(Timings are based on 2005)
The 2010 BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll is published. This will be the first indication of how the country has voted. Throughout the day at 130 selected polling stations NOP and MORI will have been conducted interviews with one in every ten voters as they leave. The vast majority of the locations will have been used in 2005 and a team of academic psephologists will analyse what’s coming in focusing on moves from the previous election. The aim is not to work out national vote shares but to make a seat projection.
The first declaration is due about now with Sunderland borough aiming to rank up the treble as it did in 2005, however it will not be Sunderland South that is the first to declare for the simple reason that the constituency no longer exists. So will Houghton and Sunderland South enter the annals of election trivia as the first seat to declare, or will Sunderland Central or Washington and Sunderland West claim the prize? Or could some upstart such as Wirral West (with an electorate of 55,152) steal Sunderland’s crown?
Rutherglen and Hamilton West should declare now (becoming the first seat in Scotland to declare). In 2005, it was the first suggestion of a national Lab to Lib Dem swing (5%) and could demonstrate if the Lib Dem surge is having an effect. Although unlikely to result in a Lib Dem gain (18.62% swing needed to gain), even becoming a marginal would suggest a Lab to Lib Dem swing of at least 13.5% which could have Labour MP’s quaking in their boots
Newcastle upon Tyne Central is the first realistic Lib Dem chance from Labour to declare. In 2005, there was an 11% from Labour to Lib Dem and a similar swing this time would see the Liberal Democrat control of Newcastle council translated into Liberal Democrat MP’s
Angus in Scotland is the first test of the SNP’s electoral performance. Ranked as the 41st Conservative target seat nationally, if the SNP hold the seat then the Conservatives are having severe problems and the SNP could be on course for their 14 net gains (to return 20 SNP members, the highest tally since 1974)
Tooting sees the start of the traditional rush on Election Night (with an average of a constituency every thirty seconds) and marks another crucial Conservative target. Tooting has never elected a Conservative MP before and yet needing a swing of 6.09% to go down (on the cusp of an overall majority for the Conservatives) if it doesn’t then David Cameron will not be the next Conservative Prime Minister and we are well into hung parliament area.
By now, Gordon Brown will have been returned for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath but with as few as 49 constituencies having declared, it is very unlikely he will give a statement either conceding defeat or announcing his return as Prime Minister thus facing his fate with the rest of the Labour candidates also waiting for their results.
Ynys Môn is due to declare now. A key target for Plaid Cymru they will be bitterly disappointed not to retake the seat gained by Labour in 2001 when Ieuan Wyn Jones stood down to concentrate on the Assembly. Plaid only need a swing of 1.75% to gain (but that said they only needed a swing of 1.18% in 2005 and suffered a swing of 0.58% to Labour thanks in part to an Independent candidate who took votes from the Conservatives and is standing again in 2010)
Glenda Jackson (the Labour candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn) will know her fate about now. Ranked number 6 on the Lib Dem battleground it would be a brave person given the polls that suggests she holds on, but will the Commons retain the only MP to recieve an Oscar or will Nick Clegg’s right hand man (who helped him win the leadership of the Lib Dems in 2007) produce a performance worthy of an Oscar himself?
Wyre Forest declares with Dr. Taylor hoping to make it a hat trick of wins (and in doing so become the first post war Independent MP to be elected three times in a row) but unlike 2001 and 2005 this time the Liberal Democrats have decided to contest the seat. Will the Lib Dem surge in votes be Dr. Taylor’s undoing and if so, will a seat that was Conservative up until 1997 come back home or go to another party altogether?
David Cameron is expected to have held Witney and in his acceptance speech will have to make a decision. Does he say in light of the result that he should become Prime Minister (even if it is without an overall majority) or will he keep quiet and state that historical precedence determines that the sitting Prime Minister makes the next move?
Birmingham, Hall Green could be one of several seats that have completely unexpected results. Made up of the remains of Birmingham Sparbrook and Hall Green any number of parties could have a valid claim to win the seat. The Conservatives won the seat until 1997, Labour won the seat up to 2005, it is a prime Liberal Democrat target and Respect polled over 25% in the previous incarnation of the seat.
Poplar and Limehouse is due to declare now and if you thought the speech given by George Galloway when he won Bethnal Green in 2005 was vicious, imagine what he might come up with if he lost (to the Conservatives of all parties) as Poplar is another seat that David Cameron needs to win in order to win a majority in the House.
As dawn breaks over Kent, the most marginal seat in the country Gillingham and Rainham should declare (barring recounts), if the seat doesn’t change hands (Labour defending a majority of 15) then all the assumptions of the Conservative campaign will be called into question
It will now be crystal clear if there is a new Government, the old Government re-elected or a hung parliament as over 600 results will have been announced. If it is the latter, then as the election specials hand over to their breakfast time counterparts each of the seats still to declare will be watched like a hawk to see if any of them allow one party to claim a moral victory
The first of the constituencies not to count on the night will start to declare now and if there is a hung parliament each of the parties will take heart if it goes their way and criticise the opposition if it does not.
The Queen may well come into the calculation at this time dependent on a hung parliament having been the result with the Prime Minister driving to the Palace to inform Her Majesty of the result and either a) resigning stating that he does not believe he has the ability to form a majority government or b) advising Her Majesty that he intends to form a coalition with a another party (or indeed more than one other party). From now on, the horse trading starts.