations (out of around 50,000), with locations carefully chosen to form a representative sample of the wider population.

A small group of election boffins then analyse the data, comparing it to previous years, and make predictions for local results. These are then extrapolated to other constituencies with similar profiles and a national picture is built up.

The exit poll was a big moment in 2017 when then PM Theresa May had gambled everything on a big majority β€” and ended up with a messy hung Parliament. Will Johnson's gamble pay off?

The race to be first out of the blocks.

Sunderland long held the crown for the first area to declare the general election result β€” but it was pipped to the post in 2017 by Newcastle upon Tyne. Both areas are due to report around 11pm, with three constituencies each, so keep your eyes out for who wins this one.

Bill Crawford, who was then head of elections for Sunderland council, told us in 2015 how the ballot counters were sourced from local banks β€” and therefore well trained in rifling through piles of paper β€” and how students are tasked with running ballot boxes from the doors of the sports centre to the counting stations.

Both Sunderland and Newcastle have insisted this year they are not focused on being the first to declare β€” we're not convinced. Are you Team Sunderland or Team Newcastle? Better decide because these are all pretty safe seats and we need to make this interesting somehow.

It's 1am β€” now we're talking.

After a bit of a lull, the all-important marginals start rolling in. Can the Conservatives break down the so-called "red wall" of Leave-voting, traditionally Labour seats that stretch across the Midlands and the north of England?

Look out for the Tory target seats of Workington, a long-held Labour seat held by Sue Hayman with 3,925 votes at the last election, and Darlington which had a Labour majority of 3,280. These will be the first real glimpses of whether Johnson's "get Brexit done" strategy has paid off.

At around 1:30am we should hear from Nuneaton, the "bellwether" seat that has long been won by the party that ultimately wins power. That was last won by the Tories with a majority of 4,739 and Labour have got their eye on it.

The post-2am rush of Tory and Labour target seats.

Then they come thick and fast: The Tory target seats of Battersea (Labour, 2,416), Bury North (Labour, 4,375), Clwyd South (Labour, 4,356), Newport West (Labour, 1,951), Wrexham (Labour, 1,832) and Wolverhampton North East (Labour, 4,587) will all declare around now.

Watch out too for the Conservatives potentially grabbing Great Grimsby (Labour, 2,565), where Johnson pointed at fish this week; Stockton South (Labour, 888); and former Labour deputy leader Tom Watson's old seat of West Bromwich East (Labour, 7,713).

The Tories are also hoping to seize Leigh (Labour, 9,554), which was for many years the seat of former cabinet minister Andy Burnham. Corbyn's leadership has not gone down well with many voters here.

Meanwhile Labour will be hoping to chalk up some wins in Arfon (Plaid Cymru, 92), Dunbartonshire West (SNP, 2,288), and in Putney, where former Tory cabinet minister Justine Greening is standing down after winning a slim majority of 1,554 in 2017.

Labour is also aiming to take ultra-marginal Thurrock (Conservative, 365), Vale of Glamorgan (held by former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns with a 2,190 majority), and Watford (Conservative, 2,092). The Tories need to hold onto these seats if they want a sizeable majority.

Watch out for Hartlepool (Labour, 7,650), a Leave-voting former Labour stronghold that could be the Brexit Party's best chance of winning a seat. Party chairman Richard Tice is standing here.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) will also be looking to nab a couple of seats around now β€” in Midlothian (Labour, 885), and Angus (Conservative, 2,645). The Tories need to hold onto as many of their 13 seats in Scotland as possible and Angus will be the first real test for them here.

Labour is fighting for survival in Scotland β€” losing Midlothian and Glasgow North East (which declares at around 3am) would be a real blow for Corbyn.

The 3am surge β€” and some nail-biting moments for the Lib Dems.

This is when we'll find out whether the Lib Dems can pick up some momentum. Did that "stop Brexit" strategy work? We'll find out in the Remain-voting seat of Cities of London and Westminster (Conservatives 3,148), where Chuka Umunna is standing after defecting from Labour and ditching his old safe Streatham seat.

The Lib Dems are also throwing everything at Eastleigh (Conservatives, 14,179), from where former Tory MP Mims Davies did a "chicken run" to a safe seat elsewhere, and Sheffield Hallam, ex-leader Nick Clegg's former seat which was won by Labour in 2017 with 2,125 votes.

They're also eyeing up Colchester (Conservative, 5,677) and Devon North (Conservative, 4,332) which will be declared around now. Guildford will be a fascinating snapshot of modern politics as the Lib Dems attempt to take it from the Tories, with the added complexity of its former Tory MP Anne Milton standing as an independent opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

We'll find out if Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson can hang onto her own seat, East Dunbartonshire, which she won back in 2017 with a 5,339 majority after losing to the SNP in 2015. And former leader Tim Farron is at risk from the Tories in Westmorland and Lonsdale after winning a majority of just 777 in 2017.

Also in this hour, watch out for Labour target seats Telford (Conservative, 720), Bolton West (Conservative, 936), Pendle (Conservative 1,279), and Wimbledon (Conservative 5,622). Labour are hoping to grab Hastings and Rye, which was won by former cabinet minister Amber Rudd with a slender 346 majority in 2017.

