General Election night TV: your hour by hour guide

ITV's election night host Tom Bradby explains what to expect on a marathon night of TV politics

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On Thursday night, the BBC, ITV, Sky News and Channel 4 will all be watching the results come in in their own particular style – find out about their plans here, or check out our guide to General Election night on TV here.

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Then settle in, it’s going to be a long night, as ITV host Tom Bradby explains…

10pm

The polls close and we’ll reveal the results of our joint BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll, the first indication of just how tight the race will be. If the opinion polls are correct, it is shaping up to be one of the most exciting election nights in our lifetime.

10:42pm

Houghton and Sunderland South is usually the first seat to declare, and this time they’re trying to break their record. Although it’s a safe Labour seat, the result will give a sense of the voting swing. But don’t read too much into it!

1am

One of the biggest political stories of the decade is what’s happening in Scotland. Lanark & Hamilton East, and Rutherglen & Hamilton West have been Labour for what seems like a thousand years. If seats like these fall to the SNP, it’s tough for Labour to get the maths to add up for outright victory.

1:15am

Despite boundary changes, South Basildon & East Thurrock has predicted every election result since 1974. But this time around the whole contest is so tight that you can’t just go to bed as soon as this seat comes in, and be confident you know who’ll be in charge in the morning!

1:45am

Some of the polling suggests that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg might lose his Sheffield Hallam seat. I’ve not spoken to any senior politician who seriously thinks it’ll happen, but to go from Deputy Prime Minister to out of office would be an extraordinary moment. 

2am

A few months ago, if you’d said to me that Labour’s election co-ordinator Douglas Alexander stood any chance of losing his Paisley & Renfrewshire South seat, I’d have said you were mad. I think he’ll hold on, but if the SNP take it, it’s a big night in British political history.

4am

About half of the 650 seats will have been called by this point, and we call this period ‘rush hour’. Results will be coming thick and fast, and we’ll use the data to update our exit poll and make a prediction as to the final result.

Brighton Pavilion is the only seat held by the Greens. It’s a place where Labour would be expected to do well, and if they’re going to get back to winning enough seats to form a government, they really need to be winning here.

4:30am

Douglas Carswell was the first Tory MP to jump ship to Ukip, and the Tories were initially quite confident they’d take back his Clacton seat. There are rumours that five or six more Tory MPs might be willing to defect; they’ll be a lot less keen if he loses.

5am

Ed Miliband should win easily in Doncaster North, but what happens if Labour have had a bad night compared to the Tories? Will any rival figures in the party break cover in the TV studios and call for him to go?

Ukip’s Mark Reckless is a bit less likely to hold on in Rochester & Strood than fellow Tory defector Douglas Carswell. The Tories were initially confident of getting the seat back, but they’re less bullish now. If Ukip don’t win here, they’re not having a good night.

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6am

By this time of the night there’s usually not much excitement left, but Nigel Farage’s bid for South Thanet promises high drama. The latest polls suggest it’s very tight, and it really could go either way.


Read more: General Election night: how and who to watch

General Election night: the broadcasters’ plans