General election 2015: As it happened

Deadline: General election 2015 live blog
Deadline: General election 2015 live blog
Ian Dunt By

15.35 - As Mark Twain puts it: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

15.34 - Here's Ian's roundup for our newsletter:

Well, that's that. We didn't see that coming. Nothing that we thought was true. Everyone was wrong. The Conservatives have done the unthinkable and increased their share of the vote to secure a majority. It's been a long, hard night, full of extraordinary drama. Arguably, it was the most eventful night in British politics in a lifetime.

15.32 - And that's the end of our live coverage, too. Ian actually crawled away to his bed a few hours ago and now it's time for me - Alex Stevenson - to follow him. Not into the same bed, let's be clear. Oh no.


15.26 - Finally - at last! - it's the final declaration of election night/day. Lib Dem Andrew George gets 16,022, but the Conservatives' Derek Thomas gets 18,419. Or was that 18,490? Either way, it doesn't matter - the Tories' absolute majority increases to six and we have our final results of the election. That is as follows:

CON 331

LAB 232

SNP 56

LD 8

DUP 8

15.15 - Given the shocking national result in the general election, very few people have paid much attention to the local election contests taking place so far. The LGIU have a great blog covering them in lots of detail – and in the last few minutes their chief executive, Jonathan Carr West, has mentioned he's getting reports that the Conservatives have taken North Warwickshire from Labour. "If true that's the first significant change of control we've seen," he says. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have also gained Winchester City Council from the Lib Dems.

15.10 - Here's how the British political map looks right now...

15.00 - And now comes what is basically an extraordinary coincidence. It's the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe day today - too big an occasion for the party leaders to ignore, so they've assembled by the Cenotaph for a two-minute silence which is now underway.

14.45 - Electoral reform is going to be a big issue – in some quarters, at least – after a set of results that really does call into question the virtues of first-past-the-post. The Conservatives appear to be the main beneficiaries in the struggle for power; it took around 34,000 votes to elect each Tory MP, compared to 40,000 for Labour. But those aren't even the extremes. The SNP only needed 26,000 votes for each of their MPs, compared to 291,000 for the Lib Dems, 1.1 million for the Greens and 3.8 million for Ukip. Ouch.

14.25 - So how did the pollsters get it so wrong? We've seen them shifting uneasily on our TV screens, but at least one of them – Survation's Damian Lyons Lowe – is unrepentant. He's written a blog in which he reveals his final poll got very close to the final result, but he "chickened out" of publishing it because he feared it would be ridiculed as an outlier. That, he says, is "something I'll always regret".

14.11 - The very last seat of all is in St Ives, where the Lib Dems are hoping to retain a bridgehead in the south-west. If they fail to do so, there won't be any liberal representation apart from Tom Brake anywhere south of London. We'll probably be waiting a while for that. Could be another couple of hours. I blame the Scilly Isles.

14.10 - There's just one seat left to declare, 16 hours after polls closed. One of the latest is Hexham, a Conservative hold for Guy Opperman. But actually this was a good result for all sorts of parties: Ukip, the Greens and Labour also saw increases in their vote share – at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, whose vote collapsed by 23.1%. Opperman now has a majority of 12,031.

13.55 - There's just three seats left to declare now, and all of them are forecast to go to the Conservatives. That will take David Cameron's party up to 331 - a working majority of seven when you take into account Sinn Fein's four seats. Here's our pie chart from our team of result inputters. You can explore more about the result in your area here.

13.40 - Labour's future will inevitably be drawn from its past - in some cases literally moving on to the next generation. In Aberavon Stephen Kinnock, the son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, has been elected, taking a handsome 49% of the vote share. But in Rossendale and Darwen the son of Labour's former foreign secretary Jack Straw came second. Will Straw got 35% of the vote but was seen off by the Conservatives' Jake Berry, who took 47%.

13.25 - This from Alex Stevenson:

We treated the party manifestos differently in this campaign. Because of the nature of coalition compromises their policies were viewed as mere possibilities, not plausible outcomes. Suddenly that has all changed. The Tory manifesto is now the future of the UK. You can read it here – or just glance through the points in our article about what's ahead to get your head around what the future holds.

13.18 - Cameron finishes: "Together, we can make Great Britain greater still. Thank you." He wanders over to his right, gets his wife Samantha and the two of them enter No 10 once more.

13.17 - The PM says the economy will have to be rebalanced and that prosperity must spread to all parts of the UK. At the end of a long list of pledges he talks about giving power to all parts of the UK. He pledges to implement "as fast as I can" the devolution agreed for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He talks of "governing with respect". In Scotland, he promises "important powers over taxation". And he promises "fairness for England", too. 

13.15 - Cameron repeats the 'good life' line from his manifesto launch. He's looking forward to not making any more fudges. On his manifesto, he says: "As a majority government, we will be able to deliver all of it." That's why majority government is more accountable, in his view.

13.13 - And now here comes Cameron, who declares: "I will now form a majority Conservative government." He starts by thanking all those who made the coalition a success - especially Nick Clegg. He says Ed Miliband's phone call was a "typically generous gesture".

