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.
10.03 KS: Right everybody, thanks for your company, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Not sure how much further we are than we were last night, but we’ve had fun getting there! I’m about to hand over to Helen Warrell, who is going to take over the blog.
But before I go, a quick and final spanner in the works: Peter Hain, Peter Mandelson and fascinatingly, the Lib Dems’ Simon Hughes, all seem to be suggesting Brown could stay on to negotiate a Lib-Lab pact. It would be an amazing twist if he did. Nick Clegg is due to make a statement at 10.30. It will be one of his most important.
And on that uncertain note, I bid you good morning.
9.56 KS: Thanks for your support everyone. Mergito, the effects of the coffee are beginning to wear off, so soon I will be shutting it down and we’ll keep the blog going with fresh individual posts during the day. Anything anyone wants to know before we go? Speak now or forever hold your peace.
9.49 KS: Of the seats that are left to count, there are some serious battles left to decide. In Brent, Sarah Teather and Dawn Butler are fighting it out. Both are currently sitting MPs serving in different constituencies, and the BBC is reporting the Lib Dem camp is looking the happier.
9.43 KS: To add to James’ post below, the Tories also did relatively poorly in the north. This is essentially where we were at the beginning of Cameron’s leadership – he has convinced southern and suburban voters, who wouldn’t have taken much to go Tory – but has failed to convince urban voters, especially in Labour northern heartlands.
9.41 KS: James Boxell, our home affairs correspondent, has been parsing the results from London:
The Tories’ performance in London must have been particularly galling for David Cameron. The Conservative leader had particularly high hopes for Shaun Bailey in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush. A black youth worker who grew up locally, the personable Mr Bailey was exactly the kind of MP Mr Cameron wanted to show the Tories had entered the modern era.
Another Cameron A-lister, Joanne Cash, also pouted about media mistreatment after failing in her bid to oust Karen Buck in Westminster North – a top Tory target. The party also messed up its attempt to remove Sadiq Khan, the Labour transport minister, from Tooting.
It seems that the Tories did much better in outer London – the most obvious example being Zac Goldsmith in Richmond – which mirrors Boris Johnson’s successful “doughnut” strategy in his mayoral campaign. It appears hard bitten inner Londoners are more resistant to Mr Cameron’s charms.
9.29 KS: RBC has sent through a note suggesting the result is not good news for investors government bonds. Richard McGuire, Senior Fixed Income Strategist at RBC Capital Markets, says this:
The palpable prospect of a minority government of some hue raises three concerns – first, the ability of such an administration to push through the painful reform necessary to bring UK public finances to heel and, by extension, the accompanying likelihood of a ratings downgrade, together with the threat of fiscal consolidation being interrupted by the calling of an early election (arguably a more likely prospect should the Labour Party attempt to limp on with the support of the Liberals).
While the pressing nature of the UK’s budgetary overhang argues in favour of policy taking precedent over politics (the calling of an early election could, after all, backfire should the government be judged to have acted on personal rather than national interest), the risk of such a development would likely linger at the periphery of the market’s radar.
And there is some evidence for that interpretation out there already. 10-year gilt yields have risen around 10bps in early trading, and the pound is softening slightly. Not a massive movement – it seems investors are as tentative about calling this as the rest of us.
9.20 KS: Jonathan Guthrie sent this illuminating piece of colour from David Cameron’s count in Witney earlier. Apologies for not posting it sooner:
David Cameron’s acceptance speech here in Witney tonight had a cautious air that reflected the strong possibility of a hung Parliament, a Labour/Libdem coalition and a further period in opposition for the Tory leader.
Sweating under bright floodlights he said: “What will guide me in the hours ahead and perhaps longer than that is the good of this country.”
He said: “It is already clear that the Labour Party has lost its mandate to govern this country and that the Conservative Party is on target to win more seats than at any time in 80 years.”
The demeanour of Mr Cameron, who increased his already whopping majority in the safe Tory seat of Whitney’ was not that of a national leader preparing to head for London and take the reins of power.
The mood in the Conservative camp was distinctly deflated as council workers began stacking chairs and TV technicians cleared away their equipment. Mr Cameron had come on stage in the wake of the news that Labour had hung onto the bellwether seat of Birmingham Edgbaston.
