- Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has won 330 seats in the House of Commons, a gain of 28 and four more than are needed for a majority.
- David Cameron is due to stay on as prime minister.
- Labour went down from 256 to 232 seats. The Liberal Democrats, who have ruled in coalition with Cameron since 2010, lost 48 of their 56 seats.
- The Scottish National Party took 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland.
- Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party failed to win any seats.
Polls open this morning across the United Kingdom at 7 o’clock and will close tonight at 10. Some fifty million Britons are registered to vote. At stake is command of the world’s fifth-largest economy, the island nation’s membership of the European Union and possibly the United Kingdom’s very future.
Across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, voters elect a total of 650 members of Parliament. Polls show neither Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives nor the opposition Labour Party winning an outright majority. Given that there is no polling data available for each constituency, it is difficult to predict the outcome. If the national result is only a few percentage points different from the polls — which have the Conservatives and Labour virtually tied — it could affect numerous seats.
The Conservatives are expected to lose some of their 303 seats while Labour is expected to win more than the 257 seats it has now. The Liberal Democrats, who have governed in coalition with the Conservatives for the last five years, could lose half their seats while the Scottish National Party, which aspires to independence for Scotland, is forecast to take almost all of the region’s 59 seats in Westminster. Even if the Conservatives win a plurality of the votes, it might be easier for Labour to find a majority if it can do a deal with the left-leaning SNP. Although that would probably involve even more autonomy for Scotland.
The Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party is polling at around 14 percent support nationwide but will probably win no more than a few seats. Leader Nigel Farage could even lose in his constituency. Under Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system, whoever gets a plurality of the votes in a constituency wins. The system disadvantages other smaller parties, like the Greens, as well. It benefits the SNP in Scotland where the other parties split the pro-union vote.
In a bid to stop conservatives voting UKIP and splitting the right-wing vote to Labour’s benefit, David Cameron has promised to call a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership by 2017 if he wins the election. Polls show a small majority in favor of staying in while UKIP wants to leave the bloc.
As well as the general election, thousands of local council seats are contested across England, with the exception of London. The Conservatives are traditionally popular in the English countryside while Labour performs better in the major cities.
The Financial Times‘s Philip Stephens argues that the reason the Conservatives and Labour aren’t doing better in the polls is that they’ve turned inward and ignored many voters in the middle.
The Tory and Labour tribes have shrunk and, along the way, fallen under the spell of doctrinal zealots. Power in Mr Cameron’s party has shifted toward elderly activists who hanker for the world as they imagine it once was. Labour is beholden for its funding to a handful of trade unions that never quite got over the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The nationalists in UKIP and the SNP benefit from the two big parties’ failure “to wrench the argument back to a middle ground,” according to Stephens.
In most other Western European countries, traditional parties would likely form a grand coalition to mobilize the middle.
Such a government would propose to cut the deficit without making it a fetish, to look for a better deal from the EU but know Britain cannot go it alone, and, above all, to shape a constitutional settlement to reconcile Scottish demands for home rule with the preservation of the fabric of the four-nation union.
Grand coalitions have been formed in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands in recent years — although Stephens doesn’t stop to wonder if these left-right alliances are really successful.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives almost won an absolute majority in the last election and were only forced into a government with the Social Democrats because the liberals didn’t reenter parliament. In the Netherlands, the coalition between Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals and the Labor Party is deeply unpopular on both sides. In Italy, a grand coalition collapsed when former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing party withdrew its support from Matteo Renzi, a social democrat.
Stephens’ desire for a sensible middle ground between the Conservatives and Labour also overlooks the fact that the center has shifted. While the Conservatives have moved to the middle under David Cameron, becoming rather liberal in some respects and far from beholden to a cohort of “elderly activists”, Labour under Ed Miliband has lurched to the left.
Rather than wish both parties were more moderate, British voters must make a choice: between a party that has restored confidence in Britain’s public finances, revitalized the economy, put more people in work than ever before and is reforming schools and welfare — or a party that threatens to undo all of that.
Open Europe’s Mats Persson writes that British politics is becoming more European, “something for which it may not be constitutionally or psychologically ready for.”
