Tom Goodenough

The Spectator’s complete election guide: what to look out for and when

The Spectator's complete election guide: what to look out for and when
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'Strong and stable', 'weak and wobbly', 'coalition of chaos': you've heard enough of the slogans. Now, election day is nearly upon us. Here's the Spectator's guide to what to watch out for on the night as we find out whether Theresa May is heading for a big win - or an historic blunder:


All eyes will be on the joint exit poll from the BBC, ITV and Sky. In 2015, this was the key moment for the Tories with the poll suggesting that the party was heading for a surprise majority.


Houghton & Sunderland South – where Labour upped its majority in 2015 - is likely to be the first seat to declare. We’ll also get the result from Sunderland Central – likely to be another Labour hold - at around 11.30pm


Washington & Sunderland West will declare around now. Kettering will come back at 12.30pm and we’ll hear the result from South Swindon – the first bellwether seat of the night to declare - a short time later.


Newcastle upon Tyne Central and Newcastle upon Tyne East will declare. Labour should hold both – but if the party doesn’t, could this be Labour’s referendum night moment?

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. And Labour’s defeat there was interpreted as evidence of the party’s wider failure to win over its core supporters. If the Tories up their majority (of 4,800), it’ll spell trouble for Corbyn.


Spare a thought for Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan, who is facing the polls for the second time in just over a year. She won last time around in Tooting with a majority of 6,000 but it is likely to be a tougher contest for her this time around.

Wrexham’s Labour MP Ian Lucas will also discover his fate around now. In 2015, his majority was cut down to just 1,800. Theresa May has made appearances in the constituency in a bid to drum up support for the Tories. Will it pay off?


In Bury North, the Tories won by just 378 votes last time around. Can they up their majority in the tenth most marginal seat in the country? We’ll find out around now.

In many Tory seats, Ukip have stood down to give the Conservative incumbent a better chance. Not so in Hastings and Rye, where Amber Rudd is defending a relatively narrow majority of around 4,000. Could this be 2017’s Michael Portillo moment?

In 2015, Thurrock’s Ukip candidate Tim Aker picked up more than 15,000 votes in a hard-fought contest. If the polls are right about the party’s dwindling support, the result here will be a good indication of what the future holds for Ukip.


We’ll get the result back from Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency of Islington North and find out whether the slew of challengers hoping to dent his majority have succeeded in doing so. Keep a close eye on his victory speech, which could set the tone for Labour’s wider performance.

The Tories snatched North Warwickshire from Labour back in 2010 by just 54 votes; they upped their majority last time around, but if this seat is a Tory walkover it’ll spell trouble for Labour. Of course, if Labour win it back, it could suggest the opposite – and talk of a thumping Tory majority will quickly look to have been wildly overhyped.

Castle Point, where Ukip picked up 14,000 votes last time around, will give another good indication of the party’s showing. If Ukip does badly here, as well as in Thurrock, the signs will not look good for Paul Nuttall.

With the result from Anglesey returning around now, it’ll be a good measure of how Plaid Cymru’s night will pan out. The party lost here to Labour in 2015 by only 220 votes – making it one of the country’s most tightly-fought contests.


The results from Bolton, Bournemouth and Belfast will return around now. We’ll also hear back from Coventry North East, Coventry North West and Coventry South: all are Labour strongholds.

It’ll be a trickier task for Labour to win Ealing Central and Acton however. The party won by just 274 votes in 2015 – making it the fifth most marginal seat in the UK.

Keep an eye on Watford, which has backed the election winner every time since 1974

Enfield Southgate – where Michael Portillo was booted out in 1997 – will return around now. It’ll spell trouble for the Tories if their sitting MP David Burrowes doesn’t win here.

A number of seats in Glasgow will also return now. The SNP will be hoping to cling onto the seven seats they won there in 2015. But in last month’s local elections, the Tories defied the odds by winning a council seat in a ward where they have never previously been represented. Is there a chance we could have the first ever Tory MP representing a Glasgow constituency?

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader in Westminster, will find out whether his majority is enough to fend off the efforts to snatch his seat in Moray - an area with the highest Brexit vote in Scotland.

