UK general elections 2017: All you need to know as Britain goes to polls

Theresa May

It’s going to be a long night as the UK goes to the polls for its snap 2017 general election. So should you stay up all night or take a democracy nap? Here are the key moments to look out for and the seats which might indicate early on whether Theresa May has secured the thumping majority she originally envisaged.

The polls close at 10pm

The doors will shut and ballot boxes will be sealed up and transported to one of the counting centres across the UK. In some places, this involves travelling a significant distance, so delays can occur. In Scotland, helicopters have been used to transfer boxes from remote islands to the mainland.

Counting clerks will then work through the night to count the votes in most cases. If you’re feeling tired by this point, remember that many of these officials will have begun work at 6.30am (or earlier) setting up the poll.

Will there be an exit poll and will it be reliable?

IPSOS-Mori’s exit poll will be reported on the BBC and Sky News at 10pm as soon as polls close.

At the last election, the exit poll caused quite a stir. Announced on the BBC at 10pm, it forecast that the Conservatives would be the largest party. It took an immediate bashing with Paddy Ashdown infamously stating that he would “eat his hat” if it was correct. He had to eat his hat.

As it turned out, that poll was much closer to the eventual reality than polls that took place before the election. The exit poll is therefore a crucial clue as to how things will unfold.

We should nevertheless take exit polls with a pinch of salt. They’ve been wrong before, as they were in 1992. They are based on samples which may not be representative of the whole population, but exit polls do have the advantage of asking people what they really did, rather than what they intend to do at some point in the future.

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