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Our UK General Election Night Guide

Between 5:00am and the Last Result

More results at 5:00am though slowing down a bit now. Electoral Registration Officers in these seats may be regretting that they didn’t ignore the central government pressure to declare overnight because counters, some of whom will have been on polling station duty since 7am on Thursday, will begin to flag.  This may delay the results even more. A tranche of Labour/Conservative marginals and Lib Dem held seats come in now.

5:00am

BRENTFORD AND ISLEWORTH at a 1.8% swing, HENDON at a 0.1% swing and  EALING CENTRAL AND ACTON at a 3.9%  swing all look like gains for Labour given the London polls and the Ashcroft polls. 

FINCHLEY AND GOLDERS GREEN at 6.1% swing is more tricky, though the Ashcroft poll in April gave Labour a 2% lead. East Finchley is trending towards Labour with a younger and more ethnically diverse population. The Jewish vote may be wary of Miliband, even though he is Jewish, because of his stand on the recognition a Palestinian state.   

When Tony Blair heard that Labour had won HOVE on election night 1997, he at last accepted that he had won a landslide. Now it is very much a marginal needing only a 1.8% swing and, like Brighton, is trending to Labour with liberal gentrification. The Conservative incumbent is standing down and there is a big Lib Dem vote to transfer to Labour though some will go Green.  The April Ashcroft poll had Labour 6% ahead. 

BRIGHTON KEMPTOWN, next door, needs a similar 1.5% swing and with the Ashcroft poll last year giving Labour a 4% lead it looks like following Hove. The polls in these two constituencies gave the Greens a 10% vote, much lower than Brighton Pavilion.

SHERWOOD in Nottinghamshire with a 0.2% swing needed looks an easy win for Labour.  

BURTON with its brewing connections has only been won by Labour in 1945 and 1997and the following two elections.  It needs a 6.3% and the Conservative were ahead in the 2013 county council elections when Labour was doing better than now nationally.

RUGBY is another 6.3% seat and the Conservatives won it in 2005 as well as 2010, with some 40% of the seat rural, so it will probably be too difficult for Labour. 

STOURBRIDGE, to the south of Dudley, is 5.5% and the latest Ashcroft poll gives the Conservatives a 2% lead so this also may be too difficult for Labour. 

HALESOWEN AND ROWLEY REGIS has more of a Labour tradition and needs only a 2.3% swing so it the sort of seat Labour must win to become the largest party. The two Ashcroft polls give Labour a narrow lead. 

WORCESTER will also be close with conflicting Ashcroft polls and a 3% swing needed. The Ashcroft poll put Labour 6% ahead in KEIGHLEY and a 20% vote for UKIP. That was last October and with a 3% swing needed this one will be close.  

CALDER VALLEY  is another Pennine constituency trending away from Labour and at 6.2% looks like a Conservative hold unless the Lib Dem vote, which was almost as big as Labour’s, breaks mostly in Labour’s favour.

Across the other side of the Pennines, ROSSENDALE AND DARWEN with a 4.8% swing needed is a knife edge seat as the Ashcroft poll confirms. Jack Straw’s son Will is standing for Labour but anything to do with Blackburn is treated with suspicion by people in Darwen.  

In WARRINGTON SOUTH there was a large Lib Dem vote in 2010 which should go to Labour and only a 1.4% swing is needed.

WIRRAL WEST at 3.1% is close but all three Ashcroft polls put Labour narrowly ahead. 

NORTH EAST SOMERSET is nominally a marginal with a 4.8% swing but the Jacob Rees-Mogg seems well entrenched and the Conservatives will win here.

More results the Liberal Democrats need to watch

The Lib Dem MP Don Foster has been entrenched in BATH since 1992.  He is retiring but Labour voters have supported the Lib Dems for years and may well do again to see them home.  

CAMBRIDGE is another medium sized town where the Lib Dems may hold on. The Conservatives were marginally second so the opposition to the Lib Dems is equally divided.  