For years, folks on the continent have complained about how UK politics simply aren’t European enough, hence why British politicians don’t get Europe. In turn, British politicians have also been keen to talk up the differences, pointing out that UK politics are adversarial as opposed to consensual, with a prime minister and opposition leader at the despatch box shouting at each other and a media that just loves a good punch-up. In Britain, they say, there is always a clear choice and first-past-the-post produces strong, majority governments; a stark contrast to EU and continental politics with its messy coalitions and muddled decisionmaking.
Persson is rather worried about this and so are many other British commentators. But as we’ve pointed out, continental-style coalition politics isn’t necessarily less stable than single-party rule.
In the sixty years since the end of World War II, the Netherlands has held twenty general elections. Belgium has held 22. Supposedly more stable Britain has held eighteen, the same number as Germany. Whether a country has only two major parties or several really doesn’t seem to matter that much.
With less than half an hour to go until the polls close, it is worth bearing in mind that 70 percent of all 18-25 year olds are registered to vote today. If they all indeed vote, we could see a much-needed spike in voter turnout which has been steadily declining in recent years.
Also, worth looking out for is Sunderland. They are hoping to be the first to declare and have done so six times in a row. In 2010, they managed to declare all three of their constituencies within 90 minutes of the polls closing. Can they beat that this evening?
The BBC’s exit poll gives the Conservatives 316 seats against 239 for Labour.
The Liberal Democrats get ten seats, down from 56 but enough to give David Cameron a majority in Parliament.
The SNP gets 58 seats, every seat but one in Scotland. UKIP gets two seats.
If this is true, it will be one of the most sensational election results in a long time.
This would mean that if the current coalition continued, it would have exactly 326 seats needed for a majority.
The Conservative increase in seats from 307 to 316 would be the first time the party of government had increased its seats since 1983, under Margaret Thatcher.
Keep in mind the BBC’s exit poll is based on a sample of results from only 140 out of 650 constituencies. Although those areas were specifically selected because they represent the country at large, we might see some changes in the seats. That said, the network’s 2010 exit poll was almost exactly right.
YouGov has done its own exit poll and it shows a different outcome. It gives the Conservatives 284 seats against 263 for Labour. The Liberal Democrats get 31 seats, meaning the coalition doesn’t have a majority. The SNP would get 48, meaning a Labour-SNP coalition wouldn’t have a majority either.
Sunderland believes that they will be declaring in 5 minutes.
UKIP’s Paul Nutall is saying that if we end up with another coalition, the issue of electoral reform will have to come back onto the agenda as first-past-the-post will have failed to deliver a majority government twice in a row.
Labour keeps its seat in Sunderland South, winning some 2,000 more votes than it did in 2010. UKIP comes in second with 8280 votes while the Liberal Democrats are pushed below the Greens. Is this last a pattern we could see repeated across the United Kingdom tonight?
Labour also keeps its seat in Sunderland West. UKIP narrowly beats the Conservatives into third place while the Greens again do better than the Liberal Democrats.
Stories going around on Twitter that Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow chancellor, could be in line to lose his seat to the Conservatives. If so, this could be one of the larger upsets of the night.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s Sammy Wilson tells the BBC the Conservatives would have a “price to pay” if they wanted the Northern Irish party’s support in Westminster. The DUP has eight seats now and is expected to keep them. With the Conservatives at 316 in the broadcaster’s exit poll and the Liberal Democrats down to ten, some sort of pact with the DUP would be helpful to keep David Cameron in power.
A right-wing and unionist party, the DUP naturally leans more toward the Conservatives. But their leader in the House of Commons, Nigel Dodds, told The Spectator last month he wasn’t “in the pocket” of either party.
Last month, Dodds set forth DUP demands in exchange for support: a UK-wide scrapping of the “harsh” bedroom tax; an in-out EU referendum; and guarantees on defense spending and border controls.
Alan Roden, political editor of the Scottish Daily Mail, reports that Liberal Democrat sources are telling him that Danny Alexander, the party’s chief secretary to the Treasury, is losing his Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey seat to the SNP.
BBC exit poll data suggests Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will keep his seat thanks to Conservative tactical voting.
United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage could lost in Thanet South, a constituency that is now held by the Conservatives. If he does, The Spectator‘s James Forsyth writes this will be an even better night for the Tories.
