Election Night 2017: what to look out for
Your guide to the key results
Hello, and welcome to Prospect’s coverage of this general election. The polls opened at 7am today, but it’s far from clear what result they will bring, with pollsters predicting everything from a hung parliament to a 120 seat Tory majority. (At least—short of a shock majority for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour—someone will be able to say they got it right.)
Uncertain as we are, there’s a lot to watch out for as the results come in overnight: from the likely death rattle of UKIP to the less likely “Lib Dem fight back.” Here’s what you should be keeping your eyes peeled for—even if you find them drooping.
Polls close at 10pm and shortly after we’ll have the exit poll. In 2015, this moment was cataclysmic. Any hopes of a Labour win—or, at least, a Labour-led hung parliament—seemed to go out the window in a moment when the exit poll showed the Tories were predicted 316 seats (they ended up with 331).
The 2010 exit poll was, it’s worth noting, even more accurate. But exit polls have been wrong before: the most notable instance in recent memory being 1992, where it showed a hung parliament which turned into a Conservative win as the night went on.
Sunderland Central, Houghton & Sunderland South and Washington & Sunderland West are expected to be among the first seats to declare. In June 2016, Sunderland’s unexpectedly strong “Leave” vote caused rumblings of dread for the Remain campaign and sent the markets off a cliff.
Yet all three seats have a strong Labour majority. Expect them to be a Labour hold—and expect everyone to analyse the swing here to death while we wait for more results.
The first of the traditional commonly-held “bellweather” seats is expected to declare around 1am: Nuneaton. This was on Labour’s 2015 hit list but remained Conservative. Lord Ashcroft’s polling model predicts a 95% chance it will stay blue this time, too.
Tooting is set to declare. Labour has a majority of 2,842 here and they should be able to hold it—it will be a very bad sign if they do not. If Tooting does change hands, it will be particularly exciting scalp for the Tories, this being London mayor Sadiq Khan’s old seat.
Bury North and Bury South are set to declare. The former has a Tory majority of only 378, and would provide an encouraging early sign for Labour if it changed hands. Bury South, meanwhile, has a Labour majority of 4,922, although the rumour from party activists is that there are some concerns on the ground.
Thurrock, meanwhile, is a key UKIP target seat. The Tories currently have a wafer-thin majority here—if UKIP fail to take it (and there’s no particular reason to think they’ll succeed), it bodes very ill for the continued relevance of their party.
Ynys Mon (or, to call it by its English-people-on-a-walking-holiday name, “Anglesey”) should declare about now. A three-way fight between the Conservatives, Labour and Plaid, Carwyn Jones will be hoping to hold on here.
With a Labour majority of 229 in 2015 and Plaid Cymru in second place, this could be one early indicator of how Labour are doing in Wales.
Burnley was a Labour gain in 2015 after turning Lib Dem in 2010. Labour should hope to hold it, although polling suggests there is support for both Theresa May and Brexit in the constituency.
By 3am, things will be picking up speed.
Chorley has a 4,530 Labour majority, but with the council unexpectedly going to the Conservatives in the last round of local elections, it’s one to look out for—especially if the exit poll points towards the Tories doing well.
Exeter will also declare around 3am. Ben Bradshaw (Lab) held it last time with a majority of 7,183. As the last red standing across Devon and Cornwall in 2015, the Tories would love to take it.
Hampstead and Kilburn had a Labour majority of 1,138. They should keep hold of it tonight: but, if turnout turns out to be a big issue, there’s a chance it could go blue.
Clacton was UKIP’s only seat in 2015 with a majority of 3,437, before Douglas Carswell decided to leave the party. It’s a Tory target this time around—odds on, they’ll take it.
North of the border, Dumfries and Galloway is also set to declare at around 3:30. Another Conservative target, it currently has an SNP majority of 6,514. If it changes hands, it’s a bad sign for the Nats.
Heywood and Middleton was a UKIP target seat in 2015. Traditionally Labour, it stayed red with a majority of 5,299—and all the signs point to it staying red again tonight.
