Closed Election live: Cameron’s victory

Welcome to our live election coverage, bringing you the latest reaction to the Tories winning an unexpected majority – taking 331 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

Labour’s Ed Miliband, the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg and the UK Independence party’s Nigel Farage have all resigned as leaders of their respective parties. Clegg, deputy PM for the last five years, hung on to his seat but his party lost all but eight of its MPs. Farage failed to win the seat he was contesting.

The Scottish National party also had a triumphant night, trouncing Labour north of the border. (Photo FT/Charlie Bibby)

Mr Cameron made four Cabinet announcements, reappointing George Osborne chancellor of the exchequer – and promoting him to first secretary of state; Theresa May home secretary; Philip Hammond foreign secretary and Michael Fallon defence secretary. The rest of the Cabinet is expected on Monday.

Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of what is expected to be the most closely contested UK General Election in living memory. We have a long night ahead of us so make sure you have some strong coffee brewing.

Please do feel free to join in by using the comment box on the right-hand side. Unfortunately that is not available for those viewing us on the web app so instead Tweet us at #ftelection and we’ll post some of those to the blog.

Seasoned election night watchers will know it is a long slow burn with the first seat normally declaring about 11pm followed by a smattering of other results until things get into full swing from about 2am onwards. Here’s my colleague Lindsay with a few basics about the UK parliamentary elections to get us going.

Here are some of the basics to get us started.

The UK has 650 constituencies. There are 533 in England, 59 in Scotland, 40 in Wales and 18 in Northern Ireland.

However, as Sinn Fein does not recognise the UK parliament it doesn’t send its MPs to Westminster. We also need to factor out the speaker’s seat, leaving the magic number for a clear majority for either of the main parties for now standing at 323.

For those unfamiliar with the British voting system – the UK has a first past the post system, meaning that for each of the 650 seats up for grabs, the candidate with the most votes wins that seat, regardless of whether they have a majority or not. So a party can win the general election by winning the most number of seats, but not necessarily have won the most number of individual votes.

The final opinion poll from Populus ahead of the start of voting had the Tories and Labour still neck and neck with 33 per cent each, with Ukip at 14 per cent, more than the LibDems at 10 per cent, with the Greens trailing at 5 per cent.

Other pollsters, such as former Tory treasurer-turned-pollster Lord Ashcroft had the Conservatives tied at 33 per cent as well, while Ipsos Mori had the Tories a percentage point ahead of the current opposition at 36 per cent.

With those final opinion polls pointing to a hung parliament, here are the four possible scenarios for coalitions

The first thing to watch out for is the exit poll, which comes out simultaneously on all three major broadcasters – BBC, Sky and ITV at 10pm BST. The anticipated rise of the smaller parties, mainly the Greens and Ukip, has got the pollsters worried, however, and they have been warning that the exit poll this time round may not tell us much in contrast to the one in 2010 which was almost spot on. Here’s a great blog from the New Stateman about how it all works.

Many of our correspondents are scattered across the country reporting from constituencies from Glasgow to London. Here’s a quick report from Chris Tighe in Newcastle.

There are reports of queues of voters at polling stations in several parts of England.

In the Newcastle East constituency, a safe Labour seat, one polling station at 6.30 pm had a queue of at least 30 people, waiting patiently for at least 15 minutes for their turn to vote. One of those working at the polling station said that, by 6.30 pm, turnout had been double that of 2010. There are no local political factors which would have explained such an upswing in turnout.

Newcastle city council said that it had received reports from other polling stations that they were very busy.

Back to the much anticipate exit poll which will provide the focal point for analysis for all the media pundits in the first few hours before the results start coming in. They will use it to try to extrapolate how accurate the polling was in the run up to the election. But there is concern that the modelling is not sensitive enough to pick up how the smaller parties are doing. Scotland is also a problem as it was a Labour bastion for so long it was all but ignored by the exit pollsters so picking up the predicted SNP surge could be problematic

Robert Shrimsley, editor of, has spotted this warning from Comres about so-called bellwether seats:

One of the easiest ways to get an early, results-based indication of the eventual “winner” is to look at bellwether seats that have historically gone with the eventual victor. Unfortunately, options are fairly limited this time around. The traditional British bellwether, Basildon, was a victim of boundary review before the last election, and now includes the heavily Conservative Billericay, meaning that it is no longer really in contention. The same fate also befell longstanding bellwether Bristol North West.

Loughborough, another traditional bellwether, is slightly affected this time by having Education Secretary Nicky Morgan as the incumbent MP, while a mammoth swing in 2010 has given the Conservatives a fairly impregnable 10,000 majority in Dartford.

Here’s a file from John McDermott, our public policy commentator and Scot, who is reporting out of Edinburgh.

I spent this morning chatting to people – political folk as well as those going in and out of polling stations – in Edinburgh. Most SNP types genuinely thought they were going to win in September (the Scottish referendum) so they cannot bring themselves to believe that they will do as well as forecasters suggest this time around. I obviously have no idea whether they are right but here are the three reasons for their scepticism:

1. Turnout. The reason why most pollsters thought the referendum would be tighter than it was is because they thought Yes turnout would be higher. Yessers who said they would, absolutely, yes sir, turn up, did not. If the same happens for the SNP then their projected seats will slip.

2. Tactical voting. Labour’s big hope is that Lib Dems and Tories will support them in places such as where my parents live: Edinburgh North and Leith. But Mark Diffley, director of Ipsos Mori Scotland, this morning said that for this to happen, voters need to know about the prospect, understand it, and then act on it. Harder than it seems at first glance.

3. Incumbency. Although there are some Scottish MPs with massive majorities who have been complacent, there are many others who have strong local followings. Ian Murray, for example, Labour incumbent in Edinburgh South, has helped keep the local football team (Heart of Midlothian) in business. Likewise many Liberal Democrats have a powerful local base.

Of course, only time will tell. Meanwhile, keep an eye on turnout. At the moment the SNP is trying hard not to visualise triumph and the rest of the country is trying hard not to believe it.

With less than 10 minutes to go before the polls close, Gavin Jackon, the FT’s statistics journalist, has put together this graphic showing how the declaration timings are expected to work throughout the night broken down by which party won the seat in 2010

Four minutes to go until the exit poll. Getting exciting

The nation holds its collective breath as we await the results of the exit poll – David Dimbleby, the BBC’s election night host, is teasing us with the unopened envelope

Wow quite a surprise

EmoticonThe exit poll result is . . . . .
Conservatives are going to be the largest party – 316 seats vs 239 for Labour – gasps in the news room

Remember we need to treat these figures with caution

The source of the exit poll is NOP/Mori for BBC/ITV/Sky

EmoticonAnd the Scottish shocker – an almost clean sweep for the SNP forecast to win 58 seats for the the Nationalists in Scotland, which is all but one of the Scottish seats. Lib Dems predicted to plunge to 10 seats – a loss of 47 – while Ukip are predicted to get 2 seats and the Greens 2

As Lindsay rightly says we have to treat these results with caution – but with this forecast it would allow the Conservatives to form a coalition with the LibDems, given then 326 in total

I can tell you the exit poll results drew a few gasps in the newsroom here

Gavin Jackson, our stats journalist, has this to say:

A very surprising exit poll showing the Conservatives and the SNP doing much better than expected and Labour and the Liberal Democrats doing much worse.

The latest prediction from, who work with the Financial Times, had as the central outcome for the Conservatives as 278 and Labour on 267, the Liberal Democrats on 27 and the SNP on 53.

There’s been a huge swing in favour of the Conservatives to win the most seats in the betting markets, with odds tightening from 1.3 to 1.05 in decimal odds. In percentage terms that’s a change from just under 77 per cent to 95.2 per cent.

This reaction from Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP

Michael Gove, Tory election strategist, told the BBC that if the exit poll is correct then the message people are sending is that if you “want to secure economic recovery you have to ensure David is in Downing Street”.

FX markets seem to have spoken. In the immediate aftermath of the exit poll being released sterling bounced up 1.07 per cent.

Our currency correspondent Roger Blitz notes that it’s a “pretty illiquid market, but the sentiment is clear”. Sterling is at $1.54.

