What time will the UK know the result of the US election?

Your guide to the American election: when each state declares, who is likely to win it, and what kind of hot dogs you need.

So You're Staying Up To Watch The US Election.

Good on you. Hopefully you've taken the day off work tomorrow, because you are in for a long night. Also hopefully you're not cheering for a Romney victory, because if you are, smgdh.

If you haven't planned your night already, it might be a bit late to start. But here's a rough timeline for the evening:

Before the night starts

Put together your food and drink. Probably best to eat your dinner now, because you're not going to want to take time away from the HOT POLITICAL ACTION to cook something. Also, if you're anything like me, you'll need something to line your stomach for the night ahead.

You might want to eat a bipartisan salad or some Uncle Sammies while drinking an All-American if you don't want your food to say "I am a hopey-changey style person, even four years on". Alternatively, if your recipies are as fiercely partisan as you are, why not make some Chicago hot dogs and Barack Obama pizza burgers. It's probably too late to brew some White House Honey Porter (it's definitely too late to brew some White House Honey Porter), but a good American beer will go a long way. At the "beer summit" in 2009, Obama drank Bud Light. But you can do better than that.

11:30pm UK Time

Coverage kicks off. BBC 1 has David Dimbleby in Washington DC and Emily Maitlis in the studio, and also features Katty Kay on expert analysis, and Jeremy Vine, probably dressed up as an alien firing a ray-gun at astronauts or something, I don't know.

ITV's coverage is hosted by Alastair Stewart, and will also feature "contributions" from Julie Etchingham, Mark Austin, Bill Neely and Robert Moore.

If you switch over to Channel 4 and see bombs and things, DO NOT BE ALARMED: it is showing Homeland instead.

The 24-hour news channels will also be doing their thing, while if you ache with nostalgia for the bad old days, Sky Atlantic is showing the 2008 Bush v Gore docudrama, Recount.

12:00am

It begins. The first states' polls close, but do not be alarmed: five are safe Romney states, and only one is a hold for Obama. The only toss-up in this first batch is Virginia, and it is very close: in the latest polls, Obama is in the lead, but his hold is less than half a per cent.

It will take a while for exit polls and early counts to work out on which side of the fence Virginia is going fall, and call accordingly. Obama winning Virginia would be very good, but even if he loses it, he's still relatively safe. Either way, we're unlikely to find out what happens before…

12:30am

The big one. If there is one state this election is riding on, it's Ohio, and polls show him with a pretty confident lead in the state – around 3 per cent. It would be a major upset for Obama to lose the state, and its 18 electors, so make sure you're around when polls close.

At the same time, polls are closing in North Carolina. This is a crucial hold for Romney. If Obama wins these two states, he's won the election. In all likelihood, though, the states will go the way they're predicted.

1:00am

A raft of states' polls close now, but the two we are interested in are Florida and New Hampshire. (Pennsylvania is a quite close race, but expected to be a safe Obama hold – his lead is almost five per cent). Florida is an absolute must-hold for Romney. If he loses that – even if he's won all the swing states up to this point – it's likely all over. A Romney without Florida needs to hold Ohio, North Caroline, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire – as well as have no upsets in his safe states – to win the election.

Romney has a lead in Florida – but it's not as strong as he would like. Latest polls put him 1.5 per cent ahead of Obama, but NYT polling-guru Nate Silver gives Obama a 52 per cent chance of winning the state.

New Hampshire is a swing-state which leans Obama, but it's four electoral votes are only going to be a key in the most marginal situations. Nonetheless, the Democrats will be pleased to take the state.

1:30am

If you are playing along at home, we've got Obama behind with 135 electoral college votes – Virginia remains a toss-up, but in the interests of an exciting race, I'm predicting it will fall to Romney by this time in the night, which gives him 149 amongst the states which have declared.

1:30 is the quiet period – only Arkansas, a Romney cert, closes its polls then, adding another six votes to his tally. Take the opportunity to go to the loo, make a midnight snack, or run out to the 24hr off-license, because coming up is the big one.

2:00am

By this time, voting will have ended in 40 states. Amongst the safe seats, Mitt Romney's big hitters have all closed – Texas alone will give him 38 electors, while Arizona gives another 11, and the midwest a further 17. New York State also closes its polls, the last of the east coast to shut, and will likely send 29 to Obama. Before we look at the swing states, Obama's electoral tally is at 165 to Romney's 229.

Michigan is the safest battleground state featured here, but is still worth a look. Obama is polling at 49.2, compared to Romney's 45.4, but he really needs the state – one which has been hit hard by the recession, and isn't seeing much of the recovery either.

Colorado is always a swing state, going blue for Obama, but having been Republican for the three elections before that. Although Obama should win there – and is polling in the lead – a win for Romney there would put him in a very interesting position – which we'll come to.

Wisconsin is another battleground in name only. The Democrats are polling almost four per cent above the Republicans, and the state – and its 10 electors – are likely to go to Obama.

At the end of this rush, then, we've put Obama on 191 and Romney on 238. The states have mostly fallen down the line, except for Colorado and Virginia, which we've given to Romney. What next?

3:00am

Montana and Utah turn red instantly, giving Romney another nine electors. But what of the last two battleground states, Iowa and Nevada?

Both have a strong lead for Obama, well over two per cent. But we are getting late enough in the day that turnout is starting to be affected by the calls made elsewhere. In our imaginary scenario, could Romney winning Florida and Virgina early on motivate turnout? Could he win those two states?

