5.10 And that’s the full sweep. Michael Fallon will remain as Defence Secretary. This is a case where the ministers are the message: the Conservatives are offering stability in their second term.
My final appointment tonight is Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 8, 2015
And, with that, we really will end this live-blog for the day. Thank you for tuning in.
5.05 Dear me! The continuity continues. Philip Hammond will remain as Foreign Secretary. I suspect this is a testament to Hammond’s forensic way of doing politics. A Foreign Secretary with a mind for detail will be a useful thing to have around during those EU negotiations. He is also well-respected on the Tory backbenches, which could help calm some of the inevitable turmoil over Europe.
Philip Hammond will remain as Foreign Secretary. — David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 8, 2015
5.00 And another as-you-were appointment: Theresa May remains Home Secretary. It will be interesting to see what May accomplishes in a Conservative majority government. She was no particular friend of the Lib Dems, and there are several policy areas – the snooper’s charter, immigration controls, etc – that she may look to advance now that they are gone.
I am glad to announce that Theresa May will remain as Home Secretary.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 8, 2015
4.45 Peter Hoskin here. We’re reopening this live-blog for the Cabinet appointments that David Cameron is announcing – live and all modern-like – on his Twitter feed. Apparently, there will be four this afternoon, with the rest coming on Monday.
The first announcement has just been made, and it’s not particularly surprising: George Osborne will be Chancellor of the Exchequer in this Conservative government. Dave wouldn’t take that Northern Powerhouse away from George now, would he? So he hasn’t.
The Chancellor also gets the “First Secretary of State” title that was previously held by William Hague. It’s little more than an honorific in itself, but it does make de jure what was previously de facto: Osborne is the ranking minister in the Cabinet.
And as the ranking minister, he might expect to be closely involved with Britain’s EU renegotiations.
I have re-appointed George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He will also be First Secretary of State – the ranking Cabinet Minister. — David Cameron (@David_Cameron) May 8, 2015
2.00 Henry here, back for the final post in our general election live blog. It’s been a truly extraordinary election, and the image below still looks like something a journalist conducting a post-mortem might whip up in photoshop as a ‘might have been’.
With Miliband’s resignation, we close this afternoon amidst the silence of the Labour big beasts. There’s no sign of Chuka Umunna in the studios this morning, and others like Andy Burnham are doubtless already putting feelers out. Harriet Harman plans to quit the deputy leadership as fast as she can.
The party’s problem lies in that it is being pulled in too many directions for one candidate to easily remedy: working class small-c conservatives in the North of England are being wooed by UKIP, metropolitan liberals have the Greens, the Scottish left is now practically the private property for the SNP.
Whilst the Tories were able to retreat into their heartlands to regroup after their rout as a national force in 1997, the Labour party’s appear to be disintegrating beneath its feet, threatening its viability as a national force.
The strong Conservative and UKIP performances in Wales, and the latter’s taking second across hundreds of northern seats, suggest that the hurricane that swept away Scottish Labour may yet uproot decayed and complacent party machines elsewhere.
That’s all from me and the live blog, but ConservativeHome will be bringing you the latest Conservative news throughout the afternoon.
A really, really amazing night.
1.00 Paul Goodman here taking up the reins. Cameron making a majoritarian, patriotic, One Nation pitch, on the steps of Downing Street – with a prudent nod to the Coalition. Must be amazed; doesn’t look it. But there he is – the leader of the Conservative Majority Government that so few (among the exceptions: Andrew Gimson, Toby Young) foresaw.
Today, he’s no longer the Tory leader who couldn’t win an election. He’s drawn one, won one – and has promised to be off before the next. He thus joins Margaret Thatcher, Harold Macmillan and Antony Eden in the band of post-war Conservative leaders who didn’t lose an election. And on that score, he overhauls Winston Churchill, Alec Douglas-Home, Edward Heath, John Major, William Hague and Michael Howard, all of whom lost at least one.
Two looming questions now. First, how does he see through driving through the strategic parts of the Tory programme – boundary reform, EU referendum, British Bill of Rights, maybe looking again at Fixed Term. Above all, what does he now do about Scotland? Could he really make the federal offer that’s needed without alienating Tory backbenchers? How can he now avoid them doing a John Major on him?