UKIP without Farage will be a far less formidable political force. The Tories can then, realistically, start to think about how to reunite the right. Also, UKIP’s progress against Labour in the north will strengthen the hand of those in the party who want to move it in a more left-wing, populist direction.
According to the exit poll, It looks like the Conservatives have been taking seats and votes from the Liberal Democrats across the country while also defending their own seats from Labour.
If the Conservatives indeed win more than 300 seats, we could see the party split on whether or not to continue their coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Right-wing Tories may argue for a minority government, perhaps with informal support from the DUP, feeling this would unshackle them from the pro-European Liberal Democrats. Centrists, including Prime Minister David Cameron and his chancellor, George Osborne, might prefer to stay in coalition with the liberals who provide them cover for pursuing a moderate policy.
If the liberals indeed lose dozens of seats, though, they could be reluctant to stay in power. Even if they’ll have lost more seats to the Conservatives than to Labour, the party may interpret the result as an inditement on five years of coalition government and decide they’re better off recovering in opposition.
The Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill reports that Scottish Labour Party leaders may not win reelection.
Jim Murphy, the socialist party’s leader north of the border, “is involved in an extremely tight contest in Renfrewshire East,” MacAskill writes. The Conservative tactical voting Murphy hoped for, “which might have seen support for him to keep the SNP at bay, has failed to emerge.”
Labour’s other high-profile figure in Scotland, Douglas Alexander, is — in spite of defending a 16,000 majority — also fighting for survival. The hoped for tactical voting by Tories in his Paisley constituency has also failed to materialize and the support in some previously solid Labour areas has fallen short of expectations.
In Battersea, another London seat, Labour thought that they had a good chance of winning. However, the Conservatives are keeping the seat.
Given Battersea’s increasing racial diversity (and the small increase in Labour support that brings), the New Statesman, a left-leaning magazine, had said, “Outside of London, this is the kind of seat where Labour would expect to lose in a landslide. If the Conservatives lose here, it will be the first sign that David Cameron is heading out of Downing Street.”
The Guardian‘s Rowena Mason reports that Labour leader Ed Miliband’s future is hanging in the balance.
Miliband’s camp had believed that he had run a strong, tight campaign with few gaffes and apparently remaining neck and neck with the Conservatives in the opinion polls. But recriminations will soon begin to fly if the Labour leader has actually lost seats, with particular focus on what went wrong in Scotland and why the collapse of the party’s support there was not noticed and stemmed sooner.
If the election result is similar to the BBC’s exit poll, Miliband could stay on and try to form a center-left bloc in Parliament to stop the Conservatives forming a minority government. But if David Cameron can find a majority in a confidence vote, it wouldn’t seem to make much sense for Labour to keep Miliband as leader.
In the Nuneaton constituency, which the Conservatives have just won with a slight swing from Labour, the exit poll actually predicted a swing in the other direction from the Conservatives to Labour. This raises the possibility that the exit poll has underestimated the number of seats the Conservatives could win, with it now being possible they will end up with a slim majority if what has happened in Nuneaton is replicated across the country.
Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP, says that if an “anti-Tory” coalition can be fashioned, then the nationalists want to work with them to “lock the Tories out of government.”
The SNP has won its first seat of the night in Kilmarnock with a swing from Labour of 26 percent.
Alongside this, the Liberal Democrats have kept their seat in Ceredigion, Wales.
The SNP has just won in Paisley, unseating Labour’s Douglas Alexander. He was the shadow foreign secretary. The first of many Labour beasts to be unseated potentially.
The Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman reports that Conservative Party leaders are thinking they might eke out an absolute majority tonight but that they are already worried — as we suggested earlier — about a situation “in which the Tory right would have David Cameron in a permanent headlock as he tries to pass bills.”
Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister who is going to lead the SNP in Westminster, told the BBC tonight, “There’s going to be a Scottish lion roaring tonight which no Westminster government can ignore.”
Except if the Conservatives stay in power, the SNP’s influence would be limited at best. The ruling party has already promised to devolve more powers to Scotland and is unlikely to agree to further weaken the union. Another Cameron government — especially one that calls a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership which the Scots support more than the English — could see support for Scottish independence surge.
