Traditional election night drama could be consigned to the dustbin of history as Birmingham draws up plans to publish General Election results a full day after votes are cast.

Birmingham provided one of the dramatic highlights of the 1997 election when it was announced Labour’s Gisela Stuart had taken the Tory stronghold of Edgbaston, revealing the extent to which support for the Conservatives had collapsed.

The declaration, just after midnight, set the tone for the rest of the morning, as results were announced into the early hours.

But this time, Birmingham City Council is warning it may not even begin counting until the day after polling day.

It says it is waiting to learn whether the General Election will take place on the same day as local elections on May 6. Only then will it decide if it has the resources to count the results on the night.

A city council spokesman said: “We won’t make a final decision until the date of the election is announced.”

In fact, the decision to hold the national poll on May 6 is more or less an open secret at Westminster, although Prime Minister Gordon Brown could change his mind in theory.

Other councils have also told the Electoral Commission, which oversees the conduct of elections, that they may delay counts.

Redditch is “undecided” about its plans for election night, which means the nation may have to wait to learn whether Jacqui Smith, the Labour MP who was criticised over her expenses claims, will succeed in defending her highly marginal seat where she has a majority of just 2,716.

Wolverhampton is also considering delaying, which could affect three seats in the city - including Wolverhampton South West, another “true blue” seat currently held by Labour.

Voters in Stratford, West Bromwich East and West Bromwich West may also have to wait for their results. And Stoke-on-Trent has confirmed that it will definitely wait a day before counting, affecting three seats in the city.

By contrast, councils including Coventry, Dudley, Solihull and Walsall have confirmed that they will hold a traditional election night count.

Keeping election night special does matter according to Ms Stuart, who will be defending a majority of just 2,349 this time around.

She said: “We already have a problem with people not coming out to vote.

“Being part of the big event is one of the draws which encourages people to take part. We need to keep that sense of occasion.
“And when the results come in it hits home that people who voted did make a difference.”

Ms Stuart is not alone. A campaign to “save election night” has won the backing of 114 MPs, including John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley), Lynne Jones (Lab Selly Oak) and Bruce George (Lab Walsall South).

The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has even claimed that leaving ballot papers overnight to be counted in the morning could lead to greater opportunities for fraud - perhaps a particular concern for Birmingham after a judge compared it to a “banana republic” in an election fraud case five years ago.

And MPs this week voted to add a clause to the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, forcing all councils to start a count within four hours of polls closing.

But it remains to be seen whether the Bill will pass into law in time to save election night in three months time.