13.05 – Just before David Cameron's statement comes news of yet another resignation – this time from Harriet Harman. She's resigning as Labour's deputy leader – just as soon as the party has a new leader. Harman says: “With a new leadership team in place, after what has undoubtedly been a serious defeat, the Labour Party will be best placed to be the strong opposition this country needs - defending our NHS an our public services, and fighting for fairness, equality and social justice."

12:32 - What a difference between two speeches. Cleggg's was philosophical, reflective, forward-looking, well phrased and solemn. Miliband's was, I thought, quite cheap. A rehash of his basic message, an insistence that the next leader follow it. It didn't have the sense of occassion or the dignity of Clegg's. It's a shame. Miliband was a genuine intellectual candidate, with some big, important ideas for how government could function. He could have given a better account of himself.

12:14 -

"It was the most united, cohesive and enjoyeable campaign I've ever been on. Britain needs a strong Labour party, a Labour party that can rebuild after this defeat, and now it's time for someone to take forward the leadership of this party. I want to [resign] straight away so the party can have an open and honest conversation without constraint. Thank you to the British people, thank you to the people who met me at train stations and colleges. It has been an enormous privilege. Thanks for the selfies, thanks for the most unlikely cult of the 21st Century - Milifandom. I want to address those who voted Labour. Today you'll feel disappinted, but while we lost the election, the argument of our campaign will not go away. The fight goes on and whoever is our new leader Labour will keep making the case for a country that works for working people once again. I believe in our united kingdom, not just because it's our country, but because it's the best way of serving working people. All of us must rise to the challenge of keeping our country together. I want to say something to my party: thank you to you. Thank you for the privilege, I joined this party aged 17, I never dreamed I would lead it. It has been an incredible force for progress and it will be a force for progress once again. I am truly sorry I did not succeed. I did my best for five years. Now you need to show your responsibility, not simply to mourn defeat but to pick yourself up and fight. We've come back before and we'll come back again. If I may - conduct this leadership election with the same decency, civility and comradeship we believe is the way the country should be run. It's possible to have disagreements without being disagreeable. I urge everyone to keep this in mind in the weeks ahead. Where we see injustice we must tackle it. I believe it isn't simply leaders who achieve change, it is people who make change happen. I will never give up on fighting for the Britian i believe in. I will always be there, in that cause with all of you."

12:13 - "Earlier today I rang Cameron to congratulate him. I take absolute and total responsibility for the result. I'm so sorry for all those colleagues who lost their seats." he seems calm and composed. He;s getting a lot of support in the room.

12:12 - OK, Ed Miliband is  giving his speech now. I'll do the ame as before, try to get as much down as possible, then publish. 

11:36 - "It is simply heartbreaking to see so many friends who have served their constituents over so many years lose their seats due to forces outside their control." Clegg looks really quite emotional. I didn;t get it all down, but it was an excellent speech so have typed as much as I could. Here it is:

"If our losses today are part payment for every child who does a little better in school, every gay couple who know their love is worth no less than anyone else's , then I hope at least our losses can be endured with a little selfless dignity. We will never know how many lives we changed for the better. But we know we have done something which cannot be undone. However unforgiving the judgement has been in the ballot box, I believe history will jusge our party kindly for the values we sought to bear in government. To have served my country at a time of crisis is an honour which will stay with me forever. It is of course too early to give a considered account of why we have suffered the catastrophic losses we have... but one thing it seems to me is clear. Liberalism is not faring well against the politics of fear. Years of remorseless economic and social hardship and the grinding insecurities of globalisation have led people to reach for new certainties. The politics of identity is on the rise. Scottish nationalism has swept all before it. South of the border fear of what that means has swept us up too. I hope our leaders across the UK realise the disasterous consequences for our way of life and the integrity of the UK if they continue to appeal to grievance and fear. In the absence of statesmanlike leadership, Britain's place in the world is in great jeapardy. Fear and grievance have won. Liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fightin for it. That is the great challenge and great cause my successor must face. On the morning of the most crushing blow to the Lib Dems since our party was founded it is easy to imagine there is no road back but there is. This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight. Our party will come back. Our party will win again. It will take patience, resilience and grit. That is what has built our party before and will build it again."

11:35 - The results have been "immesearbly more crushing than I had feared." He announces his resignation.

11:34 - Clegg's out. He get's a lot of applause.

11:31 - Clegg is arriving to talk to members of his party. More on that when it comes. That Farage line was quite staggering wasn't it? What an utter fibber. The fact he has a reputation for straight talking is simply laughable.

11:25 - Ah, hold on. Not quite. He's going to take summer off, then "consider" whether to put his name forward again. That's not a resignation. It's a reboot. Farage stretching definition of 'man of my word'.

11:24 - Farage has confirmed he's standing down. "I said if I didn't win I would stand down as leader of Ukip. I am a man of my word. I am standing down."

11:15 - The unseemly haste extends to Miliband's resignation as well. It's quite clear the man is going to resign. Chasing him around shouting about it or discussing how it needs to happen already on TV is a bit uncivilised. 