As debate will undoubtedly break out in the Labour Party over Ed Miliband’s leadership and his taking the party to the left, it’s perhaps working keeping in mind that, according to the BBC exit poll, Labour is winning a few dozen seats in England. The fact that it’s due to lose nineteen seats overall is because it would lose (almost) all its seats in Scotland.
The Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has lost his seat to the SNP. The nationalists have also taken former prime minister Gordon Brown’s old seat, Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.
BBC analysis shows there’s been very little movement between the Conservative and Labour Parties in England and Wales. What’s happened rather is that the majority of 2010 Liberal Democrat voters has abandoned the party, with the Conservatives benefiting the most from the swing, and most 2010 Labour voters in Scotland have defected to the SNP.
Labour’s John Mann states on Twitter that the party should have seen this coming.
Can’t say that Labour leadership weren’t warned repeatedly — those who even bothered to meet that is.
Could this be the first hints of rumblings as to whether Ed Miliband has to go? There could be more if these numbers continue to come out.
Sky News’ Sophy Ridge reports that Labour lawmakers are telling her privately “they can’t see how Ed Miliband can stay on as leader.”
The Financial Times‘ Robert Shrimsley tweets, “Expect the Blairites to bite back with a vengeance today. Out in force and claiming vindication on the need to occupy political center.”
The leader of the Scottish Labour Party, John Murphey, has lost his seat, East Renfrewshire, to the SNP. He is the voice of Scottish Labour, another big beast struck down north of the border.
Early indications are that the traditional Liberal Democrat stronghold in South West England will be decimated and taken over by the Conservatives.
Losing dozens of seats to the Conservatives across England and Wales, some Liberal Democrats are already arguing against another coalition government.
Gareth Epps, a party official, writes that the liberals’ identity has been blurred in the last five years. He blames the party’s defeats on its leaders’ “addiction to a toxic and fundamentally Tory austerity regime.”
The campaign without a strategy or direction has resulted in the old truism that if you stay in the middle of the road, you get run over by a truck.
David Faulkner, who was the liberal leader of Scotland’s Newcastle city council until Labour took control in 2011, predicts, “We would be almost wiped out if we entered into a coalition supporting the Conservatives.”
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat minister for energy and climate change, has lost his seat of Kingston and Surbiton in the Home Counties. The Conservatives have taken it from him. He is the first cabinet member to be scalped.
The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson writes that Britain tonight is seeing the implosion of the Scottish Labour Party.
It’s hard to understate the implications of all this: the Labour Party was born in Scotland and it’s dying there tonight. We can expect the Scottish trade unions to start getting into bed with the SNP who have tonight replaced Labour as the left-wing force in Scottish politics.
Nelson points out that the Scottish Conservatives have actually held up reasonably well. He wonders if a Scottish Tory revival might be possible.
Douglas Carswell, who defected to UKIP from the Conservatives, is the Euroskeptic party’s first member to win in a general election, keeping his seat in Clacton on Sea.
The Financial Times reports that due to high voter turnout in South Thanet, where UKIP leader Nigel Farage is standing, “the result is not due until 9 AM.”
The Conservative mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has won his seat Uxbridge.
Vince Cable, the business secretary and a senior Liberal Democrat, has been defeated by the Conservatives in Twickenham.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has won reelection in Sheffield Hallam.
The Guardian reported on Monday that half of Conservative voters in Clegg’s constituency were likely to back him in order to stop Labour taking over the seat. That appears to have happened. Clegg lost 13 percent support but the Conservatives lost almost 10 percent compared to the 2010 election, giving Clegg a narrow edge.
Clegg said it had been a “cruel and punishing night” for his party and hinted at a resignation by saying he would speak about his future “position” later this morning.
The Spectator‘s James Forsyth argues that the coalition has enabled the Conservatives “to unwind many of the defeats they’ve suffered to the Lib Dems in the past 23 years.” It seems the liberals have been crushed by the Conservatives as much as Labour has been crushed by the SNP in Scotland.
Financial markets are happy about the result. The Financial Times reports that the British pound has climbed 1.6 percent against the American dollar and 1.9 percent against the euro. If it continues on this trajectory, the newspaper says, “the pound will erase its loss for the year against the dollar.”
The recriminations in Labour have begun. Jim Murphy is accused of not having had a plan to counter the SNP and failing the Labour Party.
