Tom Goodenough

Boris vs Corbyn: the key seats to watch on election night

Boris vs Corbyn: the key seats to watch on election night
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Will Boris Johnson return to Downing Street on Friday? Or will it be prime minister Jeremy Corbyn? There are now only two days to go until election day. Here are the key seats to watch on Thursday night and Friday morning that will determine Labour and Tory fortunes:

10pm

All eyes will be on the joint exit poll from the BBC, ITV and Sky. This is the moment when everything went wrong for Theresa May. Will Boris Johnson receive better news than his predecessor?

11pm

Houghton & Sunderland South, which has always elected a Labour MP, is likely to be the first seat to declare. We’ll also get the result from Sunderland Central at around 11.30pm. At the last election, the Tories managed to cut Labour’s majority by 2,000 votes. Labour’s Julie Elliott still enjoys a 9,000 vote cushion, but can a major upset be ruled out? A Tory win here would be a big upset.

Midnight

Washington & Sunderland West will declare around now, offering some indication of how the Brexit party might affect results in Labour-held areas. Kettering will come back at 12.30pm. And we’ll hear the result from South Swindon – the first true bellwether seat of the night to declare – soon afterwards. If the Tories lose here, it will spell miserable news for Boris Johnson.

1am

There's been much talk in this election about 'Workington Man'. Could he win it for the Tories? We should find out the result his stomping ground – a seat that has been Labour for a century – around now.

Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Newcastle upon Tyne East declare around now. Labour should almost certainly hold both but if the party doesn’t, Jeremy Corbyn is in trouble.

All eyes will be on Nuneaton a short time later. David Cameron claimed after the 2015 election that he knew he was heading for a return to Downing Street when the seat came back blue. In 2017, despite a mixed picture across Britain, the Tories clung on here. Expect a Conservative victory again.

1.30am

Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan was credited with one of the more imaginative election campaign videos at this election. Will it help persuade voters in Tooting to up her sizeable majority? We’ll find out around now.

Wrexham’s Labour MP Ian Lucas is stepping down at this election, but will his successor Mary Wimbury succeed in fending off a significant Tory challenge? Labour’s majority here is narrow – only 1,800 votes or so – meaning this will be a fiercely-contested seat.

2am

In Bury North, Labour overturned the Tories’ 378 vote majority last time around, winning with a convincing majority of over 4,000. Conservative candidate James Daly will be hoping to win the seat back for his party.

Hastings and Rye, where Amber Rudd is stepping down as the local MP, is one of the most marginal seats in the country. Labour’s Peter Chowney, who missed out by some 350 votes in 2017, is back and determined to win the seat for his party. But might Corbyn’s ‘neutral’ Brexit stance cost him victory in an area that backed Leave in 2016?

Thurrock’s Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price has had a thin majority at each of the last three elections. With Nigel Farage’s Brexit party standing down here, the Conservatives should see off a Labour challenge in an area that voted leave at the referendum.

2.30am 

We’ll get the result back from Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency of Islington North around now. Will Corbyn be the prime minister in waiting at this point? Or might he be considering his future as a two-time election loser?

Tory candidate Rebecca Harris upped her majority in Castle Point by some 10,000 in 2017. If she manages to win with an even bigger share of the vote than last time, it will be a very good omen for Boris Johnson and his prospects of returning to Downing Street with an increased majority.

Might the ‘red wall’ turn blue? The result from Anglesey is returning around now. Given this is one of the country’s most tightly-fought contests it will offer some idea of which way disaffected Labour voters are leaning.

3am 

The results from Bolton, Bournemouth and Belfast will return around now. We’ll also hear back from counts in Coventry North East, Coventry North West and Coventry South: all are Labour strongholds. Will Corbyn’s party cling on? Or will this be Boris’s night? We’ll have a clear idea by now.

Keep an eye on Watford, which has backed the election winner every time since 1974. Local Tory MP Richard Harrington, who had the whip removed for defying Boris Johnson in a key Brexit vote, is stepping down. Will his successor Dean Russell’s victory herald a Tory majority?

Enfield Southgate – where Michael Portillo was booted out in 1997 – kicked out Tory MP David Burrowes at the last election. He’s back and hoping to end his Labour rival’s two-year term in this key marginal seat.

In New Labour's heyday, Sedgefield elected Tony Blair six times on the trot. On one occasion, it did so with a majority of more than 25,000. There won't be a repeat of such a landslide win this time for Labour. The only question is whether Corbyn's party can cling on in County Durham .

Several seats in Glasgow will return around now. This is SNP territory (the party controls six of the seven constituencies in the city), but will Nicola Sturgeon’s party suffer as a result of discontent at her party’s governing record?

Westmorland and Lonsdale returns its result around now. Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron had a nervous night in 2017: his majority was decimated, tumbling from 8,000 down to 700 or so. Can he see off a resurgent Tory challenge?

3.30am

Is the 'Red Wall' – the belt of traditionally Labour-voting areas across the north of the country – crumbling? Bishop Auckland, which returns its result around now, should give us some indication.