11:10 - The Labour post-mortem is developing in a predictable way, with Blairites and more left-of-centre figures (there aren't really many proper Brownites anymore) debating whether Labour lost because it was too left wing or not left wing enough. This is a more sensible take, from Paul Mason. He argues convincingly that Blairism was predicated on Labour having a monopoly on working class support, but now that support has broken, partly to the SNP and partly to Ukip. The only solution is in the rediscovery of an ideological foundation which the Tories and the SNP appear to possess in abundance. That suggests Labour should take it slow over finding the new leader - although possibly not as slow as last time, when they waited until the party conference in September. But so far, it has been frantic, with reports coming in of phone calls already being made by potential candidates, like Chuka Ummuna or Andy Burnham.

10:58 - Hi Ian Dunt back here again. It's now been nearly thirty hours since I've slept so you may find the blog wandering off on disconnected trains of thought or experiencing moments of emotional breakdown. But for the time being, it's just about OK. We've just had what amounts to Farage's resignation speech. In half an hour we're expecting the same from Nick Clegg, and half an hour after that from Ed Miliband. You've got to love elections: Super-distilled political drama.

10.55 - The Conservatives have held on to Devon West and Torridge - and done so at a canter with an 18,403 majority. That is significant because it means the Conservatives have crossed the nominal majority finish line of 323 seats. Do not adjust your set.

10.48 - And here's Nigel Farage now. He begins by saying that compared to the last post-election day, when he was intensive care after being in a plane crash, this was pretty good. The "earthquake" in this election happened north of the border - and that explains why many voters backed the Conservatives and not Ukip, he suggests. While he might feel disappointed "professionally", he says that it's not all bad. "I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I've never felt happier."

"I feel like a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I've never felt happier."

10.36 - The reason they were shouting 'bye bye', of course, is that the Ukip leader has said he will quit if he failed to win. So another resignation is on the cards sooner rather than later.

10.35 - And there it is - Nigel Farage has lost in Thanet South. He won 16,026 votes, behind the Tories' Craig Mackinlay on 18,838. Pub landlord Al Murray got 318 votes. "Bye bye," activists in the crowd shout. Labour's candidate attracted 11,740 votes.

10.33 - Time for the Thanet South result. Nigel Farage is grinning broadly.

10.30 - This in from Alex Stevenson:

Nigel Farage has been talking to journalists again, as we await the result in Thanet South. He's talking about the possibility that Ukip will become a "younger" and "more radical campaigning party". Electoral reform is going to be a big part of that. And that point is one agreed with by the academics I've been speaking to. Malcolm Harvey, research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, says that Ukip coming third in terms of vote share while only getting next to no seats looks bad when compared with the SNP, who "are going to win half as many votes as Ukip and return 56 seats". He says this creates an "imbalance being exacerbated by the collapse of Labour in Scotland - we've seen it before in the 1970s with the liberals, but not to the same extent".

At least, from a campaigners' point of view, the election is going to highlight the case for change. "What the election result shows quite clearly is that our broken electoral system lets down voters," Unlock Democracy director Alex Runswick says. She points out that Labour increased its vote share by 1.4% but lost 26 seats – whereas the Conservatives increased their vote share by half that, 0.7%, and gained 21. "That is just the big parties – it's much more extreme when you look at the smaller parties. The SNP have had a very good night, but it's a disproportionate night," Runswick adds. "The disparity is quite extreme." She suggests the focus on who forms the next government distracts a bit from the election from voters' point of view: "We are not getting what we're voting for. Our electoral system cannot cope with the reality of multi-party politics."

10:20 - This might fall into the category of 'things we knew already', but two polling organisations – ComRes and the apparatus funded by Lord Ashcroft – have put forward data exploring why voters went the way they did. It's clear from both of them that the economy proved more of a motivator than Labour's public service issues like the NHS. Leadership also really mattered – Tory voters were twice as likely as Labour voters to be motivated by their party leader, according to ComRes. Ashcroft's polling 97% of Conservatives thought Cameron would be the best prime minister – but only 79% of Labour voters thought the same of Miliband.

10.07 - George Osborne, smiling incessantly, arrives at No 11. The chances are he's going to be remaining there for many more years.

10.05 - One of the last results to come in is one of the closest: Derby North has turned blue at the expense of Labour's Chris Williamson. But only just – Tory Amanda Solloway got 16,402, only 41 ahead of Williamson's 16,361. Slightly embarrassing for Williamson. He had described the exit poll as a "pile of nonsense" late yesterday.

09.50 - Footage has emerged of David Cameron addressing Conservative party supporters in London. "I think this is the sweetest victory of all," he declares. There's a bit of smug glee as he says "the pundits got it wrong, the pollsters got it wrong, the commentators got it wrong" – before admitting this "sometimes annoys me". But he gets the biggest cheer when he declares: "The real reason to be excited is we are going to get the opportunity to serve our country once again."

