Home News What happened on UK election night and what happens next

What happened on UK election night and what happens next


It’s been 14 years since the last UK general election when the opposition party won. Polls strongly suggest that Labour is about to break that streak. As the election draws to a close, here’s a guide to what’s likely to happen tonight and in the coming days.

The first hint of the election result will come when the UK’s major broadcasters release national exit polls after voting closes at 10pm local time (5pm ET). These are surveys of thousands of voters taken after they cast their ballots, and have been close to the final result in recent elections, though that record could be broken.

Votes are counted overnight. The first few parliamentary constituencies are usually finished within two hours of polls closing, with winners expected to be announced in almost every constituency by 7 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Labour leader who is expected to succeed him Keir StarmerThey usually speak when the election results for their constituencies are announced, which for Starmer might be after 2:30 a.m. local time, and for Sunak it might be after 4 a.m. local time.

Once the opposition achieves a clear victory, the transition of power will proceed at a ruthless pace.

“If the election results show that another party has won an absolute majority,” Cabinetry ManualIt lists the official guidance for the process, “The current Prime Minister and government will resign immediately and the monarch will invite the leader of the party that won the election to form a government.”

Actually, “right away” means Friday morning.

According to “recent custom”, According to the House of Commons Librarythe outgoing prime ministers take a final set of photos with their families at Downing Street, their homes and workplaces during their tenure.

There may be one last speech. “When the curtain falls, it’s time to leave the stage,” said John Major, the last prime minister to give way to an opposition majority. 1997 said“That’s what I intend to do.”

Then he drives to Buckingham Palace, usually followed by a news helicopter, to announce his resignation in a private audience with the monarch, now King Charles III.

The next prime minister will follow suit: According to the House of Commons Library, in 2016, the new prime minister Theresa May’s car Arrival at the Palace 32 seconds after her predecessor David Cameron left.

The appointment of a new leader will also take the form of a private meeting with the king, usually after a resignation. This is known as “kissing the hand”, although it involves little ceremony and no kissing.

The two sides will take photos and shake hands before heading to Downing Street for another speech, where the new prime minister will take up his post immediately and will be applauded by permanent civil servants on arrival.

The prime minister then appoints other ministers. This is not usually a pending matter: the British opposition maintains a “shadow cabinet” made up of candidates for government posts.

The new parliament is due to hold its first session in the coming weeks.

Of course, this all assumes that the prime minister changes. If Sunak’s government unexpectedly retains a majority, then there will be no ceremony – he will continue in office.

If no party wins a majority of seats in Parliament, Sunak will continue to serve as caretaker prime minister while the parties negotiate among themselves to decide who will govern.

Still, it may not take long: it took just five days to agree a deal in 2010 when Cameron failed to get a majority, and just weeks in 2017 when May got a majority. Then, if the deal leaves someone else in power, the motorcade will set off for Buckingham Palace.

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