And more from Gove via Kiran Stacey, the FT’s political correspondent:

Michael Gove, the Conservative chief whip, told the BBC: “I believe [the exit poll] could be right. If it is right it means the Conservatives have clearly won this election and Labour has clearly lost it. It would be an unprecedented vote of confidence in David Cameron’s leadership .”

More from Gavin on the exit poll and how we need to be cautious.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the exit poll just surveys in 140 seats in the UK and compares the change between 2010 and 2015. In this election that might not pick up some of the regional variation, for example if the Liberal Democrats are doing better in the seats in which they are currently incumbent, as some pundits predict.

Michael Pooler, who is in David Cameron’s constituency in Witney, says there are “beaming smiles above the blue rossettes worn by a huddle of smartly attired Conservative party activists stood at the front of the counting hall”.

Around a dozen police officers just entered the leisure centre where the count is taking place, underlying a robust security presence consisting of riot vans, a roadblock and three layers of checks that almost feels like an airport.

Our interactive Coalition Calculator lets you see how changing the distribution of seats affects the parties’ ability to form a majority.

Here it is, pre-loaded with the exit poll result as the starting point.

Mure Dickie, the FT’s Scotland Correspondent, has this to say about the exit poll:

The exit poll suggests that the SNP would have won every constituency in Scotland except Liberal Democrat Alistair Carmichael’s seat in Orkney and Shetland, which has its own political micro-climate. But SNP campaigners say that big regional variations in Scotland and the power of incumbency in previously safe Labour seats mean it is unlikely that such a clean sweep is possible.

Paddy Ashdown, head of the LibDem campaign, says on the BBC that he would “eat his hat” if the election poll turns out to be right

Harriet Harman, deputy Labour leader speaking on the BBC now, isn’t talking about eating her hat. But, she is hedging her bets, again saying repeatedly that the exit poll needs to be treated with caution. She said that if they are correct then have to see whether the numbers are enough for the Tories to form a coalition. But if they are correct, with the LibDem’s 10 seat then they would.

And here’s one reason why the exit poll needs to be treated with caution. A YouGov poll of 6,000 people today who had already voted show rather different results. Gavin tells us that this poll shows the two major parties tied on 34 per cent, Ukip on 12 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 10 per cent, the SNP and Plaid on 5 per cent and the Greens on 4 per cent.
And this is how that poll translates into seats in parliament:

CON – 284
LAB – 263
SNP – 48
LDEM – 31
UKIP – 2
GRN – 1

The SNP is playing down the chances of getting the 58 seats en masse. Humza Yousef , an SNP member of the Scottish parliament, is now on the BBC more or less repeating what his colleague Joan McAlpine, another SNP MSP has tweeted

And to Ukip…
The exit poll suggested that the anti EU party had won just two seats. If true, the big question is if whether Nigel Farage has gained one of those seats or not. He has said he would not run again if he did lose.

Here’s a report in from South Thanet, the constituency that Farage is hoping to take off the Tories, from FT reporter Barney Thompson.

The artist JMW Turner adored the Kent coast and once said “the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”.

Nigel Farage, Ukip leader, will be hoping dawn brings a similarly bright future as the new MP for South Thanet, where he stood unsuccessfully in 2005. But he is in a skintight race with the Conservative Craig Mackinley (a former Ukip deputy leader, in fact), with Labour breathing down both their necks.

And it has not exactly been a holiday atmosphere down here today. Mr Farage tweeted earlier that one of Ukip’s “higher profile members” had their window smashed in with a plant pot at 3am last night, while there have been reports of verbal intimidation outside polling stations by people who were apparently Ukip supporters.

Election officials at the count in Margate say turnout is likely to beat the 2010 figure of 66 per cent – “people really wanted to vote today” – thanks in part to a fine day on the coast. But it is going to be a long, long night for the large numbers of media here: the result is not expected before 6am, and even that could slip if it is a close contest.

Rumour has it that Mr Farage will not appear at the count for several hours; instead, he will be monitoring Ukip’s challenges in other parts of the south east: Clacton (a sure-fire win), Rochester & Strood (where Mark Reckless is trying to cling on) and Thurrock, another constituency that is too close to call.

No word yet on the whereabouts of FUKP candidate and pub landlord Al Murray, who is also standing for South Thanet. We imagine he will show up shortly after closing time…

The head of YouGov Peter Kellner tells the BBC that the “truth is somewhere in the middle” between what the latest poll YouGov found and what the exit polls found

From Robert Peston, BBC’s economics editor:

And this glum assessment from Nick Clegg’s seat, Sheffield Hallam, where the FT’s Northern correspondent, reports:

Lib Dem activists are not looking comfortable about his prospects. He is relying on tactical voting by Conservatives . “It’s squeaky bum time,” says one.

Here’s a chart for you of the reaction in the currency markets following the exit poll

And this Tweet from a bit earlier from Andrew Bounds as the exit poll was broadcast at the Sheffield Hallam count:

Paul Nuttall, Ukip’s deputy leader, refuses to dampen his enthusiasm on the back of the exit poll. He is convinced the exit poll is wrong. he says that the “feeling on the ground” is that it is “fairly tight” between Labour and the Tories and he reckons Ukip are going to get more than the two seats the exit poll is predicting.

He says that any deal would be on a “vote by vote” basis.

The count is underway – here is a snap of some of the electoral workers delivering ballot boxes from the Doncaster North constituency of Ed Miliband, the Labour leader:

using the exit poll figures, here are the coalition possibilities

Sorry that’s a bit small, but it does get a bit bigger if you click on the tweet

We are expecting the first declaration shortly, from Sunderland, which has traditionally two of the three seats announced between 11pm and 11:30pm. They were hoping to get the result from Houghton & Sunderland South out by 10:45 – it’s been delayed a bit but here it comes

This is a safe Labour seat btw

So the first result is out.

The first result is in – it’s a Labour hold for Bridget Phillipson in Houghton and Sunderland South

From Gavin:

According to Phil Cowley, an academic at Nottingham, tweeting shortly before the result was announced: “If the exit poll is right, Sunderland South will be: C 20%, L 59%, LD 2%, UKIP 16%.”

The actual result shows a much bigger swing to Ukip than expected and Labour underperforming slightly. Labour 55 per cent and Ukip on 22 per cent.

Now don’t get excited – we are expecting the two other seats in the Sunderland area to declare before midnight but that’s it this side of the witching hour

From Witney, Cameron’s constituency

The pound has jumped against both the dollar and the euro after an exit poll from NOP/Mori for BBC, ITV and Sky put the Conservatives far closer to a majority than expected, writes Richard Blackden.

Adam Cole, a currency strategist at Royal Bank of Canada, said “It’s very early days, but a continuation of the current coalition was a golden scenario for markets; they like the Conservatives’ fiscal policy but the reliance on the Lib Dems reduces the risk of a referendum on EU membership.”

Sterling is 1.2 per cent stronger against the dollar at $1.5427, and has strengthened 1.3 per cent versus the euro to 72.93 pence.

So it was bad news for the Lib Dems in Sunderland South where they were pushed into fifth place and lost their deposit. Ukip came second pushing the Conservatives into third

More market reaction is coming in.

HSBC currency strategist Daragh Maher says:

“Sterling is rallying in a historically appropriate way to signal that Cameron is most likely to be the next prime minister. Going into the exit poll, the market was anticipating a messy signal and would be anticipating some sterling weakness.”

An outcome in line with the exit poll would in the short term be business-friendly, given that it would not lead to “weeks and weeks of wrangling, but the medium-term story really begins to put the spotlight onto an EU referendum”, said Mr Maher.

This from the FT’s Chris Tighe at the Sunderland count:

UKIP, which has vowed to become Labour’s main challenger in the north east, long a Labour stronghold, saw its strategy bear fruit; it polled 8,280 votes , up from 1,022 in 2010 and came second. In 2010 it was sixth.

And here is the FT’s Kiran Stacey article from March about the Ukip strategy of taking second place in northern seats

Our correspondent Alistair Gray is in Paisley, where the local MP and Labour campaign chief Douglas Alexander is in a close fight to keep his seat.
He says:

“There were signs that Labour’s tactic to warn a vote for the SNP was in effect a vote for the Conservatives had backfired with some locals.