TORBAY is very close according to the Ashcroft poll but the Lib Dem MP has been here since 1997. 

SOUTHPORT is another seat where the Lib Dems are well entrenched and, though the Conservatives may win, it will be a hard fight. 

BRADFORD EAST looks certain to go Labour after the Lib Dem win in 2010. In other ways it is a typical Labour seat.  

BIRMINGHAM YARDLEY is more difficult for Labour. John Hemming has been the candidate here for the Lib Dems for 25 years, and they have local council seats and a good local machine.  

CAITHNESS SUTHERLAND AND EASTER ROSS  in the far north of Scotland has been Lib Dem for a long time and may well be different from the rest of Scotland although the SNP seems to be ahead in other Highland seats. Scottish constituency names seem to get longer and longer and INVERNESS. NAIRN, BADENOCH AND STRATHSPEY is the longest. Danny Alexander is in real trouble against the SNP here according to the Ashcroft poll.  

The Conservatives were ahead in both TAUNTON DEANE and MID DORSET AND POOLE NORTH in the Ashcroft polls and, although neither is irretrievable, they are similar to other South West seats where the Lib Dems are losing out.

Unpredictable results for smaller parties

There are a number of key seats now for the smaller parties. 

Difficult to predict BRADFORD WEST but George Galloway’s charisma and rapport with parts of the Asian community means that he will probably hold the seat for Respect, especially after such a large win in the by-election. 

In the one seat that the Greens hold, BRIGHTON PAVILION, the unpopularity of the Green led local council is likely to be outweighed by the rise in the Green Vote nationally to put Caroline Lucas back in. The first Ashcroft poll had her neck and neck with Labour and the second put her significantly ahead.  

In FERMANAGH AND SOUTH TYRONE, Sinn Fein won by just 4 votes against an Independent Unionist. A court case upheld the result but found that three ballot papers were missing so the majority could actually have been one. The UUP is the single Unionist candidate this time and Sinn Fein start favourites but it all depends whether the DUP voters line up behind the UUP candidate and whether some of the3000 SDLP voters last time switch to Sinn Fein. 

ROCHESTER AND STROOD the other UKIP by-election looks very tight and the April Ashcroft poll puts the Conservatives just ahead, while there may now be some Labour and Lib Dem voters voting tactically to defeat UKIP. 

BOSTON AND SKEGNESS has been suggested as a possible UKIP gain and the February Ashcroft poll put them only 3% behind the Conservatives. UKIP have chosen a 21 year old candidate who may not have the experience to convince older potential UKIP voters.

5:30am

It's now 5:30am, for those still able to keep going. Only a few seats due to declare at this time and two East Anglian marginals are the only seats that may change hands.  

The old Lowestoft seat remained just marginally Conservative, perhaps because of the popularity of Jim Prior, but with the new name WAVENEY it has been a key marginal needing only a 0.7% swing to go Labour.  The Labour MP who lost in 1997 is standing again and both the Ashcroft polls give him a good lead even though there is also a big UKIP vote. 

GREAT YARMOUTH is more difficult for Labour with a 4.9% swing. UKIP were just behind the Conservatives in July but went backwards in the latest poll with the Conservatives 2% ahead of Labour.

6:00am 

Things are beginning to slow now and it may be clear whether Labour or the Conservatives is going to win the popular vote even if it is so close it is not certain which party will have the highest  number of seats

In CARDIFF NORTH Labour needs a 0.2% swing which should not be at all difficult even if the Welsh polls are not so good for Labour as the English ones. The Ashcroft polls give Labour a solid lead here. 

In READING WEST a 6.3% swing will be difficult for Labour. Labour wins in Reading itself but the West Berkshire wards in the constituency are Conservative. 

LANCASTER AND FLEETWOOD needs only a 0.4% swing and should go Labour, though there is a significant Green vote. Both Ashcroft polls give them a healthy lead.  