09.40 - Stevenson writes in:

He knew he was right. Not that Rob Hayward, the psephologist and former Tory MP, would ever say so. Still, his prediction back in January that the opinion polls were getting it badly wrong – overestimating the Labour vote and underestimating the Conservatives' – has very much come to pass. His analysis of the 2014 local, euro and parliamentary by-elections had suggested that the polls were getting it wrong each time, and exactly the same happened here.

Still, just because he saw it coming doesn't mean he's not as surprised as the rest of us. Hayward tells me he's "completely staggered", given the different threads like Scotland and the "astonishing" scale of the Lib Dem defeat. As for the likely overall majority, Hayward's view is one of "disbelief".

His sober assessment of this election result is that it's a mixture of 1992 and 1997. It's like '92 because of the late Tory surge and like '97, in an inverse sort of way, because all the Lib Dem seats the Conservatives lost then – Twickenham, Kingston, Sutton, Colchester etc – have now been won back.

09.35 - We now have a clear schedule of leadership mayhem around lunchtime. 11.30 - Nick Clegg falls on his sword (probably). 12 - Ed Miliband falls on his sword (reportedly). 12.30 - Cameron tries not to trip over any swords lying around Buckingham Palace as he visits the Queen.

09.20 - Ed Miliband expected to announce his resignation at midday after speaking to the Labour campaign staff.

08.20 - Balls is out. 

Labour: 18,354 votes. Cons: 18,776 

The shadow chancellor has lost his seat in the biggest scalp of this general election. "To my political opponents in Westminster: congratulations," he said before giving what was a gracious and generous concession speech.

Alex Stevenson comments: "There's no doubt the defeat of the man who had hoped to be running the nation's finances is the biggest single story of the night. Ed Balls' team felt so strongly about the result that they requested a recount, before the Conservatives' 350-odd majority was confirmed. Balls offered a gracious loser's speech in which he spoke of his personal "sorrow" and voiced concern about the future of the Union, Britain's involvement in Europe and the NHS. His disappearance from Westminster means he is relegated to the position of Yvette Cooper's spouse, and nothing more. It's an astonishing fate for the man the Tories loved to hate."

8.10 - Both Miliband and Clegg expected to make a statement today about their leadership following last night's crushing results for their two parties. Miliband is due to arrive at his party HQ soon.

07.45 - Cameron arrives back in Downing Street

07.35 - The fiinal Scotland results are in.

SNP: 56

Tories: 1

Lib Dems: 1

Labour: 1

It's a tsunami.

07.25 - Amid the terrible results for Labour have been a small number of surprising gains from the Tories. Labour's Peter Kyle has just won Hove from the Conservatives - their only Conservative gain in the South East outside London.

07.00 - There will be a lot of talk in the coming days and weeks about the growing political divide between Scotland and England. But today's results also highlight a growing divide between London and the rest of the country. Labour made big gains in the capital, very much bucking the national trend. London, which for a long time was effectively a marginal Labour/Conservative constituency is now overwhelmingly Labour. The Conservatives have been pushed out to the suburbs and the Lib Dems now have just one seat in the capital left. 

06.45 - It's been a disappointing night for Ukip. On the one hand they've made big gains, moving into second place in many seats. However, they've lost one of their existing MPs Mark Reckless and one of their key targets in Thurrock. They're also on course to lose their leader Nigel Farage, if he fails to win Thanet South as expected. Their only MP Douglas Carswell used his victory speech to attack the voting system and it's failure to represent the large numbers of voters who backed Ukip yesterday. Voting reform has until now been a priority for the left in British politics. Could Ukip now become its biggest champions? 

06.35 - Adam here. It's been a long and very eventful night and the nation wakes to a political landscape that looks utterly changed. As we suggested in the early hours, the Conservatives are on course to win an effective majority, currently forecasted at 325 seats. If this does happen it would be an extraordinary result which almost nobody predicted. 

We've also seen lots of big beasts falling and there are several more still set to come. Ed Balls looks like he could be the biggest Labour casualty of the night. We've been waiting a long time for that result which is expected within the next hour. After him, we've got Nigel Farage, who currently looks to have lost his seat and therefore the leadership of Ukip. 

06:31 - OK, I'm going to pop off for a bit now and write up a blog on what's happened - Adam Bienkov will be taking over.

06:23 - So here's the irony. Cameron's better showing might actually maker him weaker. He's lost the strong majority of the coalition and instead will probably only have a handful of votes to play with. That means the right-wing Tory backbenchers will become some of the most powerful people in the country. They will be able to bully him mercilessly on all their pet projects, including culture war stuff - banning the hijab in public, that sort of thing. What;s happened here tonight threatens to push the Tories substantially to the right.

06:18 - Reckless is gone - Rochester reverts back to the Tories after a Ukip holiday which lasted less than a year.

06:10 - Stevenson writes in:

It all comes back to 1992. I've been talking to Professor Jon Yonge of the University of Liverpool, who's surprised about the scale of the Conservative success, the "sheer scale of the Lib Dem meltdown" and the "triumph foretold" of the SNP – which has nevertheless "exceeded expectations". Yonge harks back to the last time the Conservatives won an overall majority, 1992, when the Lib Dems were squeezed. "We were coming out of a difficult economic situation and people didn't trust Labour in terms of the economy," he says. "Throughout this campaign the Conservatives have had a substantial leadr over Labour in terms of economic competence – all else flows from that."