Speaking immediately after casting his ballot in the middle of the town soon before the polls closed, John McDonald, a 25 year old theatre technician, said he had been put off by Labour’s warnings.

He voted SNP despite liking Mr Alexander personally, and not being particularly keen on his 20 year old nationalist rival Mhairi Black.

“I guess I voted for her but I didn’t actually like her.”

“He seems like a good guy,” he said of the Labour candidate, adding he’d been put off by the party’s lack of a positive message.

Mr Gove is back on the BBC and is saying, riddled with the usual caveats of the exit poll, that the poll came in “certainly at the upper end of expectations”.

The FT’s deputy political editor, Beth Rigby, has been talking to Ben Wallace, the incumbent Conservative MP for the northern seat of Wyre and Preston North. He took this dig at Ed Miliband:

He told the FT he was not surprised by the exit poll predictions. “The north doesn’t take kindly to Hampstead Liberals who don’t know the real world.

Up in Scotland, national pride is clearly on show at at least one of the counts:

More colour from the streets of Paisley.

Among the last to cast her ballot in Paisley was Liz, a 57-year-old former financial services worker, who voted for Douglas Alexander – but only after much “swithering”.

Typical of the sentiment of many Labour supporters in the west of Scotland, she said: “I’m very disappointed with Labour in general. Tony Blair destroyed (Labour’s) heart.”

But she voted No in last year’s independence referendum and does not want the United Kingdom broken up, citing national security concerns. And although she had not met the local 20-year-old SNP candidate, she added she seemed like a “hairy Mhairi”.

Still, based on conversations locally, she added: “The feeling seems to be it’s not looking good for Alexander.”

And the second result is in. From Sunderland Central
Labour incumbent Julie Elliott has won.
She won 20,959 votes, up nearly 5,000 from the previous election.

There was another big swing to Ukip, which accumulated 7,997 making it third in Sunderland Central, behind the Tories with 9,780. The Green party got 1,706 and the LibDem’s 1,105.

Labour grandee Lord Mandelson tells ITV:

Something akin to an earthquake has taken place in Scotland…Politics won’t be the same

Andrew Bounds has been talking to Ian Walker, the Conservative candidate in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam seat, who is not discounting victory.

“The turnout has been high. The polls have been all over the place,” he says. “As long as Conservative voters have stuck together we should do alright.”

A reminder of the numbers from 2010. Lib Dem 27,324, (53.4 per cent), Conservative 12,040 (23.5 per cent), Labour 8,228. Around 17 per cent of the voters are students, and Labour believes most will switch to them because Mr Clegg broke a promise to scrap tuition fees.

Carefully guarded ballot boxes have arrived in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where mayor of London Boris Johnson hopes to stage his comeback to the House of Commons, writes Aliya Ram.

The historically Conservative seat is believed to be an easy fight for Boris, prompting more cynical voters to say he is “using” the constituency as a step in a more ambitious political career.

“Of course he’s going to win, he’s like a celebrity and this is a Conservative area anyway – which is why he’s here in the first place, so he can get back into parliament and become leader of the party,” said Green-voter Alex Leeming, a student of theatre at Brunel university where the count is being held.

Neither Boris nor his Labour rival are to be seen, but others of the thirteen candidates have arrived and the police presence is building steadily.

Boris is expected to attract an “extraordinary” turnout from voters who might not have ordinarily made it to polling station. Excited groups of locals are already gathering near the university in anticipation of his arrival: “we’ll know when he’s here, he’s the blonde one with straw hair.”

The FT’s Conor Sullivan is at the count in Simon Hughes’ seat of Bermondsey and Old Southwark in London, where the Lib Dem justice minister is facing a fight despite enjoying a 19 per cent lead in 2010.

The tight race between Lib Dem justice minister Simon Hughes and Labour in Bermondsey and Old Southwark has produced an unexpectedly high turnout, while a national exit poll augured ill for the veteran MP’s chances of retaining his seat.

Count officials said turnout had been higher than expected in the constituency where Mr Hughes, MP for the seat for 32 years, is defending a majority of 8,500. But opinion polls during the campaign put him neck-and-neck with Labour, with the Lib Dems’ national unpopularity eroding his lead.

National exit polls predicted Lib Dems would retain only a fifth of their seats, signalling that the Labour push to unseat him could well succeed.

Washington and Sunderland West, a safe Labour seat, has been clearly retained by Sharon Hodgson, with 20,478. And again, Ukip doing pretty well, coming in second with 7,231. The Tories got 7,033, the Trade Unionist and Socialist coalition 341. The LibDems did poorly again with 993.

The FT’s Gavin Jackson observes:

Ukip have done quite well in the seats that have declared so far. But these are safe Labour seats, for the overall result how they do in the marginals is more important – and at whose expense

Ed Balls, Labour shadow chancellor, is asked by the BBC about a Twitter rumour that he is going to lose his seat of Morley & Outwood, where he had a slim lead in 2010 of just 2.25 per cent. “You should spend less time on Twitter and more time reporting the results as they are declared”, he says

In response to the findings of the exit polls, Balls admits that Cameron is likely to “cling on” as PM

Introducing the Al-Zebabist Nation of Oog – a fringe party in South Thanet, where Farage is running.

Want to know more about them in the lull before more results come in. Here is a link to a piece by the Huff Post on the party.

The FT’s Chris Tighe at the count in Sunderland sums up the situation after the 3 declarations:

The third Sunderland result, Washington and Sunderland West, followed the pattern of the first two, with the Labour vote up, Ukip surging and the Lib Dems struggling.

Ukip which was fifth in 2010 rose to second place, raising its share of the vote from 3.3 per cent to 19.65 per cent. The number of votes cast for UKIP rose from 1,267 to 7,321, even though the turnout was only barely up on 2010, at 54.9 per cent, against 54 per cent.

The Conservatives saw their second place of 2010 snatched from them by UKIP,as their share of the vote slid from 21.8epr cent to 18.87per cent, and the number of votes cast for them reduced from 8.157 to 7,033.

But the big crash was the LibDems whose share of the vote was slashed from 17.1 per cent in 2010 to 2.66 per cent. They polled 993 votes, compared with 6,382 in 2010.

The FT’s Kiran Stacey has been hearing from some of his Scottish sources who he says believe the SNP has won fewer seats than the 58 predicted by the exit poll.

Given the huge shift in Scottish politics, the exit pollsters began polling several seats north of the border for the first time ever at this election, meaning they have nothing against which to measure the results they are getting. One Lib Dem source tells me for instance they believe they have won more than the one Scottish seat predicted by this poll, saying it is looking good for Mike Crockart, the Lib Dem MP in Edinburgh West.

Just in time for last orders, the FT’s Alistair Gray is talking to Scottish voters.

What’s this? Standing in the corner of a Wetherspoon in Paisley, where they sell ale at £1.49 a pint, that supposedly rarest of breeds – a west of Scotland Tory.

The Army colonel did consider voting tactically for Labour to keep out the SNP.

“Douglas Alexander knocked on my door. He argues his case (well).”

But ultimately he voted Conservative. “Why would I vote for something I donbt believe in,” he adds. “I’ve never voted Labour in my life and I don’t think I’d ever do.”

Watching the television news expectantly, he denies his vote was wasted in a seat that is a straight fight between Labour and the SNP.

“What I might have done is vote for the party with the largest number of seats. In that way I haven’t wasted my vote.”

Roger Blitz, the FT’s currency correspondent has this reaction from Alan Wilde, head of fixed income and currency for Baring Asset Management.

“I guess the City will probably be encouraged, hence the reaction of sterling, but it looks a little bit far away from the opinion polls, so I guess the nuances will be in the individual marginals.”

On whether an outcome along exit poll lines would make a EU referendum more likely, Mr Wilde said:

“The pressures are not just coming from Ukip. I suspect that there is a considerable element within the Conservative party that would like to have a referendum anyway.

