With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Kiran Stacey, a fellow political hack, and Helen Warrell, who has helped co-ordinate the FT’s online and multimedia election coverage, will man this live blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of election night here.
The page should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer for those reading on a mobile.
1.58 KS: We’re about to shut this particular post down and open a new one, so sorry to make you navigate away. But stay with us and follow the story in the next post: The view from 2am.
1.57 KS: More bad news for the Lib Dems. They lost ground in Newbury, which the Tories took from them in 2005. Perhaps the message of “Vote Clegg, get Brown” was successful.
1.52 KS: 57 seats done, with an average swing of 3.3% from Labour to the Tories. But this number is warped by much figures from Scotland and Northern Ireland, says the BBC.
1.51 KS: Ed Miliband equivocal to say the least about Gordon Brown’s position. When asked by Paxman “It’s Brown or bust is it?” he replies, “I wouldn’t quite put it that way.” Read more
This is utterly unsubstantiated and therefore to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. But if David Cameron is the next prime minister, who better to be his official spokesman than journalistic human tornado Will Lewis – who is currently out of work after several years as editor of the Telegraph group. The theory is given extra spice by the fact that his more straight-laced brother Simon was Gordon Brown’s spin doctor. Then again, the smart money is probably on Will to end up at a Murdoch publication.
Danny Finkelstein of the Times has a characteristically thought provoking blog on why Nick Clegg should be praying for a slim Tory majority. But he’s only half right. He forgot the political lessons from the ERM.
Some Lib Dems do indeed privately admit that a tiny Tory majority is their ideal outcome.
Cameron would be left to wield the public spending axe alone. The Tory backwoodsmen would be more powerful than ever. The Cameron government would be unpopular and divided — just the recipe for painting the Tory heartlands yellow at the next election.
But Finkelstein is wrong about the risks to the Lib Dem of minority government. The Lib Dems would indeed be more involved in wielding the public spending axe. It could split the party. But he underestimates the advantages of being closer to power — and overplays the dangers. Read more
Exit polling is tricky at the best of times. Attempting it in Britain is a nightmare. The joint BBC/ITV exit poll correctly predicted the 66 seat majority in 2005. Don’t expect it to be as accurate tonight.
The experts have to work around duff information There’s no data on voting at individual polling stations. The census is nine years out of date. Local election ward returns are a flawed guide to voting patterns for a general election.
One in six voters refuse to respond to an exit poll It’s a mind your own business answer. And no one knows if these people disproportionately vote for one party.
Up to one in five votes will be cast by post These voters cunningly by-pass the exit pollsters. Around 12 per cent voted this way last time, and the proportion is rising. Most of them sent in their ballots around the peak of Cleggmania.
The traditional swingometer may be obsolete Even if they get the vote share correct, there’s a good chance the seat prediction will be flawed. See more on this here and here.
The exit polling sample barely covers Lib-Lab marginals Because there is no data from on individual polling stations, the wonks calculate the change from the 2001 and 2005 exit polls. It covers around 120 polling stations. But there’s only data on three Lib-Lab marginals. That’s why the Lib Dem vote share prediction was too low in 2005. The problem will be even greater this year. Read more
In case you haven’t seen the running news today, the main event has been the crash of a light aircraft carrying Nigel Farage, former leader of UKIP. Mr Farage, who is standing as a candidate in Buckingham - held by John Bercow, the Speaker - escaped with light injuries but the pilot is understood to have sustained more serious injuries. Here is a link to the BBC’s full story.
The most fun part of tonight as a political journalist will be the surprises that no one saw coming. That there will be some is inevitable due to the obvious flaws in predictions based on national polling; bear in mind that the election may ultimately be decided by under 50,000 people in Britain’s most marginal seats.
And for all the glitz and hype surrounding the televised debates many voters will still go the polls on May 6 determined to back individuals rather than their national leaders.
That could throw up some seemingly bizarre results, as incumbent MPs are rewarded or shunned regardless of the national mood. Such upsets are not impossible even in one or two of the 50 most marginal Labour seats which have already been written off by the party hierarchy because they are vulnerable to swings of 2.7 per cent or less.
In Stroud, which I visited a fortnight ago, incumbent David Drew admitted that he had been “given up” by the leadership and left to his fate: and not for the first time. He had received no money from Unite, the union which has tried to counter Lord Ashcroft’s Tory funding in marginal seats.
Yet Mr Drew (pictured) argued that he still had a fighting chance at clinging on to the Gloucestershire seat, despite its majority of just 0.9 per cent. Read more
From an email doing the rounds in the City of London on Thursday morning:
Westminster will never be the same again – Philip Stephens
Don’t let Downing Street call the shots, ma’am – Eamonn Butler for the FT
Battles on the path to power – The FT
The Final Projection: Tories 19 seats short of a majority – Politics Home
Could the Conservatives steal this election? – Martin Kettle for the Guardian
Big increase in postal voting could mean delayed result – The Guardian
Treasury starts work on £6 billion Conservative cutbacks – The Times
Unsure how to vote? My contortions may help - David Aaronovitch for the Times
A reminder of the price we pay for political freedom – Benedict Brogan for the Telegraph
As Britain goes to polls, economic clouds hover – New York Times
Follow every twist and turn on our live election special, running through the night and into Friday. The Westminster Blog team will track key marginal results and the latest news from FT correspondents at election counts around the country as the nation heads to the polls.