Second, what’s the new Cabinet look like? Cameron now has at least five spare places round the Cabinet table. And there about 15 Ministerial Commons posts now free. How does he balance his left, right and centre? ConservativeHome has already given its advice: Cameron has a unique moment now in which to try to bandage up his party’s wounds, and give every part of the Tory family a place at the table. I’m told we’ll get the major appointments this afternoon.
12.00 Despite previously indicating that he planned to continue as leader regardless of the outcome, Nick Clegg has resigned the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. Nobody can blame him: nobody else saw a single-figure Lib Dem result coming either.
Thus the Lib Dems join UKIP as a party facing an imminent leadership election. Arguably UKIP’s will be the more important: they, much more than the yellow team, seem to stand at a genuine crossroads at this point.
The two contenders appear to be Tim Farron, the overwhelming favourite and candidate of the left, and Norman Lamb, whom we identified as a potential dark horse for the party right.
If Farron wins, the party will likely double down on wading into the increasingly crowded and chaotic fight for the left-wing vote and leave more territory in the centre ground vulnerable to the Conservatives. Lamb, with an East of England seat and his majority over the Tories cut by almost two thirds, would be much more invested in trying to hold on to the centre and the party’s remaining pro-Coalition voters.
11.00 As the dust settles, it is only fair to applaud once again the astonishing achievement of the Welsh Conservatives at this election.
Polling have been suggesting a particular resilience to our Welsh vote for some time, and academic analysis indicated that Welsh Labour had lost a lot of ground since 2011. Optimists, amongst which I included myself, thought that by capturing Brecon and Radnorshire from the Liberal Democrats we could offset the loss of Cardiff North, secure a wash and maintain our eight seats.
Well, we did win Brecon and Radnorshire. But we also held Cardiff North, converting a majority of 192 into one of over two thousand. Then we took Vale of Clwyd, a seat we were disappointed to miss out on in 2010 but that nobody in the commentariat seemed to think we threatened this time.
And then Byron Davies, on his second attempt, became the first ever Conservative MP for Gower since the constituency was created in 1885.
The Welsh Conservatives have only once had a better result in Wales, when they took 14 seats (including three in Cardiff) out of 38 in 1983. It’s something to be proud of.
But better yet, there’s nothing to indicate that this is a ceiling on Tory support in Wales, with several other seats such as Alyn & Deeside, Newport West, Clwyd West, and Bridgend well within the realms of possibility on a good year.
CCHQ should make sure to drill down into this Welsh result, and to learn what lessons it can for other areas of our country, such as the North, urban England and Scotland, where we have experienced no such resurgence.
10.30 So that’s it. Nigel Farage has lost South Thanet and must, according to his ironclad pre-election commitments, soon resign the generalship of the People’s Army.
Many of those seeking to explain why UKIP has had such a disappointing night are pointing to the impact of FPTP, although this has been a known quantity since 2011. It is true that when you take your eyes off the seats the party has laid what could be solid foundations for future growth, especially as the principle opposition to Labour in the North of England.
However, the immediate impact of its paucity of Parliamentary representation should not be under-estimated. This election seems to have confirmed that UKIP’s future is as a ‘national democratic’ party of the socially conservative, populist left. This is not the sort of message that arch-liberal Douglas Carswell will be comfortable representing, and it seems possible now that he might drift away to become an Independent by 2020.
UKIP stands at a crossroads, and its choice of leader will be critical to the party’s future direction.
10.00 Morning all, Henry again. I’ve just got back from talking to BBC Scotland about where we go from here.
Personally, I think that despite the astonishing headline figures the Conservatives are in a stronger position than they would have expected. An overall majority means that they’re not going to get sucked into a bidding war or get outflanked by Miliband. The Scottish Conservatives only suffered a minimal squeeze of their vote, despite Tories being the voters most inclined to tactical voting.
Mundell held on in DCT and the party fell just 328 votes short in neighbouring Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk. Ruth Davidson had, as is her wont, a very strong campaign.
Labour’s collapse means that they have lost their previous position as the default leaders of Scottish unionism. Their policy of “Tell Scots that the SNP are right about the English and the economy, and then tell them to vote for someone else” is finished.
The Conservatives are now in a position to sit down with Davidson and draw up a carefully thought out, viable model for a Scottish Parliament with real fiscal responsibilities – more responsibilities, in fact, than canny Scottish Government ministers actually want.
