Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis reveals how to keep up with the action on election night


10pm The polls close and David Dimbleby will announce the results of the joint BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll. At that moment we should have a pretty good idea which seats could be changing hands. Two years ago the exit poll predicted a Conservative victory while the opinion polls got it wrong...

10.45pm Sophie Raworth is in Sunderland which is usually the first seat to declare. This time there’s competition from Newcastle — which may mean that for the first time in 20 years there will be a proper race to declare first.

1am Watch Wales. The seats along the north coast of Wales have relatively small populations, which means there are fewer votes to count so they should be quite quick. If the Conservatives are having a good night they might see an early gain in Wrexham.

1.30am Islington North — Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency and one of the quickest seats in London. It’s obviously a safe Labour seat — but we will listen to his speech. And Nick Robinson will be there with him to read the runes.

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2am The first results from Scotland. Will Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, currently with 56 of the 59 seats, complete its near clean sweep north of the border, or will the Scottish Conservatives, under Ruth Davidson, push back and mount a serious challenge? Will Labour and the Liberal Democrats, each with just one sitting MP, be in attack mode — or defence mode? We’ll start to see the picture around this time.

2.30am Bring on the key marginals! This is where the night gets interesting, so I’ll be looking out for Darlington, Tooting and Nuneaton. Nuneaton was the centre of the psephological universe last time around when it stayed with the Conservatives. If Labour fights off an attack in Darlington with a larger returned majority, they might be safer than we thought. But if this town starts to wobble, Labour could be in trouble.

3am By now Jeremy Vine’s virtual battlegrounds will be colouring up at the rate of five results per minute. Will the Liberal Democrats manage to claw their way back after the disaster that befell them in 2015? Look out for Cheltenham and Bath — their key targets.

4am John Curtice — we call him “the God of polling” — will be in his element by now. Writing notes that direct our thinking, and speaking directly to the audience about the kind of patterns he sees emerging. We’ll have a good sense by now of whether the exit poll is right!

5am Brighton Pavilion should return Caroline Lucas to power as the only Green MP, but the party is hoping this time to gain an extra seat in Bristol West. As dawn breaks we should have both results. Can the Greens double their tally this time?

5.30am Keen eyes needed on Boston and Skegness. Ukip’s leader Paul Nuttall is fighting this one and polls suggest he could have an uphill battle. But his Conservative opponent was a Remainer in one of the most Leave areas of Britain — so anything could happen here.

6am Theresa May’s seat in Maidenhead may not have drama, but it will be fascinating to see what she’s made of the night’s results nationally as she speaks at her count.

7am Huw Edwards enters the studio as David Dimbleby departs. We’ll have a good idea whether Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May is heading for the magical winning number — but there could still be another hundred results to be declared.

12 noon We should have the last results around now. St Ives includes votes from Scilly that are flown in by helicopter so this one is a late declarer. The Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, can probably watch the last declaration from Downing Street before leaving to meet the Queen. And then I’ll be off, preparing for the night’s Newsnight on BBC2!


BBC1 will air coverage of the General Election 2017 from 9.55pm on Thursday