An hour-by-hour breakdown of everything that will happen on UK Election Day

Look, we're all just trying to get through this.

by Marie Le Conte
12 December 2019, 11:00am

Courtesy of @Jeremy Corbyn/Instagram

Read the rest of i-D's 2019 election coverage here.

Election day is upon us! Are you pumped? I’m pumped! That’s not true actually, I’m not pumped. Well, I guess I’m pumped in the sense that I can’t wait for it to be over because I just really want a good night of sleep, but that’s probably not what people usually mean by "pumped", is it? P.S. Am I using the word "pumped" too much??

Anyway, sorry, I got a bit lost in my own sleep deprivation there. What I was trying to say was: election day is upon us, and more importantly, so is election night. If you’re considering staying up all night to watch it unfold like a very cool person, below is a quick guide to what should be happening when.

(If you do not want to stay up all night, perhaps because you have a "day job", a "life" or a so-called "healthy relationship with the news", scroll down a bit, we’ll also get to your Friday the 13th then.)

Until 10pm
With voting still taking place (go vote!), we won’t be hearing much about the actual results. There will be some journalists talking about turnout looking up or down in certain areas, but it will largely be guesswork, so you can safely ignore it – it’s mostly chaff to fill up airtime while there’s nothing else to report on. Instead, it’s honestly much more worthwhile to spend your time checking out every picture of a dog at a polling station you can find.

(And if you are planning to stay up all night, try to fit in a nap at some point between 4pm and 8pm. You’ll need it.)

Voting is over! The exit poll comes out! This should give us a pretty clear idea of where things will be going, as exit polls tend to largely get it right. Well, they called the 2017 Parliament right (within a few seats), basically perfectly predicted the 2010 hung parliament, but did get it slightly wrong in 2015, with the surprise Tory majority.

Still, exit polls are more reliable than usual opinion polls. So if you just want to know roughly what’s going on, and then get your eight hours, it’s safe for you to go to sleep after that. If not, now is a good time to head for an extra nap/a walk/have some food, as there won’t be much happening for a while. There’s only so many times you can listen to pundits say, “Well, we’ll just have to see what happens later tonight, but…”

11.30pm (ish)
Right, back in front of the screen. Things should start happening around now, with famous fast seats like Sunderland and Newcastle starting to declare. As a quick FYI, that first hour or so always looks like a mini Labour landslide as all those early seats are super safe Labour constituencies, so don’t get your hopes up too early (sorry!). That being said, keeping an eye on the potential swing to the Tories in these seats should give you an idea of what’s about to happen.

This is also not the most fun bit of the night, as it’s still very much a trickling of results at this stage.

1am (ish)
Things are starting to heat up now. This bit of the night is when a bunch of Midlands and northern seats start declaring. A lot of them have been Labour for a while, but voted heavily Leave, and we know that they are constituencies the Conservatives have been trying to target.

If Boris and co. start winning seats around this time, things are not looking good for Labour. But it’s still pretty early, so don’t lose all hope yet.

The floodgates open. A number of English seats will declare around then, and Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh constituencies are also going to be joining in the fun. Scotland especially should be an interesting one to watch, as a lot of the seats up there changed hands in 2015 and/or 2017 but are still super marginal.

(Fun fact: the smallest majority in the country is held by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins, who won two years ago in North East Fife with a whopping……...two votes.)

Wales also got a bunch of tiny majorities last time so we may well have a bit of a musical chairs round over there too, and big NI names like the DUP’s Nigel Dodds will be finding out what’s what around then.

BONUS: some high profile seats declaring around 3am are Islington North (Corbyn! He will be fine!), East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson! She will probably be fine!), Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab! We can only hope he will not be fine!), and Chingford and Woodford Green (Iain Duncan Smith! See comment re: Dominic Raab!)

The shit, to use a technical term, hits the fan. If you’ve not done an election all-nighter before, this is when TV coverage starts looking a bit deranged, like a child drunk on lemonade wrote a script for it: “This is happening there! No wait, that’s happening over there! And here! Look! This is happening!" Coincidentally, this is also usually when your body starts going a bit weird because you’ve been up for so long, so it can end up being the "fun" bit, by which I mean the part where everyone gets a bit hysterical.

On a more serious note, this is when seats in south-east England and London start declaring, and the part of the night the Liberal Democrats will be anxiously waiting for. Can they win (and keep) seats based on their strong Remain line? They probably can’t. But maybe they can! (But probably not.)

London should also be worth keeping an eye on, as several MPs who left Labour and the Tories to join the Lib Dems – your Luciana Bergers, Chuka Umunnas and Sam Gyimahs – will find out if their Commons careers are entering a new era, or are over. Oh, and Hastings, which Labour has been trying to grab for a while, will be declaring too.

Also, Uxbridge and West Ruislip, the seat of one Boris Johnson, will declare around then. He almost certainly won’t lose his seat but….it’d be nice, wouldn’t it?

Honestly by this point you (and I) will probably be begging for the sweet mercy of death and/or sleep. The majority of results will have been announced by this point, so it’s almost safe for you to go to bed, although I guess there may still be some spicy surprises because of late announcements and recounts.

Still, whatever it looks like by 6am will pretty much certainly be the final result (be it Tory majority, hung Parliament, or who knows, a Christmas miracle Labour majority). You are free.

???am, possibly ???pm
What will happen the day after the election? It’s… hard to predict. Realistically, looking at the polls right now, there are two possible things we will wake up to: another hung parliament or a Conservative majority.

If it’s the latter, that’s quite straightforward. Boris Johnson steps back into No.10, Parliament comes back next week, and that’s very much that.

If it’s the former... well, it depends on the numbers. If there is no overall majority with all the seats having declared, the incumbent (ol’ BJ) gets the first go at forming something resembling a plan. That can mean a formal coalition, like the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010, or a confidence and supply agreement, where one smaller party agrees to vote with the bigger party, like the Conservatives and the DUP in 2017.

In short, Boris Johnson would need to show that, one way or the other, he would be able to command a majority in the House of Commons. If he fails to do that, Johnson can resign and invite Jeremy Corbyn, as the leader of the opposition, to also have a go at figuring something out.

We currently have no idea what that would look like -- deals with the SNP? The Lib Dems? the smaller parties? -- but if he manages it then a Labour-led coalition or a Labour minority government with a confidence and supply agreement with [???] can come into the Commons and get going.

In the event that Corbyn also fails, we then would end up having a second general election, probably in early 2020. Can you imagine surviving another round of this?

So, in conclusion: godspeed to you. If you want to drink through your all-nighter, remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and (maybe) see you next month.

Election 2019