Ilford North currently has a Labour majority of only 589 votes. Wes Streeting has good name recognition here, but feedback from party activists isn’t looking great—if the Tories are going to increase their majority, seats like this could turn blue.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have been canvassing hard in Vauxhall, where they hope that Remain voters will be ready to turn their backs on Leave-supporting Labour candidate Kate Hoey. With a Labour majority of 12,708, they’ll more than have their work cut out. Expect it to stay red.
By this point in the night, we may have a good idea how things are going—although, as James Ball at Buzzfeed points out, Labour were still ahead of the Tories in vote share until 5.44am in 2015.
Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine has a relatively healthy SNP majority, but is another Conservative target. If it changes hands, we’re likely looking at a bad night for Nicola Sturgeon and Co.
Despite every Northern Irish seat seeming to belong to the mysterious “NI” party on some British models, Belfast South was just won by the SDLP in 2015, who beat the DUP by only 2.3% of the vote. Expect the unionists to be on the warpath here—although the result could be a toss-up between several parties.
Barrow and Furness is a Conservative target with a Labour majority of 795 votes. As I say, by this time, we may well have a good idea how things are shaping up—if Ashcroft is anything to go by, it’ll be shaping up to the Tories taking Barrow.
Bermondsey and Old Southwark is another Lib Dem target, after Labour took it off them by 4,489 votes in 2015. The constituency is covered in orange garden stakes, but Corbyn polls okay here and it’s very unlikely that it will change hands. If it does, “Lib Dem fight back” might be real. They’re also making an attempt on Bath. Finally, it’s worth keeping an eye on Southport, which had a Lib Dem majority of 1,322 in 2015, and which the Tories will be hoping to gain this time.
Gower has a slither of a Tory majority—27 votes. With Jones’ Welsh Labour polling better than their English counterparts, this should be a target for Labour.
Sheffield Hallam declares around 4:30am. Won by Nick Clegg with a majority of 2,353 in 2015, Ashcroft currently has 50/50 odds on it going to Labour.
Two Wolverhampton seats, both Labour in 2015, are also worth looking at. If Wolverhampton South West goes to the Tories, it will be bad; if Wolverhampton North East does, it will be terrible.
In 2015, a dark night for the left was briefly improved by watching UKIP’s then-leader Nigel Farage lose his seat. This year, we can expect to see current leader Paul Nuttall fail to gain Boston and Skegness from the Tories.
Also at 5am, we have Bristol West. Labour had a majority of over five and a half thousand here in 2015—this year, the seat is shaping up to be a three-way battle between Labour, the Liberals and the Greens.
In fact, 5am could prove an upsetting time for Labour supporters if the night isn’t going their way. Cambridge, Wirral West, Chester—2015 majority: 93—Dewsbury and Halifax are all potential losses if things go badly.
Over in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, Fermanagh and South Tyrone is a seat where the UUP narrowly beat out SF, with a majority of 530 votes in 2015. If the crocodile is biting—and the latest polls suggest Sinn Féin could be neck-and-neck with the DUP—it may well take a chomp here.
In the Scottish borders, the Tories will be hoping to gain Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk off the SNP. Their majority in 2015 was only 328 votes.
If ICM and ComRes are correct, and Labour do badly, the country could wake up to Oldham East and Saddleworth going blue. With a Labour majority of 6000 votes in 2015, this is the sort of Northern heartland which could cause an existential crisis if it does change hands.
By now, the electoral map will be fairly clear—but be on the lookout for Morley and Outwood. The loss of Ed Balls’ seat was a grim moment in 2015, but if things are going well for Labour, they may just edge out the Tories, who won a majority of 442 last time.
We’re also expecting Thanet South about now. Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay has been charged in relation to election expenses in the 2015 campaign. Will he keep his seat?
Later on June 9
Last year, resignations came thick and fast between about 11:30 and 12:30. It’s far from clear if a poor performance from Labour would see Corbyn stand down—it could be a poor move for the party’s left—but we can likely expect to see Tim Farron go if the Lib Dems do badly.
Finally, 12:36 on May 9, 2015, was the moment at which the Tories went over the line and had enough seats to claim a majority in the Commons.
Whether they’ll manage the same this time—and what time it’ll come if so—remains to be seen.
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