Then there's the leadership question. "Ed Miliband was never seen as a potential prime minister," Yonge says. "His ratings only ever improved from catastrophic to very poor. People were never going to vote for a Labour party led by Ed Miliband." David Cameron, by contrast, has benefited from incumbency. And voters have felt like he has "done enough as a PM to earn" a second term.

The PM has all sorts of options now, and as he just said in his Witney victory speech it's not exactly clear what form his next government will take. Yonge thinks he should look to do a deal with the DUP, who are closing on double figures. "Is the successor to Nick Clegg going to advocate a deal with the Conservatives?" Yonge asks. "The DUP are very disciplined, they would be the logical party to make sure they get over the line."

06:07 - Here's come the Bradford West result for Galloway's fate. Respect: 8,557 Cons: 6,160 Lab: 19,907. She absolutely ruined him.

05:55 - Bloodbath part 12,567,435: Danny Alexander. The chief secretary to the Treasury has lost his Inverness seat.

05:45 - (He won obviously. In fact I need to check but I think he increased his majority) "Some say there's only one opinion poll that counts and that's the one on election day and I'm not sure that's ever been truer than today. We published a manifesto that was squarely for working people. It's too early to say exactly what sort of result there'll be by the end of the night. But to me it was always about the difficult decisions we had to take over the last five years. My aim remains simple. To govern on the basis of everyone in the United Kingdom. I want to bring our country together, our United Kingdom together, not least by implementing as fast as we can devolution for Wales and for Scotland. I want my party to reclaim a mantle we should never have lost, the mantle of One Nation, one United Kingdom."

05:42 - Ooop, I slightly fell asleep there. Anyway. Cameron is about to make his speech after the results are read out for Witney.

05:25 - "This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour party. In Scotland we've seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party. The next government has a huge responsibolity in facing the difficult task of keeping our country together. If we believe in the United KIngdom, we should stand up for people in every part of the United Kingdom. I'm now going to go to London to wait for the full results to come through." Pretty clear he's on his way out.

05:22 - Liam Byrne, who wrote the 'there's no money' note, kept his seat. CHarlie Kennedy, former Lib Dem leader who warned of the consequences of coalition, is out. It's all pretty brutal out there. Here comes the Ed Miliband result. We'll listen in for his speech.

05:10 - In Holborn and St Pancras, Natalie Bennett comes third. A sad end to a sad campaign for her. The party has failed to impress - but we'll need to see what its popular vote was to assess how things really worked out.

05:01 - Esther McVey has lost her Wirral West seat to Labour. That wil perk up Labour suupporters. She was widely detested for her defence of welfare reforms.

04:58 - From Stevenson:

Is another Scottish independence referendum the likely result of the general election? Malcolm Harvey, research fellow at University of Aberdeen, doubts it. "I think it's unlikely in the short-term purely because at the moment there's still not an appetite for independence in Scotland," he says. "The vote for the SNP should be categorically not mistaken for support for independence. It's partly a backlash from the referendum, it's also a kicking for Labour for being involved with the Conservatives in the referendum campaign. There's been a move of support from the social democratic Scotland from Labour to the SNP. And it's been much more about things other than the referendum as well." Harvey provides one caveat, though – if there's an EU referendum and the UK votes to leave – with Scotland voting to stay – then things could change very rapidly.

Dr Malcolm Harvey reflects that the sheer scale of the SNP win is simply "phenomenal" in Scotland. Some of the seats being won tonight have been Labour since before the Second World War. It poses a legitimacy question. Who, for example, is going to be the Scottish secretary in the Cabinet? How will this affect electoral reform, and the devolution agenda – in particular the English votes for English laws question? "I think the SNP would welcome some kind of settlement that included England in the constitutional settlement below Westminster," he adds. "But potentially EVEL would be problematic, given that most legislation has some kind of knock-on effect in Scotland."

04:56 - "It is now painfully clear that this has been a cruel and punishing night" for the Lib Dems. I will be seeking to make further remarks about the implications of this election... about my positions in the Liberal Democrats later this morning when I return to Westminster."

04:52 - Shows you how valuable my body language skills are. Clegg kept it. That's one relief for the Lib Dems. Majority of 2,500. Wasn't even really close.

04:51 - OK the Clegg announcement coming soon. I;ve got to say, looking at how Clegg was acting then, I think he's lost it. There was a nervy self-awareness to him. Miriam is with him. Here we go.

04:43 - This must be the end of the Liberal Democrats. What will be left of them? Ten seats, or much less? And without a role in government, they will not even be hated anymore. They'll be a joke. And then they'll be forgotten. This is a moment of existential crisis for the party.

04:41 - Cable: "The fact is we were hit by a very well organised national campaign based on people's fear of a Labour government and the Scottish nationalists, It's been a marvelous experience and a great honour. This has been a terrible night for our party."

04:37 - He's gone. Cable out.

04:36 - Vince Cable here. we go.