I think [the prime minister] will find it difficult to back out of the commitment he’s given. I wouldn’t be convinced the way things are looking at the moment that it changes anything. If they were to win an outright majority then that might change Cameron’s logic and he might be tempted to negotiate with the EU to downsize the UK’s commitment to certain things. He’s gone too far to promising a referendum so I think he’d find it hard to get out of it.”

The FT’s Northern Correspondent Andy Bounds says having spoken to several party representatives, Ukip is very happy with the Sunderland results.

The anti-Europe, anti-immigrant party wants to make big inroads in former industrial areas of the north where Labour dominates. Its main hope for victory is Heywood and Middleton, where it came second to Labour by just 600 votes in a byelection last year. But it is also targeting Rotherham in South Yorkshire, after an Asian gang was convicted of abusing young girls.

John Booker, a councillor in Sheffield and candidate for the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough constituency, is confident of replacing Labour in time. A former Labour voter, he said the party deserted the working class after the death of John Smith, its leader, in 1994, becoming dominated by a London-based elite.

“Labour died when John Smith died,” he said. “John Smith was a decent man.

“Ukip is what the working people need. It is where Labour was in the 1920s. It is going to grow.”

Some of the front pages are starting to come out. Here’s the Sun’s

From the FT’s Chris Tighe at the Sunderland count:

Sunderland achieved its bid to win a hat trick by declaring the first three results of the 2015 general election, announcing its three constituencies results at 22.48, 23.14 and 23.27. This means it has achieved the “first three” three times running, in the general elections of 2005, 2010 and 2015. For the city council, which has put huge effort into its electoral machine, it was another triumph of efficiency and a further image boost for its area.

Michael Pooler, who is in David Cameron’s constituency in Witney, says that with the count underway there is still no sign of the prime minister:

His local party activists say he is at home – presumably crunching the conflicting exit and YouGov polls – but they are taciturn turn about when the PM will arrive. As half a dozen or so police officers relax in an onsite cafe, and the constituency result not expected until around 4am, one suspects it will be some time.

The FT’s Vincent Boland is in Belfast tonight.

That much better than expected performance from the Tories could deflate DUP hopes of having any influence in the post-election bargaining, assuming the Tories get back into coalition with the Lib Dems. But if they can win the extra seat they are targeting in Northern Ireland, they will be just one seat short of the 10 the exit poll projects for the Lib Dems. Counting is well under way across Northern Ireland and in the four Belfast constituencies. The results of elections here are fairly predictable, based on existing voting patterns and the sectarian/political divide between unionists and nationalists.

But two seats are in the balance. One is East Belfast, where the Democratic Unionist party is fighting like mad to win the seat back from the Alliance’s Naomi Long. She is widely believed to have fought a superb campaign. But if the DUP’s Gavin Robinson wins the seat, it would give them potentially the ninth seat they have been targeting.

A result is expected by 2am.

Lord Ashcroft has just Tweeted his post-vote poll:

A little more from the FT’s Ireland Correspondent Vincent Boland, who is reporting from Belfast where counts are now well underway.

Senior party figures are starting to arrive at the Belfast count centre at the Kings Hall Pavilions, home of the Balmoral show, among other things. Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein was the first to arrive. For a party that refuses to take its seats at Westminster, Sinn Fein still takes the election and the results very seriously.

Gerry Kelly, who is running against the DUP’s Nigel Dodds in the Belfast North constituency, tells the FT the party is polling well there. The DUP is in a pact with the smaller Ulster Unionist party, so he will have a battle to win the seat.

Mr Adams says that, if the DUP have any role in influencing the make-up of the next UK government, there cannot be any change whatsoever to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the basis for the peace process in Northern Ireland. “The DUP is overstating its case” in suggesting that it might be any sort of kingmaker at Westminster, he says.

Farage has been interviewed by ITV where he exclaims “God help us”. Link is here

It’s all gone a bit quiet on the results front as expected. Up next, should be another safe Labour seat of Durham North West, where the party had a 17 per cent majority last time. After that, we should get the first marginal seat of Nuneaton at about 1am. It is a Tory marginal targeted by Labour, which lost it in the 2010 election.

If you want to know about some of the other seats to watch you can read this

This from the FT’s Chris Tighe at the Sunderland count, where UKIP has made considerable gains tonight:

Richard Elvin, one of UKIP’s highest profile activists in north east England, saw his share of the vote in the Houghton and Sunderland South constituency rise from 2.7 per cent in 2010 to 21.4 per cent, sending UKIP from sixth to second. He polled 8,280 votes, up from 1,022,

Mr Elvin – who also came second when he stood for UKIP in the Middlesbrough and South Shields by-elections during last government’s period in office, said his predictions of UKIP becoming the second force in the north east were coming true.

UKIP has vowed to challenge Labour in its north east heartland and to push to become the main alternative.

“Our credibility is going up in the north east day by day,” he said. “It’s a huge mountain to climb but we are beginning to break it down. It’s down to hard work, getting out and meeting people, explaining who UKIP are and what they stand for.”

UKIP, he said, would stand up for working people.

The Liberal Democrats are “a spent force “ in the region, he said and many people in the north east would not vote for the Conservatives, whose vote stays static. Asked to explain why Labour’s vote in Sunderland had risen, Mr Elvin said; “For the Labour party for the first time in living memory they have actively done some work.” Labour, he said, had been highly active today in getting people to vote, even taking people in wheelchairs to the count. “They have put a huge amount of effort into intimidating the local voters to vote,” he claimed.

Twitter has been crunching its own numbers on how the election has been trending on the social media platform.

“There have now been 2.2 million Tweets in the UK discussing the election today.”

Of the election conversation on Twitter currently, the percentage breakdown for each party is as follows, it says.
Conservatives – 39%
Labour – 36%
SNP – 9%
Lib Dem – 8%
UKIP – 7%
Green – 1%

There were a total of 160k Tweets today in the UK using the hashtag #IVoted.

Actually it looks like Newcastle East is going to declare next, according to Sky. It should be another safe Labour seat, so don’t get carried away

Oops, mea culpa – it’s Swindon North declaring, a safe Tory seat. Not surprisingly the Conservatives have held it

Labour’s Lord Mandelson does not sound very bullish. He tells the BBC his party has been “squeezed” by two nationalisms, promoted by the SNP and the Conservatives.

The FT’s Conor Sullivan is in Bermondsey, just down the road from our London headquarters, where there are ripples of a possible shock defeat for incumbent MP Simon Hughes:

Labour is in with a real chance of unseating 32-year veteran Simon Hughes in Bermondsey and Old Southwark. Asked how the count was going for them, a Lib Dem agent gave a circumspect, worried expression and muttered “it’s close”.

A Tory election agent said Labour appeared to be ahead, but with the usual caveat that it was too early to say for sure. JP Floru, the Tory candidate, claimed he was the victim of tactical voting, with half of likely Conservative voters supporting Mr Hughes to keep Labour out.

He said he was a liberal tory: “We’re not curtain-twitchers, small-c conservatives”. Adopting the latter approach was “not how we’re going to win in central London”.

The full results from Swindon North:

Justin Tomlinson (Con) 26,295 (50%)
Mark Dempsey (Lab) 14,509 (28%)
James Faulkner (Ukip) 8,011 (15%)
Poppy Hebden-Leeder (Green) 1,723 (3%)
Janet Ellard (LD) 1,704 (3%)

From Gavin:
So far, the story of the night is the exit poll, which has surprised many commentators. There’s a nice blog here from the LSE explaining the methodology behind the poll

The BBC has said that the Swindon North result is in line with exit poll

The FT’s take on Swindon North is worse for Miliband. The Tories registered a 4.3 per cent swing from Labour, which means the Conservatives have outperformed the exit poll

More from Barney Thompson in South Thanet.

Journalists in South Thanet have stopped watching the Al-Zebabist Nation of OOOG, who occasionally break into chant at their table, and equally have stopped waiting for the pub landlord Al Murray to arrive – he is 45 minutes late and counting…

Meanwhile, senior Ukip officials are rubbishing Labour claims that Nigel Farage is destined to finish third – but ominously they reckon it will be 8am before the South Thanet result is out.