If the SNP demand that the British Government spare Scotland austerity (which it would be mad to do), they can instead offer the SNP the powers to do it themselves… if they can balance the numbers.
This would allow the Scottish Conservatives to run a 2016 campaign based on cutting taxes and trimming unpopular spending measures, and could transform the race. Alternatively, Nicola Sturgeon can try to explain to Scotland why she’s declining the powers she claims Scotland needs.
9.30 Some quick stats on diversity in the new parliament (bearing in mind that some seats are yet to confirm their results):
- One in three MPs are now female.
- There are going to be at least 67 Conservative women MPs, up from 49 in 2010.
- There will be 41 non-white MPs in this parliament, up from 27 in 2010.
- 17 of those are Conservatives – closing the gap on Labour’s 23 non-white MPs.
9.00 As the number of seats yet to declare dwindles, so has the pace of announcements. Here are the recent bits of good news: the Conservatives have gained Derby North (from Labour) and Cornwall North (from the Lib Dems). With 630 results confirmed, the current seat totals are:
Conservatives 315, Labour 228, SNP 56, LD 8, DUP 8, UKIP 1.
And the BBC are now projecting an outright, if slim, majority.
8.40 Morning! Mark Wallace here again, standing in while Henry talks to BBC Radio Scotland. Ed Balls’ speech in response to his defeat was a study in always thinking of the next battle – a very Brownite discipline. He displayed the good grace to compliment his opponent on her campaign and paid tribute to his former constituency. But he swiftly moved onto landing punches on the new government even before it is formed, and emphasised the need for strong Labour leadership for 2020. He didn’t even mention Ed Miliband – rather it sounded like the first speech of the “Yvette for Leader” campaign. I’ll say this about the old Brownites – they are the ultimate doughty sloggers, marching on through whatever you throw at them, and immediately plotting their next offensive even when you knock them down. It’s part of what made Balls a feared – as well as disliked – opponent for so many Tories.
8.20 Forget decapitation, the Conservatives have just pulled off a castration strategy. Ed Balls is out, with Andrea Jenkyns securing a majority of 422 and finishing the job that Anthony Calvert started in 2010. Calvert himself elected to stand his time in Wakefield, where Labour held on with a majority of 2,613. He must be kicking himself.
8.00 And what of the Liberal Democrats? It is hard to imagine that they could have had a worse night than their near extinction at last year’s European elections, but it looks increasingly likely that a party that went in expecting somewhere between 20-30 seats might not make it into single figures.
It’s South Western heartland is vanished entirely. It is down to a single seat apiece in Scotland and Wales, the rest of the so-called ‘Celtic fringe’ that sustained the Liberals during their wilderness years. Smaller outposts, such as South West London, have also been dramatically eroded. Big beasts like Vince Cable, Simon Hughes and David Laws have lost their seats.
The strong Conservative result means that the party is at least spared the need to make any decision about trying to stay in office, in coalition with one of the main parties. The party now has the space to take stock and work out what to do next.
Before tonight Nick Clegg was saying that he hoped to continue to lead the party come what may, but then nobody saw this coming. Of potential leadership candidates Tim Farron seems by far the most obvious still standing, although we identified Norman Lamb as a possible dark horse from the party’s right and he was returned.
The big question is how the party will try to define itself. Will it return to the comfortable territory of protest, being all things to all people in different parts of the country? Or will it respond to Jeremy Browne’s criticism and try to articulate a more consistent philosophy and programme?
7.40 What about Labour? This must be an absolutely gut-wrenching result for them, and not just because of the SNP. The party has fallen back against the Tories in Wales and not yet managed to pull ahead in tit-for-tat seat trading with the Conservatives in England.
Since 2010, much ink has been spilled about the split on the British right and the unification of the left, and it was this united left that was supposed to bear Ed Miliband into office. Instead we wake this morning (those of you who slept, that is) to find the left split between half a dozen parties with Westminster representation, and UKIP’s impact on the Conservatives has, to put it mildly, vastly under-performed relative to the expectations of the last twelve months.
In a way, Labour now face the same dilemma as the Conservative have done since 1997: how to rebuild themselves as a national party. Yet as we discussed in April, the party may not have much time to do this. Even after the 1997 devastation the Conservatives could depend on their heartlands in the South and East to give it space to regroup and reform.