04:30 - Here comes Boris. It's a safe seat, but worth seeing the moment. He gets 22,511 votes. Labour only get about 11,000 seats. Nice safe win for him. Boris will be happy with that. he didn't want Cameron gone yet anyway. He wanted some time to bed in in the Commons, build a base, before Cameron steps down in four years or so.

04:22 - But Ukip fail to take Thurrock. That is a massive win for the Tories and a major disappointment for Ukip. That's the end of the story for Ukip really - apart from Thanet South. But Carswell's speech highlights how demands for electoral reform, which were once the territory of the left, are now very much going to come from the right. It was fascinating how he reached out to the Greens on that one. That shows how smart a politician he is and it speaks to the way that debate might take place in the future.

04:21 - Carswell is doing his speech. "There is no greater honour than to be a member of the House of Commons in this country. You are my boss, I will never forget that. people voted for Ukip and they got Ukip. But across the country about five million people voted for Ukip and for the Green party. They'll be lucky to get a handful of seats in the Commons." Here comes Thurrock.

04:20 - In Clacton, Douglas Carswell has kept Ukip's seat. 

04:17 - Eastleigh: Lib Dems: 14,317 Cons: 23,463. It's gone.

04:14 - It's remarkable actually. That was a bit of a Portillo moment. Hughes looked truly broken. A moment of real election drama.

04:10 - He's gone. His face looks like a painting of despair. 

04:08 - Lynne Featherstone is gone - it fell to Labour. Many Lib Dems will be very upset by that, especially since she is credited with driving through gay marriage. Here comes the SImon Hughes result. 

04:04 - From Stevenson:

The key to the SNP's success is turnout, Dr Alia Middleton of Newcastle University says. Whereas it's been fairly stable in England and Wales, there's not a single Scottish constituency that's seen a drop in voter numbers. Many of them have registered turnout increases of over ten per cent. "It just shows how engaged they are," she says.

Dr Middleton's research is about low-key campaigns in safe seats. This year has seen voters in non-battleground constituencies start to notice they're being ignored, she claims. "They're saying 'this is all well and good, but no-one's knocked on my door.' In Scotland, parties have been "a bit guilty of neglect".

And that sets us up for a troubling conclusion for the union: The SNP's dominance, contrasted with some kind of Conservative-led government in Westminster, creates a kind of perfect storm for Scottish nationalism.

"I think it sets up the scene for another referendum, I would predict, in the next parliament," Middleton predicts. "They would have a very valid case across to the Scottish people that we are not being represented, that we need to represent ourselves… I would think they'd want to push for it sooner rather than later."

04:02 - And now the returning officer has reported George Galloway to the police, for tweeting an exit poll saying he would win. Awful lot of police reports going on over there. Sounds very messy.

03:48 - We're pretty sure about Galloway now. All the Respect supporters have left the count, which tends not to be the sort of thing smeone does when they're on track to win. Meanwhile, Glasgow North East, Labour's safest seat, has fallen to the SNP.

03:41 - He then corrects himself and calls it "very premature".

03:41 - David Lammy says talking about Miliband's future is "a bit premature" - hardly a ringing endorsement.

03:37 - Current reports are that Ed Davey, energy secretary, is gone. As has Simon Hughes. It also looks like Eastleigh is going Conservative. Again - they just had a byelection. You'd have thought that they'd have punished the Lib Dems then if you to do it at all.

03:24 - Chuka Umunna has hugely increased his majority in Streatham. He'll be considered the front runner to take over the leadership. He's charismatic and looks good on camera, and he's mostly mostly quite centrist.

03:22 - This just in from my colleague Alex Stevenson:

The University of East Anglia's Toby James is at the count in Norwich North, a Labour target being defended by the Conservatives' Chloe Smith. She's expected to hold on, although high turnout means the result isn't expected for a few more hours, James says. His view of the national picture is one of "shock and surprise" – first at the exit poll, and then at the fact that it's being borne out by the results. "There'll be a lot of headscratching afterwards," he says; people from all polling organisations will be trying to work out why the way in which people say things differently in a poll in advance of the election is so different to what they say when they've voted. "A lot of people will be thinking long and hard about that."

The widespread expectation is that David Cameron will be remaining in Downing Street as prime minister, but James is not 100% sure about that just yet. "It's possible Labour can still form a government – it would have to be a government made up of anti-Tory forces," he adds. "The SNP are still holding out there. It would also, by the look of things , require the Lib Dems to come on board. It's not impossible they could form a government – there's nothing constitutionally requiring it to be the Conservatives – but there's going to be a lot of soul-searching on the face of these results."

03:16 - Murphy is giving his speech. He thanks the police, returning officer and his agent. He's keeping it together, although you can see that he has to try to do so. he cites the diversity in his seat. He wholeheartedly congratulates his opponenet and celebrates her sucess. It's a decent, generous speech. "It's an enormous moment for the SNP. No-one can argue with that. With a victory on this scale comes responsibility." Then he says something remarkable: "Our history, our streets, our flag will never belong to one political party or one political cause." He ends by saying "for me personally and for the Scottish Labour party, the fight goes on. I will continue to lead Scottish Labour as we fight for them. Our fight back starts tomorrow morning."