If he did, then we'd have a very interesting situation indeed: a near-certain tie. If Romney takes Florida, North Carolina, Virgina, Colorado, Iowa and Nevada, then the candidates are near certain to have 270 269 electors each. That would boot the decision over to the newly elected congress, where the House of Representatives would elect the president, and the Senate would pick the vice-president – which, given the split in control, would mean a Romney/Biden presidency, the first split White House in over 200 years, when John Adams had to govern with his opponent Thomas Jefferson.

In reality, that's unlikely to happen. Obama will most likely win Iowa and Nevada, leaving him with 203 votes to Romney's 247. Although the numbers don't show it, at this point, he has won the election – and in fact, will have even if he loses one of Iowa or Nevada – because in an hour…

4:00am

The east west coast declares. California, Oregon and Washington state will all turn blue, giving Obama another 84 votes, and pushing him over the 270 he needs to win.

And the rest is history.

If you want to stay up later still, the Daily Show/Colbert Report election special begins now on the Comedy Central website, and runs until 5:00am UK time.

Or you could just go to bed.

Watching politics in style. Photograph: BarackObama.com

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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After Richmond Park, Labour MPs are haunted by a familiar ghost

Labour MPs in big cities fear the Liberal Democrats, while in the north, they fear Ukip. 

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond Park has Conservatives nervous, and rightly so. Not only did Sarah Olney take the votes of soft Conservatives who backed a Remain vote on 23 June, she also benefited from tactical voting from Labour voters.

Although Richmond Park is the fifth most pro-Remain constituency won by a Conservative at the 2015 election, the more significant number – for the Liberal Democrats at least – is 15: that’s the number of Tory-held seats they could win if they reduced the Labour vote by the same amount they managed in Richmond Park.

The Tories have two Brexit headaches, electorally speaking. The first is the direct loss of voters who backed David Cameron in 2015 and a Remain vote in 2016 to the Liberal Democrats. The second is that Brexit appears to have made Liberal Democrat candidates palatable to Labour voters who backed the party as the anti-Conservative option in seats where Labour is generally weak from 1992 to 2010, but stayed at home or voted Labour in 2015.

Although local council by-elections are not as dramatic as parliamentary ones, they offer clues as to how national elections may play out, and it’s worth noting that Richmond Park wasn’t the only place where the Liberal Democrats saw a dramatic surge in the party’s fortunes. They also made a dramatic gain in Chichester, which voted to leave.

(That’s the other factor to remember in the “Leave/Remain” divide. In Liberal-Conservative battlegrounds where the majority of voters opted to leave, the third-placed Labour and Green vote tends to be heavily pro-Remain.)

But it’s not just Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in second who have cause to be nervous.  Labour MPs outside of England's big cities have long been nervous that Ukip will do to them what the SNP did to their Scottish colleagues in 2015. That Ukip is now in second place in many seats that Labour once considered safe only adds to the sense of unease.

In a lot of seats, the closeness of Ukip is overstated. As one MP, who has the Conservatives in second place observed, “All that’s happened is you used to have five or six no-hopers, and all of that vote has gone to Ukip, so colleagues are nervous”. That’s true, to an extent. But it’s worth noting that the same thing could be said for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative seats in 1992. All they had done was to coagulate most of the “anyone but the Conservative” vote under their banner. In 1997, they took Conservative votes – and with it, picked up 28 formerly Tory seats.

Also nervous are the party’s London MPs, albeit for different reasons. They fear that Remain voters will desert them for the Liberal Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Catherine West, who sits for the most pro-Remain seat in the country, has already told constituents that she will vote against Article 50, as has David Lammy, another North London MP.)

A particular cause for alarm is that most of the party’s high command – Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, and Keir Starmer – all sit for seats that were heavily pro-Remain. Thornberry, in particular, has the particularly dangerous combination of a seat that voted Remain in June but has flirted with the Liberal Democrats in the past, with the shadow foreign secretary finishing just 484 votes ahead of Bridget Fox, the Liberal Democrat candidate, in 2005.

Are they right to be worried? That the referendum allowed the Liberal Democrats to reconfigure the politics of Richmond Park adds credence to a YouGov poll that showed a pro-Brexit Labour party finishing third behind a pro-second referendum Liberal Democrat party, should Labour go into the next election backing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats opt to oppose it.

The difficulty for Labour is the calculation for the Liberal Democrats is easy. They are an unabashedly pro-European party, from their activists to their MPs, and the 22 per cent of voters who back a referendum re-run are a significantly larger group than the eight per cent of the vote that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got in 2015.

The calculus is more fraught for Labour. In terms of the straight Conservative battle, their best hope is to put the referendum question to bed and focus on issues which don’t divide their coalition in two, as immigration does. But for separate reasons, neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats will be keen to let them.

At every point, the referendum question poses difficulties for Labour. Even when neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats take seats from them directly, they can hurt them badly, allowing the Conservatives to come through the middle.

The big problem is that the stance that makes sense in terms of maintaining party unity is to try to run on a ticket of moving past the referendum and focussing on the party’s core issues of social justice, better public services and redistribution.

But the trouble with that approach is that it’s alarmingly similar to the one favoured by Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour in 2016, who tried to make the election about public services, not the constitution. They came third, behind a Conservative party that ran on an explicitly pro-Union platform. The possibility of an English sequel should not be ruled out.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.