Labour’s traditional heartlands, on the other hand, are eroding dramatically: Scotland is gone, Welsh Labour appear to be in real trouble, and despite a disappointing night UKIP have positioned themselves in a strong second place in a number of northern seats which suggest that Labour may be storing up more trouble for 2020.
7.20 As we approach a relatively quiet period in the day, it’s worth stepping back and taking stock of where the parties are at the moment, starting with the Conservatives.
It has been an astonishing result, and an overall majority is at this stage not out of the question. The party has devastated the Liberal Democrats, in the South West of England and South West London especially, and the Welsh Conservatives have also put in a remarkable showing. That the Tories should not only hold ultra-marginal Cardiff North but gain at least two seats in Wales, in an election as close-fought as this, is nothing short of remarkable.
That Labour have requested a recount in Ed Balls’ constituency of Morley and Outwood suggests there may be yet more icing for the cake. Although Labour and the Tories have traded seats with each other, the blues have so far managed to draw roughly even on this exchange.
Even in Scotland, where the nationalist landslide is rightly dominating coverage, David Mundell has held his seat and the Scottish Conservatives fell just 328 in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.
However, whilst Conservatives will be very chipper this morning a result this close poses its own problems. Those who remember 1992, when the party last secured an overall majority, will remember how destructive it can be for a government to be beholden to the tiniest of its backbench factions. It is very likely that Cameron will need to deal with minor parties but, aside from the eight Democratic Unionist and two Ulster Unionist MPs, he has few allies in the House.
The Conservatives will also have to address other issues, including:
- Boundary reform: Any solo Conservative government will assuredly try to pass constituency equalisation, which will both increase the challenge for Labour in 2020 and reduce the Scotland’s (and thus, the SNP’s) representation in Westminster. If there is no Tory majority this will be a challenge – the Unionists in Northern Ireland would not have been keen to fight this election on the new boundaries the Electoral Commission had proposed.
- Europe: A majority Conservative government will be able to legislate for an EU referendum, and even if in a minority will almost certainly be able to pass it with DUP support.
- The Union: The Scottish election is astonishing, although naturally FPTP punishes the split unionist vote, and unionists are going to have to think very carefully about how to respond. And it is important that time is taken over that decision this time: Cameron should learn from the backlash against his last over-hasty contribution to the constitutional debate in the aftermath of the Scottish referendum. However, the strength of the Tory result in the rest of the country has greatly diminished Alex Salmond’s capacity for mischief.
- Fixed-Term Parliaments: This constitutional innovation was introduced without consultation after 2010 in order to secure the allegiance of the Lib Dems, and makes it much more difficult for a Government to resign if they find their parliamentary position untenable. A majority Conservative government could repeal the FTPA.
6.40 One metric for how much the Liberal Democrats have suffered is the scale of their lost deposits. So many of the party’s candidates have failed to reach the five per cent threshold that a Twitter account set up to monitor it actually lost count.
6.20 Nicky Morgan is back in Loughborough with a majority of over nine thousand. Word is also that the party has unseated UKIP’s Mark Reckless in Rochester & Strood.
In other happy news George Galloway has been trounced, with Labour securing 50 per cent of the vote and a majority of over 12,000 in Bradford West despite a shambolic selection process, after what Andrew Marr described as “a spectacularly dirty campaign”.
6.00 This has been almost inevitable, but Danny Alexander has been absolutely crushed in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, where the SNP majority of 10,809.
The new Conservative majority in Yeovil, David Laws’ old seat, is over 5,000. The Tories have also picked up Solihull from the Liberal Democrats, ousting Lorely Burt.
5.40 Jonny Mercer has captured Plymouth Moor View from Labour by 2.4 per cent. The Conservatives have also taken Portsmouth South, Somerton & Frome and Thornbury & Yate.
In another fantastic result, the Ulster Unionists have won their second seat: leader Tom Elliott has ousted Sinn Fein from Fermanagh & South Tyrone, where the republican majority after 2010 was just four.
5.20 The Welsh Conservatives keep on bringing home the bacon: Byron Davis AM has captured Gower by just 27 votes, becoming the first Tory MP for the constituency since it’s creation in 1885. We set out in our Battleground Profile how he was the candidate in 2010 and has represented the area in the Assembly since 2011, so he has had plenty of time on the ground.
