The Conservatives would have 307 MPs, up 97 on 2005, against Labour's 255, a drop of 94, and the Lib Dems would get 59, down 4. Nationalists and others would have 29. That would mean hung parliament, with the Tories 19 short of a majority. The Lib Dem vote looks immediately anomalous. They've done well in the polls, and while First Past the Post makes everything muddy and unclear, you'd expect to see them do a bit better than they did in 2005.
I suspect the exit poll has exaggerated the Conservative vote. Perhaps not by much, but perhaps by enough to change the overall picture. If Labour and the Liberals take ten seats off the Tory total and it is completely different.
Tory front bencher Michael Gove already on Radio 4, talking up how this is a rejection of Labour. Special prize for the first to spot one of Cameron's Cossacks declaring a victory in the face of the facts.
The SNP and PC are usually under represented in elections - the SNP gets about 20% of the vote, and only about 10% of the seats, so they would support a Lib-Lab administration that promised to deliver proportional representation.
Houghton & Sunderland is about to declare. This is interesting as it will be an indication of how well the Labour vote is holding up in the north, which might be very different from the uniform swing indicated in opinion polls.
I'm keeping a keen eye on the contest in barking, where the BNP Nick griffin is standing. I pledged to eat 10 raw onions if he wins ...
9.54 - Houghton & Sunderland held by Labour's Bridget Phillipson - 19,137. That's a swing away from Labour of 8.4%, which is very worrying for Labour. That means their vote isn't holding up in the North. However, the Tories only got 5.2% of that, so it's STILL all up in the air (2).
BNP get 1961 votes ... which is actually slightly down on their 2005 'result.' Good work, Sunderland.
Eric Pickles on Radio 4 proclaiming victory by default, Labour 'Got to go' and so on. Do piss off. That's not in the rules.
10.15 - The Tories are really mining the "lost a hundred seats, crushing rejection, gotta go" seam, but they're notably not trumpeting how the public have endorsed David Cameron and the Conservatives - because they haven't been. A lot of propaganda.
10.18 - Exit poll amended slightly - Tories now on 305, Lib Dems pick up 2, taking them to 61. Labour still on 255, others on 29.
10.26 Washington & Sunderland West held by Sharon Hodgson for Labour, 19,615. Massive - 11% - swing to the Conservative. Beating the exit poll. Labour's vote in the North East seems to be collapsing. That said, it is a new seat, so the swing is notional. But still ominous.
10.40 - Sunderland Central held by Labour's Julie Elliot, with 19,495. votes. In the first two seats, the swing may have been wild - in the first case, Houghton & Sunderland South featured a strong independent candidate, and Washington & Sunderland South was a new seat, so swings were notional. Sunderland Central seems more in line with my initial prediction - the swing there, 4.8%, is lower than the national swing. Question is, will that be made up by a higher swing in the South?
11.16 - George Osbourne repeating the increasingly annoying meme about Labour being decisively rejected, skirting around the fact that his party hasn't been spectacularly endorsed. Labour seem to be heading towards 30% of the vote, better than expected, and an alliance with the Lib Dems would give Britain something it hasn't enjoyed in living memory - a government representing a plurality of the British people. And make no mistake, the electorates aren't stupid. The Lib Dem voters know that they are only ever going to get power through a coalition, and the Labour voters will accept - grudgingly - the necessity. So the story that the Tories are repeating by rote is just a lie.
12.30 - National swing down to 5%, as Scottish seats start to come in. Scotland hasn't shown much variation from 2005, so it may have a significant part to play. If anything, Labour are doing very slightly better than in 2005, sucking a modicum of support from the SNP, based on the five results in so far. One of these seats was Gordon Brown's, though, which may be skewing the figures slightly ...
Two things I'm not going to worry about too much tonight - people getting locked out of polling stations, and Northern Ireland, beyond noting the fall of Peter Robinson. The former, because it is a seperate matter, by definition people who don't get to vote aren't going to be affected the election. The latter, because Northern Irish politics is just too much of a headache, even for me.
12.53 - Tooting and Gedling, both key marginals that the Tories have to win, have stayed red. Hopes of a tory majority fading fast. But who knows? Ed Balls is in trouble, apparently. That's a good thing, to be honest. He's poison.