03:11 - Jim Murphy is gone. Labour's own Scottish leader has lost his seat.

03:10 - And the Labour attacks begin:

03:02 - Glimmer of hope for Labour as they take their first seat off the Tories. Conservative Angie Bray has lost Ealing Central and Acton to Labour.

02:54 - Kirkcaldy, Gordon Brown's seat, has gone to the SNP with a 35% swing. It;s all over. They're going to take everything. If anything, we all underestimated how strong that SNP tide was.

02:49 - Jo Swinson is gone. SNP: 22,093 Lib Dems: 19,926 in Dumbartonshire.

02:30 - Falkirk and the trend continues. It's going to be an avalanche. 

02:28 - A 34% swing to SNP in Paisley has ended the politicial career of Douglas Alexander, the party foreign spokesperson. It's huge. A historic result. And remarkable to see the first really big beast of politics lose his job. 

02:15 - First Scottish results coming in now. An SNP 26% swing in Kilmarnock. That seems to confirm the extent of the SNP victory there.

02:09 - Few more thoughts on that Labour left vs right argument. How could a party respond to that argument - that it lost in Scotland for being too right wing and lost in England for being too left wing? The problem isn't a Labour one, it's a national one. It speaks to a country splitting apart. Whoever wins tonight - and it'll be a brave man to say it won't be Cameron now - they preside over a disunited kingdom.

01:51 - Nuneaton is a Tory hold. Labour needed a 2.3% swing to win it. They didn't get it. The Tories increased their majority. The swing was from Labour to the Conservatives of three per cent. This is it now. These are the proper Labour target seats. And they didn't even contest it. They slipped back.

01:49 - Reports coming in that Hartlepool is tight between Labour and Ukip. That's no joke. The Labour MP there has a majority of 5,509. If Labour are struggling there, it spells absolute disaster. Biblical stuff.

01:46 - The debate is already kicking off about whether Labour's failure is because it was too left wing or not left wing enough. It's desperately premature but it's hard to avoid the sense that Blairites in the party will benefit from tonight. Of course, there is the small matter of the fact that Labour lost Scotland because it wasn't left wing enough - or not percieved to be. But if things continue as they are, even with those Scottish seats they'd be short.

01:38 - Rumours are that the Lib Dems are even going to lose Eastleigh. That's remarkable. They won a by-election there just a couple of years ago. It's hard to work out why they would now turn around and punish them for the coalition. But so far this is proving to be a night of big surprises.

01:35 - It's worth reading this blog on the potential for a 'shy Tory' factor. It seems pretty spot on.

01:33 - The questioning of the exit poll is starting to die away. The confident assertion it's wrong is turning into "anecdotal" evidence its results don't tally with individual seats. 

01:27 - Again, Battersea is bad news for Labour. Very bad news. It's not that they didn't win it, it's that it actually swung away from them by 1.7%.

01:19 - But look at this. In the heart of London, where Labour were supposed to be shooting ahead by double digits, there was a swing from Tories to Labour of just 0.2%.

01:16 - Khan thanks people for having confidence in the "son of immigrants, the son of a bus driver".

01:14 - Sadiq Khan holds on in Tooting, as expected. Labour would really be in trouble if they lost that. But the Tories came comparatively close - 2,842 votes in it. Again that Lib Dem vote split all over. They fell several points and the rising tide raised all other boats.

01:10 - Sorry - that Bradford West recount story isn't true. No recount. Over the next hour I'm particularly looking out for Nuneaton, a Conservative seat which Labour was targeting - and the first Scottish seat, the Western Isles.

01:07 - A visibly emotional Nigel Farage appears to be railing against the Mail and the Sun. "They think the Ukip vote splits the Tory vote. God help us." Make of that what you will.

01:06 - And now this from Bradford:

00:58 - Putney stays Tory - Justine Greening keeps her seat. There's a small swing to Labour there but it's been split between the Tories, Labour, Ukip and the Greens. That split in the spoils of the Lib Dem carcass speaks volumes. That left-wing Lib Dem vote was supposed to travel straight over to Labour and stay there. And indeed it appeared that was the case. It doesn't seem that way right now. It's gone all over the place. If that exit poll is accurate it's important to note that it's not about the Tories taking seats off Labour. It'll be about the Tories holding their own seats and benefiting from the collapse of the Lib Dems.

00:57 - Sounds like there's a recount in Bradford West - George Galloway's constituency. Plenty of people on every part of the political spectrum willing him to lose that one and early rumours are that he is on course to.

00:44 - Swindon North is the first marginal to declare. Labour didn't stand a chance. The swing was actually to the Conservatives, who are up 5.7%, while Labour is down 2.7%. This really seems to confirm the exit poll.

00:35 - Interesting blog from Nate Silver, the man who predicted blah blah blah. He points out that the result is likely to be somewhere between the polls during the campaign and the exit poll. But with the media narrative cemented by the exit poll, it will significantly complicate Miliband's argument that he can legitimacy form a government based on the failure of Cameron to command a majority, despite the constitutional legitimacy of that argument.