EmoticonPutney has just declared, the first London seat to do so. It’s a Tory safe seat, where Justine Greening, the international development secretary, has slightly increased her majority by 2 percentage points. Lib Dem vote fell 11 per cent

More in from the FT’s Alistair Gray in Paisley :

One Labour campaigner at the count acknowledged it’s “not looking good” for shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, based on the ballots he had seen piling up.

There is a recount in Bradford West, where George Galloway of the Respect party, is standing.

The FT’s Robert Shrimsley says:

If David Cameron does indeed end up with anything close to the 316 seats predicted by the exit poll, it may make it very hard for him to go into coalition with anyone. His party would much prefer a minority government – uncontaminated by any other party – and will probably try to stop any deal. It would give David Cameron another 24 or so ministerial posts to offer to his own MPs, which is helpful in terms of party management.

FUKP’s Al Murray has arrived, says Barney Thompson in South Thanet. Asked if he was going to win, the pub landlord said: “it depends what you mean by win.” He then said he’d won a moral victory, but added: “what sort of morals have you got?”

And here he is

Emoticon Newcastle East has just declared and it’s a Labour hold

More from our correspondents north of the border as the SNP look set to take virtually every seat in Scotland:

Mure Dickie says that Fiona O’Donnell, who won East Lothian for Labour in 2010 with a 25-point margin, has told local newspapers the SNP has won the seat.

“There is something going on at grassroots level that’s amazing,” George Kerevan, the SNP candidate, tells the FT.

“What has happened tonight is not about independence, because even a place like East Lothian that voted resoundly for No in the referendum has come into the SNP camp,” Mr Kerevan says.

Meanwhile columnist John McDermott says that SNP activists at the three-seat count in Glenrothes are giddy with disbelief.

North East Fife is a dead cert to go SNP, according to forecasters, but Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy (Gordon Brown’s old seat) are as Labour as they come. SNP sources here say they will every one with double figure margins.

Alistair Gray has also more on that.

“One senior Labour source said the party’s main office, based on poll sampling, was privately acknowledging it was ‘wiped out’ in former heartlands such as Glasgow and Lanarkshire. It was also set to lose Dundee and Fife. The only constituency he could point to where Labour thought it was ahead was Edinburgh South.”

The BBC are saying now that in fact there isn’t a recount in Bradford West…

The FT’s Gavin Jackson has had a look at the Newcastle East result and it’s more bad news for the Lib Dems:

In Newcastle East the Lib Dems have fallen from second place to fourth place. Their vote share went down by 22.2 percentage points. Ukip and the Greens look like the biggest beneficiaries with rises of 12.5 percentage points and 7.1 percentage points, respectively. Labour’s vote share rose 4.4 percentage points.

Lord Ashcroft, a pollster and Tory lord, has published a poll which, unlike the normal exit poll, asked people why they voted the way in which they did. The results are available here

Michael Pooler, who is in the prime minister’s constituency in Witney, says it looks like it’s going to be a long night in Cameron country.

An electoral official for the constituency of Witney announces we are only half-way through verification, the counting of ballot papers which takes place before the count proper. One Conservative activist reckons that could mean the final declaration being as late as 5am. Officials estimate the turnout at 73 per cent – the same as 2010, which was well above the national average of 65 per cent.

Asked what David Cameron is likely to touch upon in his victory speech – barring the improbable reversal of a 22,000 majority in his ultra-safe Witney constituency – a Tory source says he is likely to stick to a local message, before quickly whisking off to Westminster. The content of his speech will be pored over by political analysts and constitutional experts as any triumphal tones could signal his willingness to govern alone, given the exit poll which puts the Tories less than 10 seats short of a majority, or with the backing of other parties. The exodus of photographers from the press den suggests his arrival may be soon.

Emoticon In Tooting Labour’s Sadiq Khan the shadow justice secretary has kept his seat, with 25,263 votes

A bit more detail from the Tooting result:
Labour increased its vote by 3.6% from last time
Lib Dems lost almost 11%, another bad result
Tories increased its vote by 3.4%

Cathy Newman of Channel 4 has posted an interesting chart showing how exit polls have performed compared with previous actual results, though it’s not entirely clear what the sourcing is. The Independent’s Amol Rajan appears to have tweeted it out earlier.

The FT’s Sarah Gordon has been soaking up reaction from business figures at an election night party held by Roland Rudd, founder of financial and political PR firm RLM Finsbury:

With the exit poll suggesting that a coalition government could be formed sooner rather than later, many business people at the party were positive. Guests included Sir Mike Rake, chairman of BT and outgoing president of the CBI, Sir Roger Carr, chairman of BAE, Katherine Garrett Cox, chief executive of Alliance Trust, and Peter Mandelson, the former New Labour cabinet minister, who zoomed from the party to the BBC studios. “It means a government happens fast, and that will help,” said one businessman at the party.

EmoticonHere comes another London seat – Battersea – it’s a Conservative hold. Labour had been hopeful they might take this seat

It’s another downer for the Lib Dems in Battersea, where their share of the vote fell more than 10 per cent. The Tories increased their share by 5 per cent and Labour’s vote was up 2 per cent

Senior Conservative party member Ken Clarke has told ITV that he believes David Cameron will still be Prime Minister, adding that he “had not seen an election like this before.”

The Tory parliamentary candidate for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire added that “Labour is heading for a catastrophe of some proportions in Scotland” that would change the political landscape of Westminster.

“The SNP is going to be an overwhelming big block in the new Parliament and that’s changed the look of the Parliament. It’s going to be a Conservative government probably but it’s far too soon to say but it’ll be different to the one we had before. We had a coalition with a good working majority and we’re going to have to get used to a continental style of politics with either a minority or a government that has a kind of understanding with more than one small party.”

And Barney has the latest from South Thanet.

Arron Banks, the UKIP donor has reportedly told the BBC that Nigel Farage has lost South Thanet – but a Conservative source coming from the count said “it’s
too close to call”.

The result announcement is expected to be delayed. We were expecting it to be around 6am but now it is expected to be an hour or so later.

This coming in from the FT’s Alistair Gray – Labour supporters may want to close their eyes:

Another Labour campaigner in Paisley said he believed Jim Murphy, Scottish Labour leader, was among those to have lost his seat. However, he said it was still “too close to call” in Douglas Alexander’s seat, which has a larger majority

Nick ‘Flying Brick’ Delves of the Monster Raving Loony Party with his party members during the 2015 general election at Doncaster Racecourse.

And here is London mayor Boris Johnson as he arrives at Brunel University

EmoticonThe first Welsh result just in and it’s a Labour hold in Wrexham

That officially puts us into double figures for the number of seats declared – score so far is Labour 7 – Conservatives 3 but remember that graphic we put up earlier about how lumpy the declarations when broken out by seats held by party.

Here’s a reminder:

Emoticon First Northern Ireland result now in and Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP holds Lagan Valley.

Emoticon Labour holds Newcastle North

Looks like the first Scottish seat is close to declaring – it’s Paisley and Renfrewshire South, where Labour’s Douglas Alexander is the incumbent. He is shadow foreign secretary and the party’s national election strategist. Mr Alexander is looking a bit glum. Lets wait and see

The FT’s Kiran Stacey ponders the shock result of the exit poll as the night unfolds and the votes trickle in:

When the exit poll was first published, it was met with a huge amount of scepticism. But there is increasingly a feeling that if anything, it may actually have underestimated the Conservative vote. What the pollsters have to figure out is why they didn’t see this coming earlier.

The LibDem’s spokesman has said that it’s going to be a bad night for the LibDems, Sky is reporting

Hang on Nuneaton is about to declare – a key Labour target

Emoticon Conservatives have HELD Nuneaton – Labour fell short by some 5,000 votes

Aliya Ram reports that the “Boris effect” has slightly boosted turnout in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which was 64 per cent compared with 61 per cent in 2010.

There has been a 3 per cent swing in Nuneaton to the Conservatives from Labour in what was a key target for the latter

With the formal result due in minutes, senior SNP source now says Douglas Alexander has lost his seat, reports Alistair Gray.

Andy Bounds in Sheffield says that that a senior Lib Dem source in Sheffield blames a negative Tory campaign, spreading the “fear factor” of the SNP and says it will be a “bad night”.