9.10 KS: Turnout is coming in around 65% – 4% up from 2005 but far less than the 71% predicted. This is odd, given the queues at so many polling booths. That could be because of some fairly chaotic organisation – my sources are telling me of students in Sheffield being told to leave the polling booth and come back later once locals had voted. If that is true, it is a bizarre thing to happen. It may be of course, that lots of people simply left it too late to vote.
9.02 KS: The Lib Dems’ failure is also the pollsters’ failure. None predicted the Lib Dems would be where they are now, actually looking at fewer seats than in 2005. It seems people said they would vote Lib Dem, but when push came to shove, didn’t.
A few things went against the Lib Dems at the end of the campaign. Nick Clegg got sucked into talking about a hung parliament, he was forced to defend unpopular policies on immigration and the euro in the last debate and there was no debate in the final week to give them much needed exposure. But if that was what made the difference, it should have shown up in the polls. It seems that when confronted with a ballot paper voters may have asked themselves a more pragmatic question: “Is this really going to make a difference?” Many appear to have answered no, and voted accordingly.
Meanwhile pollsters will be trying to fgure out how they can adapt their questions to accommodate for this kind of last minute doubt.
8.55 KS: Nick Clegg has been nothing like the open, media-friendly character we saw during the campaign. After the strange scenes in Sheffield, where he shut himself away for hours on end (see previous post at 5.16am), he has been similarly withdrawn on the train back to London, refusing to speak to members of his press corps. He’ll have to start saying something soon though – this election could depend on how much he wants voting reform (see 8.39).
8.52 KS: Simon Schama, an FT contributing editor, says George V had to be active in 1929 in helping to form a government. Could the queen play a similar role here? Very unlikely – that could trigger a constitutional crisis far bigger than the one we may be about to see.
8.44 KS: Thanks Praxis – still here, and still unsure of the result. As Jeremy Paxman has just said to Theresa May – for all the action, we are still pretty much in the same position as we were at the beginning of the night.
8.39 KS: The Lib Dems appear to have two choices now. They can support the Tories either in a formal coalition (unlikely, because the party ranks won’t like it) or through informal deals not to block Tory legislation. They may get much of what they want in such a deal, but they will not get electoral reform.
Alternatively they may decide this is their one real chance for voting reform, and so do a deal to keep Labour in power as the only way to achieve that, although almost certainly with a new leader. In deciding which way to go it may come down to what they think the public regards as more important – electoral reform or an end to the Labour government. If they get it wrong, they could seriously damage their own chances at the next election, whenever that is.
8.35 KS: Apologies for the short break. While I was gone, we have had a couple of important results in London. Glenda Jackson has held onto her Hampstead and Kilburn seat, against many expectations, but Angie Bray has gained Ealing Central and Acton for the Tories. Bray was a crucial win for the Tories – she was formerly part of the party’s communications team and has recently been a vociferous member of the London Assembly, in which role she got into a row with the shadow home secretary Chris Grayling over the congestion charge. Despite this fight with a Tory heavy hitter, she was chosen as an A-lister and will be an important Cameron ally in parliament.
8.14 KS: Fancy playing David Cameron, Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg? You can with the FT’s build-your-own-coalition tool. This is based on current seats, so may yet change, but it’s great fun. See if you can do a more skilful job than the professional negotiating teams.
8.07 KS: The FTSE has opened 1.7% lower. As I said earlier, it’s difficult to know how much of that is a reaction to the election and how much to Greece. This follows an extraordinarily turbulent session in New York last night, where stocks fell 1,000 points in minutes after Greece passed its austerity package before recovering much of that ground. Jamie Chisholm, our global markets commentator, calls it a “fearful and shambolic session on Wall Street”.
8.06 KS: Manchester Withington is obviously close. After calling it for Labour, the BBC is now saying the Lib Dems have held on to it.
8.03 KS: Firmly into the next morning, we still don’t know who is going to be prime minister. Cameron has not yet, as many claimed he would, gone out and simply announced he is in charge. This may be a much slower game than that.