00:15 - Here's Adam Bienkov's piece on how that exit poll suggests everything we know about the election is wrong.

23:52 - Left wing voters will be in the paradoxical position right now of hoping for a high Ukip turnout - at the moment we appear to have underestimated it. Curtice on the Beeb is saying they're likely to be third. That suggests we're seeing a shy Ukip vote - but that seems odd. Kippers are usually very proud of who they;re voting for. But either way, that strong performance for Ukip could be a significant complicating factor for the Tories.

23:28 - There's rumours going round that Farage has come third in South Thanet. This again is very strange. It;s completely against Ashcroft's recent poll, which put Ukip a couple points behind the Tories and Labour many points behind that. I reported from down there last week and while there was a sense of anti-Farage tactical voting, it was not at the level you'd expect for him to actually come third. 

23:16 - Sunderland Central result - Labour hold with a majority of 11,179.

22:56 - That being said, Prof John Curtice, who is basically the oracle for this stuff, is saying the four per cent swing to Labour in that part of the country was about what that exit poll predicted.

22:51 - First result: Sunderland South. Labour hold. Full results: UKIP – 8,280 Tory – 7,105 LD – 791 Labour – 21,218 Green – 1,095. That puts Labour on 55% with Ukip second - that;s up on their third place position overnight. That fact alone should urge some caution on the exit poll. It;s not the sort of thing we'd expect, if it's to be trusted. But of course: it's just one seat.

22:41 - The discrepancy between the exit poll and the previous polling is so severe, we start looking to 'shy' voters for an explanation. Back in the 1980s, it was Tory voters who were shy. If that exit poll is true, it is still the case. But that raises the question - why would they suddenly become less shy at the polling station?

22:30 - Ok so that would be more in line with what we expected but again - if the polls through the campaign were so wrong, this will be subject to the same problems. And yet even here the Tories appear to be well ahead. Cameron would still be far off a majority, even with that improved Lib Dem showing - but Miliband wouldn't necessarily be able to command a majority in the Commons either. Overall, this result would make Miliband much more likey to be prime minister, but it would be a very messy, unimpressive result for everyone concerned.

22:27 - Ok this is the YouGov exit poll. It;s not strictly an exit poll actually - it was done after people had voted, but not at the polling station. It makes slightly better reading for Labour: These are the results:

Conservatives 284

Labour 263

Lib Dems 31

SNP 48

UKIP 2

Green 3

Plaid 3

22:23 - The other thing to note is the total collapse of the Lib Dem vote. If true, that much-talked about (not least by myself) incumbency factor counted for nothing. They fell to about their national poll score. And of course - the SNP surge. It would be remarkable. Simply historic.  SOrry for the short sentences. We're still a bit shell-shocked over here.

22:15 - This is flabbergasting. It's almost impossible to believe. All those phone and internet polls, by so many respected pollsters, getting it so badly wrong. But fundamentally, exit polls are simply more reliable than phone or internet polls: they take place at the polling stations by people who have certainly voted. They've been wrong before - in 1992. But then the opinion polls were very wrong then too. I think we're all still shell-shocked.

22:10 - OK so the basics. With that level of support the Tories could pick from the DUP or the Lib Dems. For left-wingers, the nightmare prospect of a Tory-DUP-Ukip coalition is mathematically possible. That will send shivers down many of you back home. Or, of course, Cameron may opt to go back into coalition with the Lib Dems. The question will be: Does he want to unite the right, or reach out to the centre. The Cameron os 2010 would have been more tempted by the latter. But the Cameron of 2015 is another matter entirely.

22:04 - That's the kind of thing which leaves you speechless, so let us just pick ourselves up a bit here. Obviously, it is just an exit poll. This is not over yet. It flies against the polling evidence so far, so either: a) it's wrong b) something changed very late in the day (that long-promised Tory surge?) or c) the polls during the campaign were all wrong. 

22:02 - The exit poll is in and it is absolutely shocking. The Tories look like they are cleared up. Tories 316, Labour 239, SNP 58, Lib Dems 10, Ukip on 2.

21:37 - Good evening and welcome to the longest night of your life. We will be here with you, holding your hand, although it may occasionally be necessary for you to hold ours too. We'll be here for the duration until we have a clear idea of how things are going. Last time, that was basically David Cameron making his big, open offer to the Lib Dems. This time, it could be harder to assess when things are done for the day - or easier. If it's clear Cameron can't command a majority, it may ultimately be more clear-cut and quickly resolved than we expect. Anyway, there's more than enough time for that sort of analysis in the dead hours in between 10pm and 2am, when the first results will start rolling in. For now, the exit poll will be our starting gun. That comes out at 22:01. Last time it was amazingly accurate - this time we're expecting it to be less so. It's really tight out there, so that's going to impact the reliability of the poll. But it will still be our best indicator yet of how this is all going to pan out. Stick with us through the night for rolling analysis, news and results. And forgive us our typos - it's going to a long one so we might as well accept their company.

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