Durham, traditionally a sea of Labour red, should give us a fuller picture of how Corbyn's party is faring in the north. At the last election the Tories managed to up their vote share considerably here. Can they win any of the city's seats? 

Tom Watson’s old seat in West Bromwich East also declares around now. It should be safe. This could be a high-profile casualty if things go wrong for Labour though.

Redcar has never had a Tory MP. Tonight it's on the target list for Boris Johnson’s party. Can the Tories win it for the first time ever?

4am

Esher & Walton is Dominic Raab’s seat and in normal times it should be an easy win for the Tories. But this is 2019 and nothing is certain in politics. He is predicted to win by fewer than 3,000 votes, according to a recent poll published in the Sunday Times. Could the foreign secretary and leading Brexiteer be the high profile casualty of the night?

Labour has Chingford and Woodford Green’s sitting MP Iain Duncan Smith in their sights. His majority was cut dramatically in 2017. Could the party go one better and give the former Tory leader the boot? He will lose his seat if only two out of five of those intending to vote Lib Dem vote tactically for Labour.

Richmond Park witnesses round three of the clash between Sarah Olney and Zac Goldsmith. It’s currently one a piece but with Richmond a Remain stronghold, could the Lib Dem’s ‘bollocks to Brexit’ strategy pay off in west London? 

No incumbent prime minister has ever lost their seat at a general election. Could Boris Johnson be the first to do so? His Uxbridge seat has been heavily targeted by Labour, who succeeded in slashing his majority in half at the last election. Might Corbyn’s party go one better this time around and give Boris the boot? It's unlikely but it would be brave to rule it out.

By now, two-thirds of results will be back, meaning we will have a fair idea of what Britain thinks of the prospect of PM Boris or a Corbyn-led government. We'll know by now whether Boris Johnson is heading for a landslide. If the race is tighter, these undeclared seats will be crucial:

Barrow and Furness is a key marginal for the Tories. Former MP John Woodcock, an arch-Corbyn critic, has urged Labour voters not to back Labour. Will his message lead to a Tory victory here?

Labour moderate Wes Streeting will discover whether he has been successful in fending off a challenge from the Tories in Ilford around now. 

Kensington was one of the shocks of the night in 2017 when the Tories were given the boot from one of Britain’s wealthiest boroughs. But Labour’s Emma Dent Coad faces a bigger challenge this time around, both from the Conservatives and an ex-Conservative, Sam Gyimah, who is standing for the Lib Dems.

Croydon Central’s last Tory MP Gavin Barwell wrote the book on winning a marginal seat, only to lose out to Labour at the last election. Tory candidate Mario Creatura is hoping Labour’s mixed messages on Brexit mean he can win the seat back for his party.

Vauxhall, where the sitting, Brexit-backing MP Kate Hoey, is stepping down, will be one to watch to see how the big parties fare in constituencies which voted remain.

St Helens, which declares around now, should bring some cheer to Labour. It’s almost certain the party will still be ahead in terms of the number of seats at this stage of the night, with places which typically return Tory MPs tending to declare later. In Twickenham, expect the Lib Dems to increase their majority in a seat they won from the Tories in 2015.

4.30am

Voters in Sheffield Hallam will see the back of their outgoing MP Jared O’Mara around now. Will voters here punish the Labour party for their dire choice of candidate at the 2017 snap election?

5am

At 5am we should know whether the Beast of Bosolver – Dennis Skinner – has lost the seat he has held for half-a-century.

The result in Wirral West – which Labour won in 2017, despite the national vote going the Tories’ way – will also be an interesting measure of Labour’s performance on the night.

Norfolk North’s sitting MP Norman Lamb is on his way out. The Lib Dems saw off a concerted bid to defeat them here two years ago. But can the Tories go one better this time?

Dartford, which has backed the winner at every election since 1964, should return its result around now. Halifax should also return around now. In 2017, the Tories launched their manifesto here, only for locals to respond by upping the sitting Labour MP’s majority considerably. Can Boris Johnson hope for a better result this time? It’ll be a big result for the Conservatives if they win here: the seat last turned blue back in 1983.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on the result from Chester. Labour won the vote in 2017 with a healthy 10,000 majority. But the seat is far from a Labour stronghold: in 2015, they saw off the Tories by only 90 votes.

And it’s declaration time in Doncaster around now. Ed Miliband is the sitting Labour MP in Doncaster North. Could the Tories give him the boot?

5.48am

In 2015, this was the moment the Tories went ahead for the first time. Will Boris Johnson emulate David Cameron?

6am

In Brighton Kemptown, the Tories will learn whether they have managed to win back the seat taken from them by current Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

The result from Derby North will be one to watch. Chris Williamson is refusing to stand aside, meaning Labour voters who opt to back the independent candidate could easily end up handing victory to the Tories here.

7am

Expect an official declaration, if it hasn't already been made, to happen around now. With only a few seats still to come back, the result should be clear by now. Will it be Boris's night or has Britain elected a socialist prime minister? We should know by now.

Written byTom Goodenough

Tom Goodenough is the Spectator's online editor.

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