He would not speculate on seat numbers. “Anyone who believes in the moderate centre ground in Britain will be disappointed.”

He admits the Lib Dems did not foresee the scale of the defeat but says “a lot of people were wrong”.

David Blunkett, the former Labour cabinet minister, has just said on Sky: “This is a very, very bad night for Labour”. He says the opinion polls were wrong and the exit polls were right.

The TV may have been a bit premature on calling that Douglas Alexander’s seat in Paisley and Renfrewshire South was about to declare. It seems the candidates are inspecting ballot papers, which would suggest the result is close

The market’s are talking again. Roger Blitz reports:

Sterling got another sharp lift on the back of the Nuneaton declaration, taking it once more above $1.54. The forex market is now warming to the prospect of an outright Conservative majority.

The FT’s Gavin Jackson has this from John Curtice, a leading political scientist talking on the BBC and it confirms what Blunkett was saying on Sky – bad news for Labour.

“We were expecting a one-point swing to Labour in Nuneaton,” said Curtice.
“In practice, with a three-point swing in their favour, the Tories have succeeded in defending this highly marginal seat. In practice, we now have to take seriously the possibility that the Tories could get an overall majority. “

The FT’s chief political correspondent Jim Pickard Tweets:

Over in Northern Ireland, here are some more results.

Mark Durkan of the SDLP holds Foyle.

Pat Doherty of Sinn Fein holds West Tyrone

Jim Shannon of the DUP holds Strangford

Ian Paisley Junior of the DUP holds North Antrim

Gavin Jackson writes: Sporting Index, a spread betting company, says that as of 2am its trading floor is predicting the Conservatives with 320 seats, just three seats shy of a majority once you account for the speaker and Sinn Fein.

Here’s a picture of Farage

A very happy looking Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, has turned up at the count in Glasgow. The last time she was in that hall was for the independence count last September when she was looking quite glum. What a difference eight months can make

Michael Pooler in Witney says David Cameron is expected at any moment, iff the massed TV cameras and photographers at the entrance of the count hall are anything to go by.

Word is that the PM is not pleased about how long the counting of votes is taking, as he is keen to swiftly depart to Westminster after the declaration.

There are a few results trickling through now. We aren’t going to try to give you them all but will just focus on the key ones instead

EmoticonSo we’ve got a first Labour loss in Scotland

Kilmarnock and Loudon
Lib dem 789
SNP 30,000
Labour 16,362
Tories 6752

There was a 26% SNP swing from Labour in this constituency

LibDems had their first positive story of the evening, keeping their seat in the Welsh constituency of Ceredigion.

An SNP landslide in Scotland is very much on the card if the Kilmarnock result is anything to go by: Labour’s worst fears are being realised, the 26 per cent swing is however in line with the exit poll so they would have seen it coming

SNP has held its seat in the Western Isles

More from Cameron’s constituency of Witney from Michael Pooler.

Cameron is expected at any moment, if the massed TV cameras and photographers at the entrance of the count hall are anything to go by. Word is that the PM is not pleased about how long the counting of votes is taking, as he is keen to swiftly depart to Westminster after the declaration.

It looks like it’s going to be a long night here in Cameron Country. An electoral official for the constituency of Witney announced about an hour ago that we are only half-way through verification, the counting of ballot papers which takes place before the count proper. One Conservative activist reckons that could mean the final declaration being as late as 5am. Officials estimate the turnout at 73 per cent – the same as 2010, which was well above the national average of 65 per cent.

More colour from FT Ireland Correspondent Vincent Boland in Belfast:

Results are starting to flow in for the 18 seats being contested in Northern Ireland, and it is pretty much as expected. The one big shock is the victory of Danny Kinahan of the Ulster Unionist party in South Antrim, who won the seat from William McCrea of the Democratic Unionist party. That probably ends the DUP’s hopes of winning a ninth seat, and they are in a fight in East Belfast with the Alliance party’s Naomi Long. That is a setback for the DUP. David Simpson of the DUP wins Upper Bann. And Lady Sylvia Hermon retains her independent seat in North Down.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary and Labour’s national election strategist, has lost his seat in Paisley and South Renfrewshire.

Mhairie Black of the SNP has stormed in.
Labour 17,864 votes
SNP 23,548 votes

Mhairi Black who has just ousted Douglas Alexander will become the youngest MP in Westminster. The 20-year-old politics student at Glaswgow University can study herself, if she has time to finish her course

Mhairie Black of the SNP said she would like to see Douglas Alexander stay in politics “after he recovers”. She’s doing lots of thanking, Whatever your views are, seek to represent you to the best of my ability.

There was a swing of 34% from Labour to the SNP for Black. That’s quite something.

Alexander has just spoken. He said that it “has been a very difficult night for Labour. It will be our responsiblity to rewin that trust in the months and years ahead.”

Emoticon The SNP has just taken its third seat from Labour in Dundee West

The Scottish results are flooding in now – here’s the next one

SNP has taken a 4th seat from Labour

This time its Falkirk and the SNP swing from Labour was 24%.

As the shadow foreign secretary loses his seat to a 20-year old student and a domino effect topples its seats across Scotland into the hands of the SNP, the FT’s political commentator Janan Ganesh seems to think the night is over for Labour before it has really begun:

According to the BBC Mhairi Black is the youngest MP since 1667 – how’s that for historic?!

And the SNP is on a roll (like the exit poll had suggested). In Ochil and South Perthshire it had a 14% swing from Labour

Some extraordinary swings in Scotland so far, writes Gavin Jackson.

The SNP took Kilmarnock and Loudoun from Labour with a 26 per cent swing. Political scientist Rob Ford tweeted that ‘There is no precedent for that in British electoral history’.

But that precedent was quickly overturned with a 27 per cent swing against shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, a 34 per cent swing in Dunbartonshire West and a 29 per cent swing in Dundee West.

Nicola Sturgeon is certainly the happiest leader

David Cameron, who has just arrived in Witney, and while it’s difficult to tell the mood there’s lots of smiley faces around him with blue rosettes.

Michael Pooler, who is there in Witney, says Cameron has arrived in the Windrush leisure centre in Witney with a calm and composed air. The PM spoke with volunteer vote counters on a brief walkabout in the count hall but ignored questions from members of the media as to whether he had won the election. We must now wait the constituency result declaration before hearing his thoughts

The BBC are interviewing Alex Salmond, the former leader of the SNP.

“There’s a lion roaring in Scotland tonight. A Scottish lion.”

And alongside those by Mr Cameron in Witney, there are even more EmoticonEmoticonEmoticon back at the Tory base camp too:

The FT’s John McDermott just spoke to David Torrance, SNP councillor, in Kirkcaldy who had a tear in his eye:

“This is a momentous night. Labour is dead and buried in Scotland.”

In Glenrothes, Peter Grant has taken the seat for the SNP. As he took the stage he pulled out a saltire and draped it over his shoulder. A cry goes out from the hall: ‘that’s a Scottish flag, not an SNP flag.’

The FT’s Robert Shrimsley suggests Cameron, assuming he remains PM, cannot ignore the SNP:

Assuming David Cameron is indeed back in number 10 his first major task is going to have to be finding a way to give Scotland a voice in decision making. A Unionist cannot simply ignore Scottish voters when they have spoken so clearly, so he is going to need some form of constitutional mechanism for consulting the SNP.

He also suggests the Blairites will be quick to move on Ed Miliband

I expect the Blairites to bite back with a vengeance in the Labour party today. For five years or more their philosophy has been ignored and scorned. They are going to move fast and with force to assert the need to move the party back to the political centre. In private they have been scornful of Ed Miliband from the start – it looks like they have been vindicated.

