This post provides rolling election coverage – refresh every few minutes for updates.
I can’t promise I’ll be on top of comments here – find me on Twitter instead!
2.35am – Conservatives hold Castle Point
…against Ukip. This was the seat where Farage launched his party’s campaign – it’s the first target seat of theirs we’ve seen announced. I and any number of other observers expect Ukip to ‘melt away’, in Peter Kellner’s words.
2.23am – Douglas Alexander scalped in Paisley
Sure to be the first of a series of high-profile losses – both in Scotland and elsewhere. All but ten Lib Dems MPs are set to be ousted, while Ed Balls seems to be endangered.
2.13am – SNP gain Kilmarnock
First Scottish result we’ve seen so far, and first SNP gain – no doubt of many.
1.58am – Dimbleby suggests a Tory majority is possible
Moments later, Andrew Marr says Miliband’s leadership is on the line.
Not a good night in general, then.
1.51am – Conservatives hold Nuneaton
1.23am – Conservatives hold Battersea
It now seems the exit poll was broadly correct – Labour aren’t generating the swing they need, and so far they’re not making the gains in London they expected.
If this continues, there’ll be a long conversation about why absolutely no polls predicted this. My first guess is that voting intention nationwide – what most opinion polls measure – hasn’t accounted for how regional power battles play out. (For example, the SNP are set to gain about four percent of UK votes but just under a tenth of seats.)
The question for the left will now be how to handle the next parliament. Fixed five year terms are likely to prevent a Conservative government holding a second election – it may be that Labour can capitalise on being in opposition by chipping away at Cameron’s support in by-elections, paralysing the government while it convalesces.
1.13am – Labour holds Tooting
Sadiq Khan, Miliband’s right hand man, has held his seat.
1.08am – Labour holds Newcastle upon Tyne East
Another strong showing for Labour in the north east – as Nick Robinson suggested to Dimbleby, what this election seems to be showing are exaggerated regional schisms. The north east is as steadily red as ever; Scotland has gone nationalist; the south east has deepened as a centre of Tory support.
More results to come in ‘thick and fast’ very soon, beginning seemingly with Tooting and Wandsworth.
0.58am – Conservatives hold Putney
Justine Greening retains her seat, the first result in London we’ve had. Worryingly, we’ve yet to see any results that contradict the exit poll.
0.50am – Alan Johnson erroneously claims Labour gained Swindon North
Speaking to Dimbleby, Johnson claims ‘the Swindon North result was a Labour gain’ – unless I heard wrong, no it wasn’t.
0.40am – Tories hold Swindon North
The BBC’s analysis shows Labour failing to compensate for Scottish losses with gains from the Conservatives – this is a result in England that, while just one seat, seems consistent with that.
0.21am – Greens forecast to take Norwich South
Further to the previous update here, Jeremy Vine’s examination of the exit poll predicts Norwich South will be a Green gain.
11.50pm – Could Natalie Bennett be the new Green MP?
I doubt it. I think we’re looking at a Green hold in Brighton Pavilion and a gain in Norwich South or possibly Bristol. Note that this is one area where the exit poll isn’t a turnup – both it and previous polls point to one or two Green seats.
11.39pm – Ed Balls says if Cameron can’t pass a Queen’s speech, he’s out
Ed Balls is wrong. Based on Fixed Term Parliaments Act from 2011, only an explicit confidence vote – not a failed Queen’s speech – can push a government from office. Should the exit poll prove correct, what we may be looking at is a highly insecure Conservative-led government which could lose parliamentary votes if even one MP rebels.
11.37pm – What happens if Nigel Farage loses?
An unnamed source says via Nick Robinson that Nigel Farage may place third in Thanet South. Based on his past statements, that seems like an almost certain end to his party leadership. If the exit poll’s right, that means a Conservative-led government – the question is, how would the situation with the EU be reshaped?
Nick Clegg seemed to suggest during this election campaign that he’d opposite an EU referendum, meaning that – if the option were there – Cameron might rather work with the DUP. (This is assuming they’d agree to one, and that he insisted on it.) Without Nigel Farage, the biggest voice for a Brexit during the next few years, how would the debate look?
11.30pm – Labour holds Sunderland West
Labour continues to sweep Sunderland. Not much else to add right now.
11.17pm – Labour holds Sunderland Central
As in Sunderland South, a five figure majority with almost five thousand votes again. I’m wondering how the exit poll will tally with the regionality of this election – it might be that of its 20,000 respondents, most voted Tory by a wide margin… but how are those people distributed?