More bad news for the Liberal Democrats, with David Laws and Charles Kennedy out. Meanwhile Ed Miliband has held Doncaster North, but suffered a 6.6 per cent swing to UKIP.
5.00 David Mundell has held Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (DCT), the only Conservative seat in Scotland. In sadder news, Esther McVey is out in Wirral West.
Elsewhere, in a night where the Conservatives have been routing their Coalition colleagues, a brief window of solidarity: Nick Clegg has held Sheffield Hallam by a fairly comfortable margin, with the Conservative vote down by rather more than his majority. Whether the Liberal Democrat leader intends to remain in post, as he bullishly suggested recently, remains to be seen.
4.40 The devastation of the Liberal Democrats continues – Dr Tania Mathias has spectacularly unseated Vince Cable in Twickenham. The Conservatives have also rousted the yellows from Torbay, Eastbourne, Cheltenham and Bath, where former Conservative Future chairman Ben Howlett is the new MP.
4.20 Tonight just gets better and better for the Welsh Conservatives, who have managed the herculean feat of holding Cardiff North, where the Tory majority was only 194. Craig Williams has romped home by 2,137 votes, in a result which I don’t think anybody saw coming. This suggests that the LSE research indicating serious problems for Welsh Labour was bang on the money, and augers well for the Tories in next year’s Assembly elections.
In other news, Douglas Carswell has held Clacton but with a greatly reduced majority, whilst Jackie Doyle-Price has held Thurrock by a whisker with UKIP’s Tim Aker pushed into third place.
4.00 Another disappointment for UKIP, where despite a 13 point swing they have fallen far short of unseating Labour in Heywood and Middleton. They can be pleased with a 29.6 per cent increase in their share of the vote since 2010, and their strong second place is in line with the party’s long-term strategy of becoming the principle opposition to Labour in the north of England.
However given how high expectations had risen last year, this can only be a disappointing night for the People’s Army, especially as word is that Tim Aker has come third in Thurrock.
In other news, the Democratic Unionists have recaptured Belfast East from the Liberal Democrat’s provincial sister party, the Alliance.
3.40 The Conservatives are having a remarkable night so far. Amongst recent gains are Brecon & Radnorshire, Colchester, Kingston and Chippenham from the Lib Dems, the latter with a majority of over ten thousand, whilst they’ve taken Vale of Clwyd from Labour. Meanwhile Rob Halfon is back in Harlow with a thumping majority of 8,350, up from just under 5,000 last time.
3.20 Henry again. The Welsh Conservatives can so far be very proud of their election tonight. Not only did they take Brecon and Radnorshire from the Liberal Democrats (which polls suggested was unlikely only days ago) but now Dr James Davies has unseated Labour in Vale of Clwyd. The New Statesman reports (02.46) that three more Labour-held constituencies (Delyn, Gower, and Alyn & Deeside) are in play.
The Tories have also held North Warwickshire, where Labour were facing the narrowest Conservative majority in the country.
3.00 We’re sad to report the first Conservative loss of the night – Angie Bray has been defeated by Labour in Ealing Central and Acton. As the chart above shows, it was a very close result, with Labour’s Rupa Huq winning by 274 votes. The Conservative vote share actually went up by 4.7 points, but Labour’s rose by 13.1 points – which looks like ex-Liberal Democrats splitting 3:1 to Labour.
2.40 It’s arrived – the SNP wave has struck, washing over Scotland’s constituencies and so far sweeping all other parties before it. The chief scalp at this point is Douglas Alexander. The man responsible for running Labour’s election campaign went into today with a 16,614 majority, and has tonight been defeated by a 20-year-old student by a margin of 5,684 votes. That may have been expected, but it’s staggering nonetheless.
2.20 Mark Wallace here again. The above is a brief reminder from South Antrim that in an election with so many unexpected local swings and results, we can’t take anything for granted in our assumptions about the number of MPs from minor parties. The DUP had held this seat since 2005, but now the Ulster Unionists have taken it back. If Cameron does need to horse trade for a majority, it could be more complex than some assume.
2.00 A smashing result for Marcus Jones in Nuneaton, where the Tory majority has increased by almost three thousand. The Labour vote slipped by 500 whilst the Liberal Democrats waved goodbye to twelve in thirteen of their 2010 voters. John Curtice says that the BBC exit poll had predicted a swing to Labour here and the Tories may now secure an overall majority.