MORECOMBE AND LUNESDALE next door needs just a 1% swing and looks good for Labour in three Ashcroft polls.  

WATFORD  is an usual seat in that, though Conservative held, all three parties have a chance of winning as the Lib Dems do well still in local elections and have won the Mayoral election.

CARDIFF CENTRAL is the only Lib Dem held seat in this group and looks certain to be a gain for Labour

ABERDEEN NORTH and ABERDEEN SOUTH are not as clear gains for the SNP as seats in central Scotland but may still go to them.  The SNP were second in the north seat last time. Tactical voting may be in play here.

THANET SOUTH comes in now and is really unpredictable. Without Farage it would probably stay Conservative but he may win through.

By 6.30am 

The Labour/Conservative marginals are drying up. Portsmouth has always been more difficult for Labour than Southampton and PORTSMOUTH NORTH at an 8.2% swing will be too much for them especially as the Government has thrown a lot of money at the town to deal with dockyard closures. In the council elections Labour was losing out to UKIP.

There are more Lib Dem seats declaring and Cornwall starts to come in now where all the seats have been close between the Conservatives and Lib Dems but where the constituency polls also indicate that UKIP will do well.

In CAMBORNE AND REDRUTH UKIP were close to the Conservatives in last year’s Ashcroft poll but the Conservatives were well ahead when the constituency was polled this year and should retain the seat. 

The Conservatives should expect to hold TRURO AND FALMOUTH as well and also SOUTH EAST CORNWALL which is the most favourable of these seats for them. 

The Lib Dems might hold on to ST AUSTELL AND NEWQUAY but all three Ashcroft polls have the Conservatives ahead so it will be difficult for them. 

Dan Rogerson may hold on for the Lib Dems in NORTH CORNWALL as a popular MP in a seat with a strong Liberal tradition but Ashcroft has polled the constituency four times and always found it close.  

The Lib Dems won WELLS for the first time in 2010 but like other West Country small town constituencies it is likely to go Conservative and the Ashcroft polls confirm this. 

There are few Labour voters left to vote tactically and some who did last time will not again. In PORTSMOUTH SOUTH the Lib Dem MP, Mike Hancock, resigned the whip because of allegations made against him, and is now standing as an Independent. The Ashcroft poll saw the Conservatives ahead here but Labour, the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and UKIP with significant support. With Hancock standing as well the winner will only need a small proportion of the vote and, though the Conservatives are favourites, the result is unpredictable.

7:00am  

Difficult to understand why it takes 9 hours to count the seats coming in now. So perhaps returning officers are just being cautious. Only one Labour/Conservative marginal now but it could be vital if the parties are close to a dead heat. 

MILTON KEYNES SOUTH, a prosperous new town seat, is also not easy but the swing needed here is 4.7% and an Ashcroft poll in April put Labour 2% ahead so it looks like it will be close. Two Lib Dem seats declare now.  

Charles Kennedy has a fight to keep ROSS, SKYE and LOCHABER against the SNP surge and the latest Ashcroft poll has him well behind.

It was a shock when the Lib Dems won MANCHESTER WITHINGTON from Labour in 2005 but are likely to be swept away by Labour now in this university seat.

Friday Midday 

The last marginal is WARWICK AND LEAMINGTON and needs a 3.6% swing for Labour win. The December Ashcroft poll put the Conservatives 4% ahead so Labour cannot count on this one. If the Conservatives are one seat behind Labour then they could get one seat ahead by winning two Lib Dem seats counting in the morning.  Both are very close in the Ashcroft polls. 

Alan Beith has held BERWICK-UPON-TWEED since 1973 and without his personal vote the Lib Dems may not hold on.

In the Cornish seat of ST IVES the independent minded Andrew George probably suits the voters and his personal vote may see him through.

Now we know all the results and, very probably, the uncertainty is just about to begin

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