10.55pm – Ukip in second place in Sunderland South
Ukip has kicked the Tories into third place, with the Lib Dems losing their deposit. (Less than a thousand votes!)
My prediction is that in lots of northern seats like this, Ukip will do well – but not well enough to win.
10.51pm – Labour holds Sunderland South
…and it holds it decisively – we’re looking at a majority of something like thirteen thousand for its candidate.
We can’t take only one seat as a bellwether on the accuracy of the exit poll – but Sunderland South does seem a good indicator of sentiment in the north east. This is a very limited sign, but to the extent it spells good news for any party, it’s good for Labour.
10.37pm – Peter Kellner on the exit poll
Speaking to Dimbleby, Peter Kellner of YouGov (who gave Labour a four-seat plurality) gives four interpretations of the exit poll.
- The exit poll is right and all the other polls are wrong.
- The other polls are right and the exit poll is wrong.
- There’s been a seismic shift in the last day. (He discounts this.)
- The Tories have done better than predicted, but not by as much as the exit poll says.
I keep saying this because there’s little else to say, but we just have to wait and see.
10.30pm – Sunderland result in ten minutes?
Tellers in Sunderland, traditionally first to declare, hope to have a result in ten minutes. This is a seat Labour should hold – if they don’t, or if it’s uncomfortably close, a bad night is ahead.
10.23pm – Harriet Harman is scrambling
The exit poll, she says, shows the Lib-Con majority unworkable. It doesn’t – the fact is, if this poll is correct, Cameron is the clear winner electorally. Our only hope is that it’s not.
10.18pm – Paddy Ashdown: ‘I’ll eat my hat’ if the BBC exit poll is right
One can only hope Ashdown goes hungry – it’s a comforting thought that the BBC may have got it wrong. I don’t see how they can be right despite a consensus among all polling companies – but they might be, in which case statisticians will face a long hard, look at themselves they did when John Major won. We simply don’t know at this point. Sit tight, everyone.
10.10pm – Michael Gove says the exit poll shows the Tories will ‘increase their majority’.
He means their plurality, of course.
10.08pm – What’s up with that exit poll?
So… how do we process that exit poll?
My first instinct is that if eleven different polling companies with different methods were all equally way out – something is very, very wrong. That might be the case… or the BBC’s forecast might be wrong.
I don’t think we’ll know till we’ve had a certain number of results.
10pm – Exit poll: Tories 316, Labour 239
Well here’s a turnout: the BBC’s exit poll predicts a staggeringly larger Tory lead than anyone else has. On these figures, Cameron will walk back into government.
9.50pm – Five minutes till the BBC exit poll?
The BBC’s election coverage – Dimbleby’s last stand! – begins in five minutes. I’m expecting we’ll have an exit poll fairly quickly, which will be the last point at which expectations could be upturned – except by actual results.
As it stands, all eleven major pollsters show either an explicit Labour-Tory tie or a one or two point difference:
TNS: One point Tory lead
Opinium: One point Tory lead
ICM: One point Labour lead
Panelbase: Two point Labour lead
ComRes: One point Tory lead
Ipsos MORI: One point Tory lead
We’re looking at a convergence of many different polling methods around a tie – if an exit poll shows something else, I’d be inclined to question it, but we’ll have to see.
9.40pm – Which seats will be a challenge for the SNP?
A friend tells me Kirkcaldy, Gordon Brown’s old seat, will be a key battleground in Scotland – one wonders (hopes) they’ll manage to unseat Scotland’s one Tory, at the least. (Further insight into this year’s regional conflicts from YouGov’s Anthony Wells is here.)
I’d love to say I want to see the SNP take all Scotland because they deserve to – but the truth is that I’m neurotic. If they end up with fifty seats out of the fifty-nine I’ll deal with it; if they win fifty-eight, hair will be pulled out.
9.33pm – It’s not overtly political, but…
…since Channel 4 are advertising it, I’m excited for George Miller’s new Mad Max film.
9.26pm – Television is giving me royal baby jokes.
The biggest and worst joke is naming a royal Charlotte (Elizabeth) Diana. It’s one thing being named after a divorce; it’s another being named after a constitutional scandal.
9.21pm – Channel’s 4 ‘alternative’ coverage…
It’s all a bit – ahem – laboured, isn’t it?
Sit tight – we’ll switch over to the BBC at ten when the exit poll arrives.
9.15pm – What are each party’s goals tonight?
