It’s that time again. On Thursday, the country will vote and we’ll find out if Theresa May is heading back to Downing Street or if Jeremy Corbyn will be moving El Gato into that famous address.
Here’s your hour-by-hour guide on what to look out for.
21:30: The New Statesman liveblog will open. I had an unpleasantly vivid dream about oversleeping and missing the exit poll yesterday, which hopefully won’t be an omen.
22:00: Polls close, and the exit poll will come out.
This won’t give us an idea of vote share but has tended to be a pretty accurate barometer of who has the most seats.
Why? Because the exit poll isn’t measuring votes but change. Basically, because everyone in the United Kingdom tends to vote the same way, if the Labour vote is up by nine points on 2015 in the safe seat of Hackney North at the expense of the Conservatives, it will be up nine points in the Conservative seat of Harrogate, and more importantly, up nine points in Harlow, enough to win the seat and put Labour in office with a majority of around ten or so.
With the exceptions of 1987 and 1992, when the exit poll missed the Tory majority, it has tended to be a good indicator. But we should get our first sign one way or the other at…
22:41: This is the time that Houghton & Sunderland South must declare by if they are to beat their own record for the fastest declaration on election night. This is a very, very safe Labour seat – if the party were to lose it, Labour would be heading for fewer than 80 seats on a uniform swing. But the vote share here, and in Sunderland West, will give us an idea as to whether or not the exit poll is right or not. The only seat that could plausibly change hands is Sunderland Central, but even then, we’d be looking at a very big Tory win, with Labour down to just 124 seats or so.
But these will be the only results we’ll have to discuss for a wee while, with the first marginal not in until…
00:30: Swindon North. If Labour win here by one vote, the party will be on course to take office, either with a small majority or just a few seats short of one. The Conservatives would be way down on around 250 seats – but to do that, Labour would have to overturn a majority of 11,786. But at this point we’ll start to know if the exit poll has come good.
01:00: The first results out of Northern Ireland, North Antrim and Foyle will come out. Very safe DUP and SDLP seats, but they will give us an idea how the battle in Northern Ireland is going. And of course, if we are heading to a hung parliament or even back to a small majority for either party, the composition of Northern Ireland’s Westminster constituencies will matter a great deal. As a crude rule of thumb: wins for the DUP and UUP – good for the Conservatives. Wins for the Alliance – could go either way. Wins for the SDLP – good for Labour. Wins for Sinn Fein – these MPs don’t take their seats so they reduce the magic number needed for a majority in the Commons for everyone.
But that may not matter – results from Battersea and Nuneaton, both must-win seats for the big two, will tell us what is going on.
01:30: Big declarations: Putney, which Labour needs if it is to govern alone, and Tooting, which the Conservatives need for the landslide majority that Theresa May craves.
Labour will be looking to hold Darlington and Wrexham, two seats right on the foothills of the Tory target list. Labour did poorly in both seats in the local elections, and if the Conservatives can’t win these they could be in big trouble.
02:00: The first results will come in from Scotland, and although the only seats that could change hands are Angus on a very good night for the Tories, and Fife North East for the Liberal Democrats, we’ll still have an idea of how effectively the Unionist parties have marshalled anti-SNP tactical voting.
Ultra-marginal Thurrock will declare. This is a very vulnerable Tory-held seat that they need to hold to retain their Commons majority. They must also defend Bury North and Peterborough, and on a good night they would take Bury South.
Watch out for Ceredigion, where Plaid Cymru are pushing hard to take out the last Liberal Democrat MP in Wales.
02:30: Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North seat will declare. How happy he sounds will depend on Labour holding Hartlepool, and adding Warwickshire North.
03:00: The hour of truth. 116 seats will declare and we’ll know how the exit poll has held up and who has won and who has lost. The United Kingdom’s only four-way marginal, Belfast South, will declare. Labour’s Jon Cruddas faces a tough fight in Dagenham and Rainham, while the Tories will hope to make it a clean sweep of the South-East and take out Ben Bradshaw in Exeter.
And in Scotland, Labour think they could pick up East Lothian, while East Renfrewshire is a tight three-way between Labour, the SNP and the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats have high hopes of winning back East Dunbartonshire.
Tim Farron’s Westmoreland and Lonsdale will declare. He’s unlikely to lose it but remember that the Liberal Democrats have no safe seats, so anything could happen.
04:00: The Liberal Democrats have fought hard in Bath and Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Will it all be for nothing? They are at risk of losing their Chief Whip Tom Brake in Carshalton and Wallington, too. The Conservatives are protecting their gain at the Copeland by-election. London’s tightest marginals, Conservative-held Croydon Central and Labour-held Ilford North, will declare.
Labour’s last King in Scotland, Ian Murray, will find out if he has held on again, and if he has added a pal for Edinburgh North and Leith.
Can the Tories make a breakthrough in Liverpool City Region? They’re hoping to add Southport, Wirral South and Wirral West to their collection.
A host of further marginals will come in, and by the time the hour is out we should know who has won the election.
Big beast alert: can Clive Lewis hold on in Norwich South, and can Vince Cable make it back in Twickenham? Big lol alert: will Zac Goldsmith lose in Richmond Park again?
04:30: Big beast alert: Nick Clegg due to declare in Sheffield Hallam. Speaking of beasts, Dennis Skinner has a tough fight in Bolsover, where the Tories have talked a big game.
Labour are playing defence in Wolverhampton, where the Tories hope to make a clean sweep.
05:00: Big beast alert: Gloria De Piero has a tricky fight in Ashfield. Jess Phillips is facing a Liberal Democrat challenge in Birmingham Yardley.
The marginal seats of Harrow will declare. Labour and the Tories have one apiece. Greens will be looking out for Bristol West, where they hope to win a second MP.
Yvette Cooper, who is on manoeuvres for the Labour leadership, will get her result in Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford. What tone she strikes will be shaped by the marginals elsewhere, of course.
06:00: Big beast alert: Caroline Lucas will get her result in Brighton Pavilion. A big slew of Tory seats will come in. If they are going to be the largest party they ought to be ahead by now.
07:00: Big beast alert: Liz Kendall will find out if she’s held on in Leicester West. And she’ll know, too, whether or not Labour are heading to government, as will we all.