We'll see if Labour can unseat ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford and Woodford Green, which he won with a 2,438 majority in 2017. That would be quite a moment for Labour's Faiza Shaheen as Duncan Smith has been the MP there since 1992.

Another massive moment would be the political demise of foreign secretary Dominic Raab in Esher and Walton. Although he won a stonking 23,298 majority there in 2017, polls show he is being squeezed by the Lib Dems in the heavily Remain area. Could this be the Portillo moment of the night?

Meanwhile the Tories are focusing on winning Newcastle-under-Lyme (Labour, 30), Stroud (Labour, 687), and Peterborough which Labour won with a slim 683 majority in a by-election earlier this year.

They're also determined to win Beaconsfield which was long held by senior Tory Dominic Grieve β€” but he is now fighting the seat as an anti-hard Brexit independent.

Over in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds will find out if he's held onto Belfast North (majority 2,081) against pro-Remain Sinn Fein's John Finucane, the son of solicitor Pat who was murdered by loyalist gunmen in 1989.

The DUP's Emma Little-Pengelly is also facing a serious challenge in Belfast South (majority 1,996) from the Social Democratic and Labour Party, an Irish nationalist, pro-Remain party which β€” unlike Sinn Fein β€” would take up their seats in Westminster.

And we're flying now β€” 4am will see some crucial seats up for grabs, including the prime minister's.

Bassetlaw was long held by Labour's John Mann β€” who was no fan of Corbyn β€” but when he stood down, there was a battle between local party members over who should replace him. Labour HQ stepped in to choose Keir Morrison, who is considered more left-wing than Sally Gimson who was originally selected. Can Morrison hang onto the seat for Labour or will the Tories overturn the party's 4,852 majority?

Labour is also desperately trying to hang onto Canterbury, which Rosie Duffield won for the party with a slender 187 majority in 2017, ending a century of Tory rule. She needs enough Lib Dems to vote tactically for her in order to fend off Conservative challenger Anna Firth.

The Conservatives are throwing everything at Crewe and Nantwich (Labour, 48), Ipswich (Labour, 831) and Lincoln (Labour, 1,538). They're also confident of securing Wakefield from former shadow minister Mary Creagh who has held the seat for Labour since 2005.

At around 4:30am, Boris Johnson will be taking the stage in Uxbridge and South Ruislip to find out whether he has successfully defended his 5,034 majority against an almighty effort by Labour's Momentum group to unseat him. Brexit aside, Labour could well benefit from the increasing numbers of young voters in the area and the perception among residents that Johnson is never in his constituency.

We'll also see who is victorious in the three-horse race for Kensington β€” which was won by Labour's Emma Dent Coad with a majority of just 20 in 2017. The Tories hope to win the seat back but Lib Dem Sam Gyimah, who defected from the Conservatives this year, has been pushing a strong pro-Remain message there.

Meanwhile Labour is hoping to win Preseli Pembrokeshire, which was won by Tory Stephen Crabb with a majority of just 314 in 2017, Mansfield (Conservative 1,057), and Harrow East (Conservative, 1,757).

The early hours β€” as the dust settles and the national picture becomes clear, there are still some tasty marginals to watch.

At around 5am we should see a result for Ashfield, possibly the favourite seat of lobby journalists during this campaign thanks to its ~interesting~ set of candidates. The constituency has long been held by Labour's Gloria De Piero (who won a 441 majority in 2017) but she's standing down and the Tories hope to grab it.

Bolsover is also one to watch: can the Conservatives boot out Labour's Dennis Skinner, who has held the seat for almost 50 years? The Tories also hope to claim Colne Valley (Labour, 915), Derby North (Labour, 2,015), and Dudley North, where Labour's Ian Austin is standing down after winning a wafer-thin 22 majority last time round.

Also look out for super marginal seats Keighley (Labour, 249), Barrow and Furness (Labour, 209), and Oxford West and Abingdon which Lib Dem Layla Moran won with an 816 majority in 2017.

Labour is looking to seize Southampton Itchen from the Tories, who won a 31 majority there in 2017, as well as Chipping Barnet, which senior Conservative Theresa Villiers has represented since 2005. They also have their eyes on key marginals Stoke on Trent South (Conservative, 663), Pudsey (Conservative, 331), and Calder Valley (Conservative, 609).

Also keep your eyes peeled for Hertfordshire South West, where former Tory cabinet minister David Gauke is standing as an independent candidate.

At around 5:30am, we'll see if Lib Dem Luciana Berger can wrestle Finchley and Golders Green, Margaret Thatcher's old constituency, from the Conservatives who won a 1,657 majority in 2017.

Soon afterwards, we'll find out if Tory Zac Goldsmith has clung on in Richmond Park β€” which he won with a 45 majority last time round β€” or if the Lib Dems have done enough to beat him. Swinson's party will also be watching the St Ives declaration at around 8am, where they are desperate to overturn a Conservative majority of 312.

And at around 6am watch out for East Devon β€” this traditionally safe Tory constituency could be seized by a popular independent candidate who says the party system is broken.