We’ll also get the result from Westmorland and Lonsdale, the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron’s constituency, around now


Durham – typically a sea of Labour red – will declare a number of its constituencies around now. While Tom Watson – defending a majority of 9,000 in West Bromwich East - should be safe, but could be a high-profile casualty if things go badly wrong for Labour.

If the Tories win in Sedgefield – famously Tony Blair’s old seat - a big Tory landslide will be on the cards


With around two-thirds of the results already back and assuming the results are going the Tories' way, we'll know by now whether Theresa May is heading for a landslide. If the race is tighter, then these seats will prove crucial:

Labour’s John Woodcock – a Corbyn critic sitting on a majority of just 700 in Barrow and Furness – will find out whether he has been re-elected around now. Another Labour moderate Wes Streeting will discover whether he has been successful in fending off a challenge from the Tories in Ilford. It'll be a surprise if he manages to do so.

It’s not only Labour candidates sitting on narrow majorities: Croydon Central’s Gavin Barwell – who wrote the book on winning a marginal seat – will learn whether his advice worked again in defending his slender 165 vote cushion. While Gower’s sitting Tory MP Byron Davies won the seat by just 27 votes in 2015 – the narrowest margin in the country.

We’ll also get the result from Vauxhall, where the sitting, Brexit-backing MP Kate Hoey faces a challenge from the Lib Dems in a seat which was pro-remain at the referendum. The Spectator’s own Kemi Badenoch is likely to hear that she has succeeded in becoming Saffron Walden’s new Tory MP

St Helens, which declares around now, should bring some cheer to Labour. It’s almost certain that the party will still be ahead in terms of the number of seats at this stage of the night, with seats which typically return a Tory MP tending to declare later. In Twickenham, Vince Cable will be hoping for a Parliamentary return after he was ousted in 2015. Not far away, Sarah Olney is defending the slender 1,800 vote margin she won Richmond Park by at last year’s by-election. But with Zac Goldsmith back under the Tory banner, she faces a tougher time tonight.


Theresa May is likely to win a thumping majority in Maidenhead. But it'll be trickier in Sheffield Hallam for Nick Clegg, whose majority was cut to just 2,000 in 2015.


Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will see if it’s second time lucky in his bid to win a seat in Parliament when the result from Boston and Skegness comes back.

Labour’s Rosie Winterton won with a 10,000 majority in Doncaster Central in 2015. But with Ukip – who picked up 9,700 votes in 2015 – not standing this time around, we’ll find out whether the ‘Kipper vote really has migrated to the Tories. If so, Winterton – and Labour - could be in hot water.

We’ll also hear the result from Manchester Gorton, where George Galloway is standing as an independent. The result in Wirral West – which Labour won in 2015 despite the national vote going the Tories’ way – will also be an interesting measure of Labour’s performance on the night.

Norfolk North’s Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb faces a tough ask to cling on in the constituency as a result of Ukip’s decision not to field a candidate in its bid to help the local Tory candidate James Wild.

Dartford, which has backed the winner at every election since 1964, should return its result around now. Halifax, where Theresa May launched the Tory manifesto, should return around now. 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 when it comes back. Labour won by only 90 votes last time around – can they fend off the Tories again?


In 2015, this was the moment the Tories went ahead for the first time.


The Green’s Caroline Lucas will be hoping her re-election in Brighton Pavilion is announced around now. In nearby Brighton Kemptown, the Tories will learn whether they have successfully defended their narrow 600 vote majority.

The result from Derby North – where the Tories beat Labour by just 41 votes in 2015 – will also be a big moment for both parties.


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. Of course, if YouGov's shock poll is correct and we're heading for a hung Parliament, it'll be hours - or even days - before we know who has come out on top. But either way, there will still be plenty of action: in 2015, Ed Balls was given the boot when the result from Morley and Outwood came back in one of the big shocks of the night. Can the Tories’ Andrea Jenkyns succeed in her bid to win re-election?

South Thanet, where the Tories fended off Nigel Farage’s bid to win a seat in 2015, returns its result now in one of the last big announcement of the night.