Election night guide: how the drama will unfold, hour by hour

The Week’s poll-watcher Don Brind lists the key results to watch for if you’re staying up in front of the TV

Polling booth; election day

Polls close at 10pm tonight and the broadcasters go on air straightaway with their predictions based on the ‘exit poll’ - the biggest exercise in polling in a single day we will ever witness, according to David Cowling of the BBC Political Research Unit.At the last election, clipboard-toting researchers stationed at carefully chosen polling stations across the country approached around one in eight voters as they exited. More than 16,000 voters across Britain were asked how they’d voted.Jointly funded by the BBC, ITV and Sky, the exit poll was remarkably accurate. It will be more tricky this time because of the multiplicity of parties. It will nonetheless be the basis of chat in the TV studios until real results begin to flow.You won’t miss much if you nod off for a couple of hours with a small crop of safe Labour seats and Northern Ireland results coming through.Between 1am and 2am: The first significant result from the Tory-Labour battleground is expected at this time.Nuneaton is 39th on Labour’s target list of Tory-held marginals and Team Miliband need a 2.3 per cent swing to gain the West Midlands seat. Latest polling suggests they can achieve that.Not long after will come one of Labour’s toughest nuts to crack – the south London seat of Battersea which is 99th on their target list and requires a six per cent swing. Victory or even a near miss here will tell us whether Labour really has enjoyed a mini-surge of support in London: a poll this week put them 13 points ahead of the Tories in the capital.Between 2am and 3am we’ll get the results from Northampton North and City of Chester, two more Tory-held seats on Labour’s target list, at 40th and 50th respectively. Victory for Labour requires a swing of less than three per cent in these two seats – again, that’s do-able if recent polling prove accurate.Any Labour joy, however, will be quickly dampened by six or more expected SNP gains: East Kilbride; Strathaven & Lesmahagow; Lanark & Hamilton East, Dundee West; Inverclyde; Kilmarnock & Loudoun; Stirling.Between 3am and 4am there will be a steady flow of Scottish seats which polls suggest will be SNP gains from both Labour and the Lib Dems.Labour-Tory marginals due in this hour include Blackpool North & Cleveleys; Loughborough Enfield North; Lincoln; Weaver Vale. Labour are likely to record their first gain from the Lib Dems in Burnley.Between 4.am and 5am results will be coming think and fast – mostly from safe Tory and Labour seats. The Tories could make their first gain of the night from the Lib Dems in Devon North.Ukip will hope to gain Thurrock and are almost certain to hold Clacton, won for them in last autumn’s by-election by Tory ‘turncoat’ Douglas Carswell.Tory-Labour marginals to declare include Croydon Central; Erewash; High Peak; Swindon South; Vale of Glamorgan; Amber Valley; Bedford; Broxtowe; Cannock Chase; Harrow East; Ipswich; Plymouth Sutton & Devonport; Stroud; Warwickshire North; Bristol West; Bury North; Carlisle; Peterborough; Stockton South; Crewe & Nantwich; Elmet & Rothwell. Dewsbury; Norwich South; Wolverhampton South WestThe result is also due from Sheffield Hallam where Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg faces a strong Labour challenge. Labour are also targeting the Lib Dems, hoping to take Redcar, Brent Central, Hornsey & Wood Green and Bermondsey & Old Southwark. They also might win Arfon from Plaid Cymru.In Scotland a number of traditional Labour strongholds will declare and should show whether there is any shelter from the SNP storm. The seats where Labour MPs might survive include Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill; Glasgow East; Glasgow North East; Glasgow South West; Motherwell & Wishaw; Paisley & Renfrewshire South.Lib Dem seats vulnerable to the Tories will also declare in this hour, including Chippenham; Somerton & Frome; Colchester; Dorset Mid & Poole North; Taunton Deane.Between 5am and 6am Labour will be looking for gains from the Tories in Bradford East; Brentford & Isleworth; Brighton Kemptown; Ealing Central & Acton; Finchley & Golders Green; Halesowen & Rowley Regis; Hendon; Hove; Keighley; Sherwood; Warrington South; Waveney; Wirral West.Results are also due from Brighton Pavilion where Labour are seeking to oust the sole Green MP, Caroline Lucas, and Bradford West where their target is George Galloway.Between 6am and 7am the highlight is likely to the result from Thanet South where Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been in a three-way battle with Tory and Labour opponents in what is a Tory-held seat. If he fails to win, Farage has promised to step down as Ukip leader. Labour will be hoping for gains in Cardiff North; Lancaster & Fleetwood; Morecambe & Lunesdale. Lib Dem losses could include Cardiff Central and Manchester Withington to Labour and Wells and Portsmouth South to the Tories. The final SNP gains are likely in the two Aberdeen seats and in Ross, Skye & Lochaber.Friday: Seven constituencies don’t begin counting the vote until 9am tomorrow morning. Two are safe Labour seats, three are safe Tory and two are contested by Tory and the Lib Dems - St Ives and Berwick-upon-Tweed.The results are not due until 2pm, and because the race is so close, the election result could come down to these final declarations.

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is a former BBC lobby correspondent and Labour press officer who is watching the polls for The Week in the run-up to the 2015 election.