The Tories have also secured a swing away from Labour in Clwyd South, underlining the weakness of Welsh Labour that we highlighted in our Battleground Overview in March. Further misery for the Liberal Democrats too, as Andrew Neil reports that David Laws might be in trouble.
In other news, the Daily Mirror has revised its front page…
1.40 An interesting result in Wrexham: Labour hold but with their majority cut in half, whilst the Tories gain five points and UKIP seize third position, ahead of both the Welsh nationalists and the Liberal Democrats. This is consistent with a strengthening of the UKIP position in Wales we reported in our battleground series, and bodes well for Nigel Farage’s party in next year’s Assembly elections.
Meanwhile UKIP donor Arron Banks, who is also involved in their campaign, is reported to have claimed that the Tories have held South Thanet.
As the Tories inch closer to majority territory it does raise the question: for all the reminders that a Cameron government would need a two-thirds majority in Parliament to call a second election, could he (perhaps with the support of the DUP) simply repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act? That would only require an ordinary victory in a vote of the House.
1.20 Another disappointing result for Labour in Tooting: Sadiq Khan holds the seat with an increased vote but Tory Mark Watkins also boosted the Conservative share, actually winning more votes than Khan did in 2010. As a result the Labour majority in Tooting is only a few hundred votes higher than last time out.
Another disintegration in the Liberal Democrat position reinforces what seems to be one of tonight’s key themes: coalition has been terrible for the junior partner.
In other news, Professor John Curtice reports that the astonishing exit poll has, based on results thus far, underestimated the Tory share by one point and overestimated Labour by a similar amount. A reminder to the cautious that the margin of error runs in both directions.
UPDATE: Curtice tells David Dimbleby not to discount the possibility that the Tories could hit the magic 323…
1.00 Good morning! Henry Hill, back in the driving seat here for immediate future. Justine Greening has held Putney with an almost identical majority, with both Labour and the Conservatives adding almost identical figures to their share of the vote. This will be extremely disappointing for Labour, who are depending on above-average results in London to offset setbacks elsewhere. Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats have slumped from 16.9 per cent to just 6.3/
The BBC are also reporting that Bradford West, where George Galloway is seeking re-election for the Respect Party, has gone to a recount.
12.40am We’ve got the first result in a Tory-held seat – North Swindon – and it’s a CON HOLD. Justin Tomlinson, who took the seat from Labour in 2010, has not just retained it – he has increased his majority on a 4.3 per cent swing from Labour to Tory. It’s a remarkable result – not only is Tomlinson’s vote share and majority up sizeably, but UKIP are also up, so as in Sunderland it’s yet to become clear where their vote has come from.
12.20am Lord Ashcroft has just released the result for his large poll, carried out today. On LBC he emphasised that the exercise was aimed primarily at finding out voters’ motivations and values, not as an exit poll per se, but it estimates Con 34 per cent, Labour 31 per cent, Lib Dem 9 per cent and UKIP 14 per cent. In our proprietor’s words, this would be “not consistent” with the broadcasters’ exit poll. Meanwhile, Paul Goodman reports that Tory campaign sources remain cautious about the exit poll and are talking about numbers closer to 303 seats – still well ahead of what they would have predicted earlier.
Midnight Hello, one and all, this is Mark Wallace here, taking over for the next hour from Henry Hill. As per the tweet pictured above, John Curtice, the broadcasters’ exit pollster, is forecasting that UKIP is now the third largest party in the popular vote. That is interesting in itself, if accurate, but also the detail within it is crucial. First, where is this vote? Is it in potential UKIP marginals, in Tory heartlands, or in Labour seats in the North? This matters both in terms of their future potential to win seats, but also in terms of their line tonight – if they underperform in seats, their fallback hope is to argue they are in second place in a lot of seats. Second, where is this vote coming from? Are these former Tory voters, former Labour voters, former non-voters, or a mix of the three in what proportions?
23.40 Meanwhile, over at Britain’s most partisan paper…
23.35 Washington and Sunderland West shows much the same pattern as the previous two constituencies: a slight Labour increase, the Tories hold their ground, UKIP storm into second and the Liberal Democrats collapse.
23.20 Another strong result for UKIP in Sunderland Central, although the Conservatives also increased their share and managed to hold on to second place.