Jo Swinson, a Lib Dem minister and rising star in the party, has lost her seat to the SNP in East Dunbartonshire

And here’s Rupert Murdoch – owner of the Times, Sunday Times and the Sun – on the phone to the Times editor John Witherow:

Here’s a better pic of David Cameron, the prime minister, at the count. He looks pretty happy to me editor and columnist Robert Shrimsley tweets that the morning after the night before will be full of recriminations within the Labour party:

Emoticon Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath – Gordon Brown’s old seat has gone to the SNP

The BBC is reporting that its “Swingometer” based on the results from declared so far in Scotland is showing a 27 per cent swing from Labour across the board. “We almost broke our Swingometer,” says Jeremy Vine with glee

Barney Thompson in Nigel Farage’s target seat of South Thanet has some bad news for the Ukip leader:

From urging caution and saying it was too close to call, the Conservatives in South Thanet are now quietly confident that their man Craig Mackinlay has beaten Nigel Farage. The word on turnout, by the way, is that it was a whopping 80 percent – so the result could come very late indeed (8am, according to one candidate) thanks to the sheer number of ballots to count.

Emoticon Some good news for Labour at last. They have gained Ealing Central in London from the Conservatives. But London tends to buck the national trend

Some context on Douglas Alexander and his lost seat from Alistair Gray.

A towering Labour figure has lost his seat of 18 years to a 20-year-old student in the party’s west of Scotland heartlands, in one of the clearest signs yet that the party is heading for a near wipe out north of the border.

Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary and head of Labour’s UK election campaign, recognised it was a “very difficult night” for the party after he was defeated by the SNP’s Mhairi Black – despite defending a majority of more than 16,600.

Mr Alexander, who was raised locally, said his opponent had “fought a formidable campaign”.

“This of course has been a very difficult night for labour,” he added, sounding emotional. “Scotland has chosen to oppose this Conservative government but not place that trust in the Labour party.”

Speaking soon after the results, Ms Black said: “People have awakened to the fact that this Westminster establishment has not been serving them. The labour party in scotland has not been serving them.”

However, in spite of the SNP’s historic victory, she added: “This general election is not about independence.”

Emoticon But here’s another blow to Labour: the Conservatives have increased their hold on Warwickshire North which was one of the most marginal seats in the country and a key Labour target

Janan Ganesh, the FT’s political columnist, is tweeting

And Labour’s John Mann is tweeting bluntly

EmoticonJim Murphy, leader of Scottish Labour, has lost his seat, and big.

Things are looking grim for Ed Miliband, lots of rumours circulating that the Labour leader has already accepted he is going to have to go.

The FT’s Kiran Stacey has noted that the previous highest swing at a general election was to an independent in Merthir Tydfil in 1970 of 21%. The SNP won Glenrothes with a 35% swing.

The FT’s Robert Shrimsley on the significance of the North Warwickshire result:

North Warwickshire is another remarkable result. The Tories had a majority of 54 at the last election. It was one of Labour’s top targets but the Conservatives increased their majority.

Back in London, Conor Sullivan is reporting that LibDem supporters are privately conceding that they have lost Bermondsey and old Southwark, where a declaration is expected at 3:45. Turnout is 62 per cent.

Mhairi Black, who is going to become the youngest MP since 1667, tells Sky that she didn’t envisage taking a seat in Parliament “even six months ago”. She concedes that at some point in the future the SNP will want to see an independent Scotland but at the moment she is focused on implementing policies that will benefit all of the UK

As things quieten down in Witney ahead of the count proper, a bizarre spectacle has punctured an otherwise dull atmosphere, reports Michael Pooler.

Five men dressed as Arab sheikhs – who in their suits and sunglasses resemble something between the Blues Brothers and Rock the Casbah – took to the front of the hall to “expose David Cameron’s support of Saudi Arabia” and its “disgusting, loathsome” rulers. These choice words were from Derek Jackson, standing for the Land party, which he claims represents all the landless peasants of the world. A handful of groups and individuals – including two candidates running on a kind of fathers for justice platform – seem to be using the entirely predictable contest in David Cameron’s constituency as a way of gaining publicity. But with the Land party apparently hailing from Scotland, it seems a long way to travel just to throw away a £500 deposit.

Another win for the SNP with a 31% swing from Labour. This time Glasgow East. Labour did have a 37% lead in 2010.

In Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East there was an SNP swing from Labour of 32%

This in from Chris Tighe in Newcastle.

One of the north’s most senior Liberal Democrats this morning urged his party not to enter into another coalition with the Conservatives, saying he feared that would wipe out his party.

David Faulkner, who was LibDem leader of Newcastle city council until Labour took control in 2011, predicted; “We would be almost wiped out if we entered into a coalition supporting the Conservatives.”

The 2010 – 2015 coalition is costing his party many MPs in this general election, he said. “We would end up in the next election losing the rest of them.”

Mr Faulkner said he was disappointed at tonight’s loss of MPs because he believed his party had done the right thing. “It’s what happens to minor parties in coalitions across Europe”, he said. “Those against the coalition blame the minor party.”

He said he feared that in the new government a progressive stance in policy making would disappear because the LibDems lacked the leverage they had in the last parliament.

But he believes the party must now reflect and rebuild at local level.

The Tory’s David Davis has just been speaking on the BBC. He is saying that there’s a “reasonable chance we’d get above 326, the numbers coming in are better than the exit poll.”

Glasgow East is the 3rd of the 7 seats in Scotland’s largest city to fall to the Nationalist. All were previously held by Labour.

Emoticon Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, has lost his seat in Kingston and Surbiton to the Tories

Glasgow North had the biggest swing of the night so far for the SNP from Labour, with a 35% swing.

Labour held Dagenham and Rainham, which was a Tory target. Ukip came in second.

Nicola Sturgeon is speaking on the BBC again and has called the Scottish results so far that it is a vote against austerity.

Ukip have come third in Great Grimsby; their number one Labour-held target seat.

Glasgow North is now the biggest swing for the SNP against Labour at 39%

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, saw his share of the vote slide 15 per cent as he lost his Kingston and Surbiton seat to the Tories

A bad night for George Galloway. He has been reported to the police by the returning officer over allegedly breaking electoral law by tweeting an exit poll before polls closed.

Here is a photo of Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, conceding defeat to his SNP opponent, in what was a very gracious speech

We have just caught a glimpse of Ed Miliband leaving his house in Doncaster. He did manage a half smile for the cameras as he got into the car

Some more in from John McDermott in Scotland.

There are tears in both Labour and SNP camps. “I don’t know how we’ll persuade people to stand next year”, says one local Labour leader. Nearly every SNP activist here says that the size of the victory will increase the pressure on Nicola Sturgeon to campaign for a second referendum in 2016.

So here’s one seat that SNP hasn’t taken. Orkney and Shetland was held by the LibDems – it was the second safest seat in Scotland in terms of the incumbent’s lead over the SNP. Labour wasn’t so lucky in what was technically the safest seat – Glasgow North East

Nick Clegg is now being filmed arriving. Not going to be a happy man.

Emoticon More bad news for the Lib Dems as Lynne Featherstone, a Home Office minister, loses her seat in Hornsey & Wood Green in London to Labour

And John McDermott spoke to the new MP for Kirkcaldy Roger Mullin.

I asked him about the future o the union. ‘Nothing cataclysmic will happen – yet.’

Emoticon Wow. Simon Hughes of the LibDems has lost his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat after a 19% majority last time. And he lost big

Labour’s Neil Coyle has been elected

Emoticon Alex Salmond, the former leader of the SNP, returns to Westminster, winning the seat in Gordon

Having been subjected to some big swings against it in Scotland, in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, Labour’s swing was 14% against the LibDems. That’s pretty big (if you don’t compare it to those in Scotland)

And we have an update from Barney Thompson, the FT’s man on the ground in South Thanet where Nigel Farage is hoping to win:

Nigel Farage, you can keep on sleeping. The sheer number of ballots in South Thanet means the result is not due until 9am. People are already starting to drift of to snatch a couple of hours sleep.

Emoticon Ukip’s first win of the night with Douglas Carswell retaining his Clacton seat

The surge in the sterling against the dollar since the exit poll first came out is the biggest intraday rise since October 2009, according to FastFT

In Thurrock the Tories have kept their seat by the skin of their teeth, pipping Labour at the post

The Lib Dems have also lost Eastleigh to the Conservatives – it really isn’t looking good for Nick Clegg pictured below arriving at the count in his Sheffield constituency

In contrast, Ed Miliband is looking quite happy

The latest from the FT’s Barney Thompson, who has been talking to Labour insiders who have been taking some solace from gains in the capital overnight:

“Amid the chaos, a good night for us in London,” says a Labour official. And so far that’s true: the party has taken Ealing Central & Acton and Ilford North off the Conservatives and has also captured Bermondsey & Old Southwark, Brent Central and Hornsey & Wood Green from the Lib Dems. Labour will hope to capture at least another two or three London seats, maybe more, which would count as a good night in the capital. How they must wish London was the same as the rest of the UK…but it ain’t.

