Time for the fallout: Here’s what Britain faces after a night of shocking election results
Nearly everyone got this election wrong – and now it's time for the fallout.
In the last week of campaigning one group of clever academic types adjusted their assessment of the chances of a hung parliament from 90% to 100%. Next to no-one thought a Conservative majority was possible.
It seemed incredible at first, but the unthinkable has happened. Throughout this election campaign the experts have failed spectacularly. "It's a disaster for the pollsters," Professor Jon Yonge of the University of Liverpool told us.
It wasn't even that: many felt the combination of Labour and SNP MPs would provide an irresistible anti-Tory majority which would force David Cameron to resign. Instead the Conservative leader's prospects of continuing to govern became irresistible as the Tory seats forecast rose.
That means Britain is waking up to the following:
David Cameron will remain in power as – for the first time since 1992 – a Conservative PM winning an overall majority.
The SNP's extraordinary swathe of victories north of the border is a triumph of historic, unprecedented proportions. Seats that had been Labour since before the Second World War have tumbled en masse. "The Scottish lion is roaring this morning," Alex Salmond has declared.
Ed Miliband will be expected to resign sooner rather than later. The obvious scale of his campaign's failure sets up the possibility of a brutal Labour leadership battle in which the Blairites could return. Labour supporters, buoyed by their leader's good performance in the campaign and analysts' views on the likely electoral maths, had presumed Miliband would be back in power. That chance is now vanishing into the dust.
Nick Clegg's fate appears sealed, too, as his party has suffered a far worse collapse worse than anyone expected. The Lib Dems' ability to influence the next government have shrunk in proportion with their slashed number of MPs. The party has lost some of its senior figures, including Vince Cable, Simon Hughes and Jo Swinson.
Both Ukip and the Green party are set for disappointments as well as successes. As re-elected Kipper Douglas Carswell complained in his victory speech, both parties have reason to feel bitter about first-past-the-post. "It tells us how dysfunctional our political system is," he says.
In the longer-term, Britain now confronts a likely Conservative government – with its policies of English votes for English laws and an in-out referendum on Europe. Academics are warning this could put pressure on the union, given the strong SNP showing. Others believe support for independence, as opposed to support for the nationalists, remains low – but the tensions are clearly not going to disappear.