Written by 22:09 World

UK Election Night: When to Expect Results

It’s been 14 years since an opposition party won a general election in Britain. A nationwide exit poll suggests that the streak is about to be broken by the Labour Party.

With voting completed, here’s a guide to what’s likely to happen tonight and over the next few days.

The first indication of the outcome came just after polls closed at 10 p.m. local time (5 p.m. Eastern), when the major British broadcasters revealed the nationwide exit poll. It projected that Labour would win 410 seats, the Conservatives would capture 131 and the centrist Liberal Democrats would pick up 61.

The exit poll is a survey of thousands of voters just after they have cast their ballots, and it has come close to the final result in recent elections, though there’s always a chance of that streak being broken, too. The exit poll also projected that Reform U.K., an insurgent, anti-immigration party led by Nigel Farage, would win 13 seats, and that the Scottish National Party would emerge with 10.

The actual ballots are counted overnight. A first couple of parliamentary districts usually finish their work within two hours of polls closing, and almost every district is expected to declare a winner by 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. Eastern). Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Labour leader who hopes to replace him, Keir Starmer, would customarily speak when the results are declared in their own districts, probably after 2:30 a.m. local time for Mr. Starmer and after 4 a.m. local time for Mr. Sunak.

When there is a clear opposition victory, the transition of power takes place with ruthless speed.

“If the election results in an overall majority for a different party,” says the Cabinet Manual, which sets out the official guidance on the process, “the incumbent prime minister and government will immediately resign and the sovereign will invite the leader of the party that has won the election to form a government.”

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Last modified: 5 July 2024
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