Well, first out of the block is not who you might think. Major national elections, you instantly think BBC. Well, not this time around. First out of the block is actually S4C (Freeview Channel 4 in Wales and Welsh / English border). Now, I grant you that at first glance you might think “Er, excuse me, they’re going to gabble along in Welsh and I cannot understand Welsh!” to which I would say “True, but when all you need to know is that Con = Ceidd, Lab = Llaf, Lib Dem = Dem Rhyd and Plaid Cymru is fairly self explanatory, then the rest comes as second nature”. If however, you prefer not to stretch yourself too much this early on in the proceedings then may I suggest Election 2011 on BBC One Wales (Freeview Channel 1 in Wales and Welsh / English border, FreeSat and Sky Digital Channel 964 elsewhere) as Jamie Owen announces “Noswaith dda” and welcomes you to Broadcasting House in Cardiff as the English language coverage starts (or if the mood took you, you could change to BBC Two (Freeview Channel 2, Freesat Sky Digital Channel 2 in England, 968 outside England) and watch Michael Crick’s take on Election Day. At which point ITV1 Wales (Freeview Channel 3 in Wales and Welsh / English Border) launches Wales Decides 2011 with (based on the 2007 programme) a far more tamer version of the results compared to the BBC.
Now, you may be asking “Where is the Dimbleby?”, well he’s biding his time and launches across BBC One England (Freeview Channel 1 in England, Freesat / Sky Digital Channels 101 / 950 – 967 (excluding channels 960 and 964)) as the first election results from across the country start to trickle in. Indeed the first result (according to the estimates of the Press Association will be Bridgend at 11.45pm, although I should point out that last time in 2007, Islwyn was the first to declare and not until a little after 2.00am!)
As you might expect with so many councils in England, English results will tend to lead the way, but that it not to say that they are not interesting in their own right. First out of the block is that old favourite Sunderland (12.15am) with Tameside making a bid for glory at the same time. The first interesting council is Barnsley at 1.00am. Will UKIP make their breakthrough in the city that voted them second in the recent by-election? Around the same time Hull declares (with the Lib Dems hoping to hold the council against Labour), Manchester (with the Conservatives hoping yet again to break their duck), and Worcester (which elected a Conservative MP in 2010) will decide what Middle England thinks of the coaltion, a view echoed in Eastleigh, thirty minutes later.
Then comes Scotland at 2.00am, as East Lothian becomes the first seat to declare. It’s a key SNP target, needing a swing of 3.36% to go to them. If it does, then Alex Salmond is set to remain First Minister, if not then there could be some very nervous SNP candidates at counting centres across the country. Whilst that is happening, you have councils such as Hambleton and Purbeck declaring. Half an hour later and the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament finds out if the electors of Galloway and West Dumfries want him for another term in office, with Clydesdale coming in fifteen minutes later. At 3.00am (in the words of the song) “the rush comes” as Wales gets into gear with Montgomeryshire and the Vale of Glamorgan, Cambridge, Gravesham and North Warwickshire in England and Argyll and Bute in Scotland all coming in.
Now, due to the sheer weight of results, this isn’t going to be quick. Indeed by 4.00am we will only have had 113 results out of an expected 405, but this crop is worth staying up for. In Scotland, Almond Valley (SNP notional majority of 4) declares, Nicola Sturgeon hopes to retake her place in Holyrood as the MSP for the new Glasgow, Southside, we get our first regional result from Central Scotland, we find out how the Lib Dems are doing in Wales with the two Swansea seats, David Cameron’s council of Cherwell declares and the Greens find out if they’ve taken control of Norwich. At which point things start to wind down for the night. My own constituency of Ceredigion declares at 5.00am and as David Dimbleby bids us a cheery “Good Morning”, the more rural parts start to decide, before calling it a night at 8.30am with the regional result from Wales South East marking the half way mark of Election 2011