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What to look out for as the EU referendum results come in

Your hour-by-hour guide.

It’s that time again, folks:  your handy guide from the New Statesman to when you can expect results from the European referendum and what they mean for the overall results.

First: a disclaimer. We haven’t had a referendum on European membership since 1975. We have no idea what turnout will be and crucially if turnout will be wildly different throughout the country. The margin for error here is large, but these are useful hitching-posts throughout the night – or, at least, as useful as I can make them at this stage.

22:00: Close of poll. There will not be a lot to report on at this stage.

There won’t be an exit poll although I imagine a few of the pollsters might decide to chance their arms on doing an on-the-day one. However, these are very far from the all-singing, all-dancing exit polls that the BBC, Sky and ITV pay for on election night and are much, much less reliable. So don’t start celebrating/mourning/selling sterling just because Survation or whoever suggest that we’ve voted to Leave.

My advice is to use this time to stock up on vital supplies: fast food, dips, fizzy drinks and hard liquor. (And also, given the increasingly Leavy-y tilt of the polls, canned goods and bottled water.) Also open the New Statesman liveblog and switch onto ITV. I will be popping up on both throughout the night.

23:00: There’s an old joke from Spitting Image that will be appropriate at this time. “Nothing has happened,” opines the Conservative early on in election night. “That’s not true,” exclaims his Labour counterpart, “A lot has happened.” “It’s the same old two-party story,” sighs the Liberal Democrat, “Actually, a little bit has happened.”

Tell it at home and have them rolling in the aisles.

0:00: Results from Gibraltar and the Isles of Scilly will come in. Although the actual numbers of votes are very small, in percentage terms this ought to be Remain’s high watermark. As far as victory margins are concerned, it will be all downhill from here.

00:30: Sunderland and Newcastle-upon-Tyne will declare. Leave should be well clear of Remain in Sunderland if Brexit is indeed going to happen. Anything short of a seven-point gap between Leave and Remain in Sunderland is very good news for Britain Stronger In Europe.  Newcastle is finely balanced but ought to be better for Remain than Sunderland.

It is entirely possible that Leave could lead at this point and still lose.

00:45: Remain ought to get a big win out of City of London – that is, just the area around London Wall and the City, not the whole city, which will declare in stages throughout the night. London’s financial district has just 7,000 permament residents but they trend Remain. 

The bigger prize in terms of votes Swindon, a marginal in general elections but a fortress as far as Brexit is concerned. At this point in the evening, I'd expect a Leave lead.

01:00: Oldham and Darlington will declare. It’s not necessarily all over for Leave if they don’t have an overall lead at this point but it would be a bad sign for them if they weren’t ahead at this point.

01:30: Peak Leave? In percentage terms, at any rate, they should be well up by the time that Basildon, Hartlepool, North Hertfordshire, Stockport, Salford and Merthyr Tydfil  declare. Only the tiny, in population size if not in length of name Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar is likely to return a Remain lead, and that should be more than cancelled out by results elsewhere.

I can’t say with absolute certainty that if Leave don’t lead at this point in the night they’ve lost, but their chances of victory will be narrowed if they aren’t out in front at this point.

02:00: The first big batch of Scottish results, from Clackmannanshire, North Ayrshire, Stirling, the Shetland Islands, East Ayshire and Angus ought to get Remain back in contention. Also likely to run up the score for Remain: Wandsworth, Westminster and Warwick.

Keeping Leave in the race should be Denbighshire and Blaenau Gwent, Neath Port Talbot, Dover, Pendle, Hart, Tamworth, South Tyneside, and Wrexham.

Anyone with a clear lead at this point can feel cheerful but not home and dry just yet.

02:30: We should start to be able to say who’s winning the referendum around about now, as areas around the country start to declare. Wth looking out for Crawley, Enfield, while Castle Point is in contention to provide Leave with one of its largest margins of victory.

03:00: Results will be coming thick and fast, including Jeremy Corbyn’s stomping ground of Islington. The winner should be clear unless it’s a nail-biting finish although I doubt the broadcasters will feel safe in saying so for a few hours. Oxford, one of the contenders for Remain’s biggest victory margin of the night, declares.

03:30:  Edinburgh and Cambridge will duke it out to be the biggest Remain backers. Elsewhere, expect conversations to turn to David Cameron’s coming reshuffle or the looming Boris Johnson premiership depending on which sideis ahead at this point.

04:00: My birthplace of Tower Hamlets is increasingly riddled with hipsters, which means it should give Remain a fairly big win. But the big contender for Remain’s best area – at a tempting 16/1 with the bookmakers – is Brighton and Hove.

04:30: The bulk of Britain’s remaining big cities to bolster my metropolitan snobbery by voting for Remain by a heavy margin unless it is a landside for Leave.

05:00: Most of London will have declared by this point – if it is close, this could be the moment when Remain wins, or it could be the moment when the many balding men of Brexit can breathe a sigh of relief.

06:00: Allegedly Bristol will declare at this point. Bristol counts are notoriously slow so I am dubious. We will know who has won by this point, regardless.

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

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

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

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