Meanwhile, rumour has it that Ed Balls might be in trouble in Morley and Outwood, with the New Statesman reporting in their live blog (11.03) that Labour sources are indicating that he may be in trouble. Anthony Calvert ran him very close as the Conservative candidate in 2010, but is now standing in Wakefield. Andrew Gimson visited this constituency during the campaign.
Peter Franklin, of this site, has taken a shot at guessing which Liberal Democrat MPs may have held their seats if the astonishing TV exit poll is correct and they end up with ten seats. They are: Ed Davey (Kingston), Steve Webb (Thornbury), Bob Russell (Colchester), Simon Hughes (Bermondsey), Vince Cable (Twickenham), David Laws (Yeovil), Norman Lamb (Norfolk North), Tim Farron (Westmorland), Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam), Alistair Carmichael (Orkney).
23.00 This is Henry Hill, taking over the ConHome live blog. The first result from Sunderland South has come in. It’s a Labour hold in a safe seat, but nonetheless the figures pose some interesting questions. Whilst Labour have added some three thousand votes to their total, but UKIP have added an astonishing seven thousand to theirs to take seven place despite a reportedly weak ground machine in the constituency.
However, the Conservative vote is only down by one thousand or so, and with the Labour vote up it will be fascinating to find out where these new UKIP voters have come from. Is the party actually managing to bring out disaffected non-voters?
Another question is what happened to the Liberal Democrat vote. Did a large chunk of purely protest voters transfer to UKIP… or did the party’s remaining, pro-Coalition voters switch to the Tories?
22.40 Since the Conservatives are our last, let’s stick to it – and say that the two exit poll results point to likely different outcomes for Team Cameron’s management of the Parliamentary Party when the new Commons meets and before.
At 216 seats, Downing Street would be tempted to treat the election result as a vindication, and carry on in much the same way as before. At 284, it would have no alternative but to manage the Party in a more collegiate manner than the past five years.
None the less, a great deal would depend on the Liberal Democrats were the 216 figure to be more or less accurate. In a Coalition, Number 10 would indeed be able to continue more or less where it has left off: not so if there were to be a minority government.
22.20: We now have a second exit poll – though, strictly, it isn’t one: YouGov reinterviewed 6000 people who had already voted. (The BBC poll is based on 20,000 people.) Its number are much closer to the consensus of three of the forecasters – Elections Etc, Election Forecast and May 2015.
Conservatives: 284. Labour: 263. Liberal Democrats: 31. SNP: 48. UKIP: 2. Greens: 1. Others: 21.
Lewis Baston, the historian and pollster who writes monthly on this site, has given 283 seats as the lowest total at which a Conservative-led government is practicable – if the Liberal Democrats, the DUP and UKIP are prepared to play ball. So the YouGov poll is right on the cusp.
However, the consensus of both polls is clear. According to them, the Conservatives will be the largest party and Labour will be at least 20 seats behind them. On this basis, it’s very hard to see how Ed Miliband could lead a government – and that’s before one addresses the legitimacy question.
The surveys also spotlight the express train that’s been hurtling down the line for six months – namely, the SNP express. If they’re right, England has leaned one way, and Scotland has leaped. Will Cameron make a federal offer to the SNP? Or would he feel (on 316 seats) he wouldn’t need to?
22.00 This is Paul Goodman opening the ConservativeHome election live blog – which will run until late tomorrow. The BBC exit poll is off the end of the plus scale for the Conservatives, suggesting a better result for David Cameron last time than in 2010, as follows:
Conservatives: 316. Labour: 239. SNP: 58. UKIP: 2. Liberal Democrats: 10. Greens: 2. Others: 19.
No poll during the campaign has suggested anything as near as good a result as this for the Party. If it is accurate, Cameron could probably get by on minority government – and not seek a coalition at all. And it would be the mother of all mud pies in the eye for the pollsters.
However, are those who commissioned it convinced by it? Will the LibDems really be down to ten seats, and the Curse of Clegg return with a vengeance? And is the SNP truly set to win every seat in Scotland bar, presumably, Orkney and Shetlands?
One thing’s for sure: either the pollsters, whose last efforts suggested a Miliband Government, or most of the forecasters, who’ve gone for more Conservative seats that Labour ones, will turn out to have been right. But not both.