With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Kiran Stacey, a fellow political hack, 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.
8.01 KS: This post is entitled “The home stretch?” I’m glad I included that question mark, because right now I am going to close this post down and open a new one. If you’re still with us or just joining us this morning, please stay with the Westminster Blog – the new post will be up in a jiffy.
7.52 KS: Whatever you think of Mandelson, he is a joy to watch. He so gently bats away questioning by Jeremy Paxman and Nick Robinson that they can only laugh helplessly. “I am not ruling anything out or anything in, quite deliberately, Jeremy,” he says soothingly to attempts to get him to spell out what might happen in a hung parliament. When Nick Robinson suggests some predictions of his own, he says, “I love and respect Nick Robinson. But he will always be the first out of the trap to draw some conclusions.”
And what of constitutional historian Vernon Bogdanor, who also engaged in some speculation? Mandelson says simply, “Vernon is a very wise man with many historical insights.” End of interview. Beautifully done.
7.49 KS: Peter Mandelson tells Paxman there are no talks yet between Labour and the Lib Dems. He might be right – even politicians need to rest sometimes after all. But it could be significant that while waiting for the count, Nick Clegg spent a long, long time locked away in a room well away from any reporters.
7.39 KS: Michael Gove has proved one of the quickest interviewees around during this entire campaign, although opinion is divided on whether he comes across as smart or smug. He came up with a great back-handed compliment to John Humphrys a few days ago, praising him for asking “elegant questions”. He’s proving it again tonight, batting away questions about parliamentary deals by telling David Dimbleby:
It’s because I have a quaint attachment to this thing called democracy that I want to wait to see who has won what seats.