We come down to it then – realistically, in light of what predictions and projections we’ve already seen, what is each party’s best hope in this vote?
Labour is the insurgent party, poised to overtake on the inside. Neither its leaders nor the Tories seem capable of winning outright, but Labour’s odds of assembling a majority with other parties are preferable – how their desire to keep the SNP at arm’s length survives that need, we’ll have to see. The party’s best hope is to inch a precious few more seats than the Tories win, lending them public legitimacy; short of being locked out of power, being the smaller English party and dependent on the SNP is their worst case scenario.
Cameron’s Conservatives have a tough ride ahead. The PM is said to have owned up privately to being unconvinced he can win – the likelihood is that to stay in power, he’ll either need another pact with endangered Lib Dems or find himself daring Labour and the Scots to vote down a minority Queen’s Speech. That’ll be a question of who blinks first, and not one I see him being keen to ask.
The Lib Dem campaign has focused on damage reduction. For Clegg and co, the good news is a seemingly quite healthy vote in Lib Dem/Tory marginals – if he can maintain half his current seats, not least his own, the annihilation pundits predicted won’t come to be, and like Ed Miliband some weeks ago, his tribe will benefit from exceeding expectations. Another coalition looks unlikely based on the maths, but Lib Dem votes might help either Cameron or Miliband (who might prefer them to SNP ones).
The SNP has little to worry about electorally. North of the border, its landslide is all but guaranteed – the question is whether Sturgeon’s party win all Scotland’s seats or just most of them. Their challenge lies instead in parliament – whatever the result, a game of chicken with Labour is probable, in which each party will dare the other to put the Tories in power and alienate supporters. From a left point of view, one can only hope things don’t escalate too much – for if either party should win that game, progressive politics will lose.
Ukip want a good handful of MPs, five or six, say, from their main target seats. The whole situation’s unreadable, largely because their success in elections is so new – we don’t really have any idea what normal behaviour looks like with Ukip’s vote. That being said, I don’t think they’ll do as well as is hoped and feared: the variables are so many, the Ashcroft polls so consistent, that I’d be surprised if Farage’s lot managed more than three seats.
The Greens, meanwhile, would do well to finish with two seats – and it’s entirely possible (though not what I’d bet) that Caroline Lucas will lose hers. Sadly, the Green Party has zero nous for strategy, substituting Lucas for a far less effective leader and spreading out resource it should concentrate.
Plaid Cymru is now a party people outside Wales know about. They’re probably happy enough with that.
9.10pm – Jeremy Paxman thinks I’m a moron…
…because I didn’t vote this year. (Or rather, his joke writers do.)
If you’re wondering why – and why I don’t think I’m a moron – you can find my post all about it here.
9.08pm – Is this the Isner/Mahut of UK elections?
I was 18 at the last election in 2010 – that night’s worth of kebabs and Coke and still feels fresh. Comparisons between that election and this have been made already and will go on; I want to make one a different kind.
I’m not much of a sports fan, but can enjoy Wimbledon. Five years ago, only weeks after Clegg and Cameron entered Downing Street, John Isner and Nicolas Manut clashed at Wimbledon – a match whose eleven hour duration remains an unbroken record. Neither, at least as far as I’m aware, is a legendary champion like Federer or Nadal, but over those two days (on the second of which I turned nineteen), each played so tightly neither could achieve an advantage. In the end Isner won, but by that point it wasn’t about that – the players hugged because they knew the match would be remembered.
Cameron and Miliband, if anything’s certain, won’t hug, but this election looks set to be the political version of that match. Over a gruelling seven week campaign, neither side made any progress at all – whyever, whatever the plan, the polls remained an almost exact tie.
Over the coming night, perhaps in the week and certainly this month, one leader or the other – neither likely to be mythologised – must outperform their opponent somehow. How that’ll we, we’ve yet to see, and a latent terror in me still whispers Cameron’s name. Whatever happens though, this election will be in school textbooks, and I’m glad to be living through it.
9pm – Let’s get ready to mumble
Hello and welcome, those who are reading. Last night I announced I’d live-blog the UK election, so for the next eight hours, I’m all yours. Buckle up, buckle in and calm your nerves; smoke your cigars. Open your night’s of jelly babies. Now let’s get ready to mumble.
I’ll be watching and reacting to TV coverage all night, starting with Channel 4’s for the coming half hour and sticking, most likely, with the BBC’s from ten. Posts here will include breaking news, commentary and stray thoughts on politics in the slow bits – if there are any.