The Economist points out that polls have consistently underrated the Conservative Party’s support in recent elections. The BBC exit poll and early results show “the ‘shy Tories’ — Conservative voters who either do not reveal their true preference to pollsters or who switch intentions at the last moment — were there all along.”
Charles Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader and a member of Parliament since the 1980s, loses his seat in Ross, Skye and Lochaber to the SNP.
Meanwhile in Doncaster North, Ed Miliband has won reelection. He has held the seat since 2005.
The Labour Party leader said this has been a disappointing night. He added that the next government will have a difficult task of keeping the country united in the face of surging Scottish nationalism.
With more than half of constituencies declared, the Conservatives and Labour are neck and neck with 162 and 168 seats, respectively. But David Cameron’s party is on track to win the election. The BBC now forecasts 325 seats for the Conservatives, one short of a majority, against 232 for Labour, down by 26. The SNP would win 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland while the Liberal Democrats keep only twelve.
In Witney, Oxfordshire, David Cameron has won his seat.
He spoke about building on the foundations of a stronger economy that have been laid during his first term and said he wanted to govern for everyone in the country. Cameron reiterated his commitment to devolving more powers to Scotland and Wales.
Concluding his victory speech, the prime minister said he wanted to reclaim for the Conservatives the mantle of “one nation” and said the mantle should never have been lost in the first place.
The Financial Times‘s Ireland correspondent, Vincent Boland, reports that unlike in the rest of the United Kingdom, election night has been “business as usual” in Northern Ireland. “The roughly even split in the electorate between unionists and nationlists is the same as it was five years ago.”
There were two results, however, that could have a bearing on politics not just in Northern Ireland but in London. The Ulster Unionist party — for years the dominant voice of unionism until it was displaced in recent elections by the more hardline Democratic Unionists — emerged with two seats at Westminster. That could be very good news for David Cameron. The UUP is a more natural supporter of the Conservative party than the DUP and more likely to support the broader Conservative policy agenda.
With the Conservatives close to an outright majority and the Liberal Democrats almost wiped out, another coalition government between the two parties now seems unlikely.
The Atlantic Sentinel had endorsed just such another coalition, in part because it would give David Cameron cover to pursue a more liberal policy. The prime minister, this website argued, “doesn’t want to be beholden to lawmakers on the right who would take Britain out of the European Union and cut back the state to such an extent that it would almost certainly scare away centrist voters.” That could now happen.
As counting continues this morning, the Conservatives are on track to gain a small majority of their own.
The Greens have held Brighton Pavilion, with Caroline Lucas being reelected there.
Paddy Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader, says his party will be back and that Britain needs liberalism more than ever in the next few years.
In Rochester and Strood, where Mark Reckless won the second by-election for UKIP last year, the Conservatives’ Kelly Tolhurst has been elected, taking the seat back.
It is being said that the experience of the Liberal Democrats in this election will serve as a warning to other parties thinking of going into coalition.
The much-maligned BBC exit poll now almost perfectly matches up with the results. If anything, it underestimated the Conservative victory and overestimated the number of seats the liberals would keep.
Nigel Farrage says the first-past-the-post voting system is “bust” given his party’s inability to get more than one seat in the House of Commons despite winning 13 percent support nationwide.
Rumors are circulating that Ed Miliband will soon announce he is stepping down as leader of the Labour Party. Given that Labour has done worse under him than it did in 2010, when the poor election result was blamed on the financial crisis and Gordon Brown’s leadership, there is arguably little else Miliband can do.
Nigel Farage has not been elected in Thanet South. He has previously said he will step down as UKIP leader if he failed the seat.
Farage said UKIP will lead the charge for political reform and that a real weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
Nick Clegg says that the results are worse than he feared and that he must take full responsibility for the Liberal Democrats’ defeat. He is resigning as leader.
However unforgiving the judgement has been of the Liberal Democrats, I believe the history books will judge our party kindly for the service we sought to provide for the nation at a time of great economic difficulty.
Ed Miliband says he takes total responsibility for Labour’s defeat and is stepping down.
He urges supporters not to “mourn” the loss.
We have come back before and this party will come back again.
Prime Minister David Cameron has entered Buckingham Palace where he will inform Queen Elizabeth that he is able to form another government. This marks the end of what has been a shocking election in many ways.