1.04 - it's great to hear Paddy Ashdown on the radio again. Talking utter sense as always. Don't be rushed, a Labour defeat does not imply a Tory win. And, at 69, he still sounds pretty hale. Maybe it isn't too late for him to be defence secretary?
1.16 - Halton, in the North West, stays red, with a swing from labour to the Tories of just 2.9%. The Tories aren't making any significant ground in the North. After the initial wibbles around Sunderland, the Labour vote seems to be less flighty than the national trend.
The national swing is down to 3.3%, but Labour constituencies tend to return results more quickly than Tory seats (central planning and socialism being more efficient), so that will change as results from larger Conservative constituencies come in.
Conservatives are making gains, but not convincingly. They're doing badly on their list of key marginals - though given how they've been rigorously targeted by various parties, there will be all sorts of odd results on that list. but the point is, they had to win them all, and if they have to rely on seats not on the list, then the job becomes an awful lot more difficult (3). Their target marginals aren't switching to them. They are taking seats from Labour, but not from any of the other parties. The Lib Dems might not be surging, but they seem to be fighting thr Tories to a standstill where it matters ... for Labour.
1.35 - I'm beginning to wonder if my original forecast might have been too generous to the Tories. As things are, they might be well short of being short by 40, as I calculated.
... And on top of that, the Tories are LOSING SEATS (Eastbourne)????
2.00 - David Cameron is re-elected, unsurprisingly. But that might be all he's got to be happy about tonight.
Cameron sounded very tentative in his speech. William hague sounds bloody cheerful. he might be contemplating a second shot at the leadership.
2.16 - About 1/3 of the way through. Still nothing either way. Labour have lost several seats, but haven't been fatally wounded. The Tory 'charge' doesn't seem to be reaching far enough. the Lib Dems are baffled. this might all change, however. The share of vote is matching the polls quite well - Conservatives on 33%, Labour on 28%. The Lib Dems are down on their polling, and the 'Others' are up. The Tories can look for more seats in the South coming in, which will boost their numbers substantially. Looking at the Tories' Top 100 target marginals, 28 have declared. The Tories have won 18 of them, a very low conversion rate. The national swing is just under 5%. The election is starting to smell like an effective defeat for David Cameron.For all the talk about Brown being rejected by the voters, Cameron has been rebuffed just as soundly. And, on a personal note,Nick Griffin has said (unofficially) that he's not going to win in Barking, so it looks like I might not be eating raw onions any time soon.
Over half way now. Tory majority still looking very unlikely, and the possibility of them breaking 300 seats seems to be receding. A lot of Liberal seats still to come in - 40 or so. And almost all of Scotland will be going to Labour, Lib Dem or SNP. And the swing is still only 5%.
3.43 - About 2/3 of the way there. Labour are starting to take some heavy hits. It's still anyone's guess where it is going to end up. The tories could still break 300, just. They might equally fall short of it. The Lib Dems will put on some seats, but look like their surge simply didn't translate into votes. Whether or not they bring in enough MPs to make a credible coalition is the big question that remains to be settled.
I'm obviously not as young as I was. I used to love British elections, because of their epic quality, but now I'm just tired and confused. And I'm not even having to stay up all night to keep track of what's happening.
3.54 - Ed Balls survives, which is something of a shame. Both Labour and Conservatives need about 80 seats, to reach their respective 'respectable' totals. There's about 250 still to go. 30 of them are likely to go Lib Dem. So there's 40 or 50 seats that I just have to shrug my shoulders and say, Dunno" over.
4.45 - What, is this still going on? 150 seats left. Tories need 50 to retain authority. Labour need 50 to maintain respectability. Who grabs most of the remaining 30 (assuming 20 go Lib Dem) will get to form the government, in the end. And a lot of these seats are the ones where there recounts, or where the count is going down to the last few votes.
4.51 - BRIGHTON PAVILION GOES GREEN!! First ever MP for the Greens. Brilliant.
Zac Goldsmith just won Richmond Park for the Tories. 29,000 people voted for him. Will he be the next leader of the Conservative party?
1 - "Election exit poll: Tories to be 19 short of majority," unattruted BBC article. 6th of May, 2010. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8666128.stm)
2 - "21010 Election Result: Houghton & Sunderland South," published by the BBC, 6th of May, 2010. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/election2010/results/constituency/c27.stm)
3 - "Election 2010: Conservative Key Seats," by the BBC, 7th of May, 2010. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/election2010/results/targets/p_con.stm)