EmoticonBoris Johnson is to return to the House of Commons. He was elected in the safe Tory seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip South.

Emoticon Labour has held on to its first seat in Scotland – Edinburgh South. Good news for Labour is that it has increased its share of the vote – up 4.4 per cent. The SNP have jumped into second place from fourth last time round

The BBC’s Norman Smith is tweeting comments from Sir Menzies Campbell

Emoticon And now to Twickenham where Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, has LOST to the Tories

It really is looking like a meltdown for the LibDems. Just 4 seats so far

Vince Cable said:

“The fact is we were hit by a very well organised national campaign based on people’s fear of Labour and the SNP. Unfortunately this has been a terrible night for the party all over. I’m sure we’re going to bounce back.”

In Torbay – the English Riviera – the Tories have taken the seat from the incumbent LibDems. Another bruising defeat.

George Parker, the FT’s political editor, sums up quite how bad a night it has been for the Lib Dems:

Vince Cable’s defeat in Twickenham is about as bad as it gets for the Liberal Democrats; apart from Simon Hughes in Bermondsey (also gone) he was one of the party’s favourites: respected as a local MP and as business secretary.

Lib Dem officials are now privately admitting that the exit poll projection of ten Lib Dem seats – initially dismissed by Paddy Ashdown – may turn out to be on the optimistic side.

Boris Johnson is being interviewed on the BBC:

“Overall it’s been an amazing night for the Conservatives when you consider what the polls were saying only a few hours earlier. Ed Miliband and the Labour are completely the losers tonight, ” he says.

He swerves the question on the possibility of leadership. He says he has another year as mayor and that after that anything is a “bonus” without being specific on what he’s talking about.

On the possibility of a EU referendum, he says that PM has a “clear mandate” on that so he thinks that the Tories should go ahead on that.

And here is Johnson with colourful rival candidates surrounding him.

Sheffield Hallam is about to declare – that is Nick Clegg’s seat

Emoticon Nick Clegg HOLDS his seat in Sheffield Hallam

Despite winning Clegg is not looking happy given the state of play elsewhere for the LibDems

If you thought the most marginal seats were on the UK mainland, you’re wrong. Martin Stabe, the FT’s head of interactive news reports:

Fermanagh & South Tyrone in Northern Ireland is the UK’s most marginal seat. And it literally couldn’t any more marginal: Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew held the seat in 2010 with majority of one.

Gildernew, who was first elected in 2001, won by just four votes after three recounts in 2010, pipping an independent unionist candidate, Rodney Connor.

Connor later attempted to have the Election Court overturn the result. The bid failed, but the court could not account for three votes, bringing Gildernew’s majority down to the smallest possible.

In 2005, Gildernew survived because the unionist vote was split between the DUP and UUP. But this time, the DUP and UUP have agreed to avoid competing against one another in some constituncies, Under this pact, the UUP’s Tom Elliott became the sole unionist candidate in Fermanagh & South Tyrone.

If Elliot can find the one one-hundreth of one per cent swing he needs to take the seat, it would be a potentially important result.

Sinn Fein members don’t take their seats in the house, so reducing their number in the House by more than one would increase the number of votes needed to secure a majority of MPs. A an MP from the UUP, traditionally the Conservatives’ allied in Northern Ireland, would almost certainly be good news for David Cameron.

Patrick Wintour, political editor of the Guardian, has a shocking revelation:

Nick Clegg said:

“It has been a cruel and punishing night for the Liberal Democrats. I will make further remarks to my colleagues later this morning when I return to Westminster”.

This last comment is interesting and could suggest he has something to announce perhaps later?

The Conservative’s have narrowly held onto Dumfriesshire by just 798 votes, that’s the first Scottish seat and their only one in 2010. Currently the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems have one Scottish seat each.

More on the rise in the sterling against the dollar. FastFT are reporting that if it continues on this trajectory, the pound will erase its loss for the year against the dollar.

Sterling has built on gains immediately after the exit poll as foreign-exchange dealers welcome the prospect of prime minister David Cameron staying in Downing Street.

The pound has climbed 1.6 per cent to just shy of $1.55. It was even stronger against the euro, surging 1.9 per cent to 72.48p.

“There’s been a big discount in sterling because of the uncertainty over the election,” says David Bloom, chief currency strategist at HSBC. “There’s a relief rally right now.”

However, like others in the currency markets, Mr Bloom says the best recipe for a strong pound would be the continuation of a coalition government, rather than an outright victory for the Conservatives. The latter, he argues, would increase the chance of a referendum on European Union membership which would risk foreign investment into the UK.

Emoticon Hampstead & Kilburn constituency stays Labour – Tulip Siddiq beats Tories in Glenda Jackson’s old seat. In 2010 Labour held the seat by a narrow margin of 42 votes, the closest of the entire election.

Emoticon Labour GAIN from the Tories in Wirrall West, from incumbent Esther McVey, the work and pensions minister. Labour’s majority was 417

Economist journalist Daniel Knowles points out that it’s not all over yet:

EmoticonAnother bashing for the LibDems. They have lost Norwich South to Labour, a seat that the Greens were also hoping to win.

And if you’re feeling the weight of the long night. You are not along. As this tweeter says

Emoticon Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary and a potential successor to Ed Miliband, should he resign, has easily held her seat in Normanton, Pontefract & Castleford. Ukip came second

Here’s the Economist’s map so far of announced seats

Emoticon Charles Kennedy, the former Lib Dem leader, LOSES his seat of Ross, Skye & Lochaber to the SNP

Some details on Clegg in Sheffield Hallam from Andy Bounds

Turnout was high at 76.9 per cent. He won 22,215 votes, down from 27,324 in 2010. Oliver Coppard of Labour won almost 20,000, from 8,228 last time. The Conservatives slumped from 12,040 to 7,544.

Students, who had queued for hours at polling stations in 2010 to back his pledge not to raise tuition fees, sought revenge.

Mr Clegg voted to increase them to £9,000 a year as part of the coalition deal.

Labour activists heckled him with shouts of “liar” as he made his acceptance speech.

He left immediately after for London.

Polls by Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer, had predicted he could lose. The seat, one of the most affluent in the country, has been Lib Dem since 1997 and Labour has never held it.

A senior Lib Dem source in Sheffield blamed a negative Tory campaign, spreading the “fear factor”, he said. “Anyone who believes in the moderate centre ground in Britain will be disappointed.”

He admits the Lib Dems did not foresee the scale of the defeat but judging by the polls “a lot of people were wrong”.

Looks like Miliband’s seat of Doncaster North is about to be announced

Here we go

Emoticon Ed Miliband has kept his seat

No big surprise there that Ed Miliband remains as an MP but will he remain as leader of the Labour party?

Ukip have come second in Ed Miliband’s seat, with 23 per cent of the vote.

Miliband is speaking before going to London to await the final results.

“It has clearly been a disappointing and difficult night for Labour. We haven’t made the gains we wanted in England and Wales and in Scotland we have seen a surge in nationalism.”

He said he was “deeply sorry” for what had happened.

Here is a very sombre looking Vince Cable a bit earlier as the Lib Dem business secretary realises he has lost his seat

Rob Ford, an expert on Ukip and one of the authors of Revolt on the Right, says that’s 70 second places for Ukip so far. They came second in Yvette Cooper’s seat as well.

Ukip have done well across the north and Labour has underperformed, despite holding seats. Labour has had more success in London where the anti-EU party tends to find weaker support.

In Gower, the Tories snatched the seat from Labour by just 27 votes. Labour had held the seat for more than a century.

This from the FT’s Ireland correspondent, Vincent Boland on the results in Northern Ireland:

As the rest of the UK witnessed one of the most extraordinary election nights in recent history, it was business as usual in Northern Ireland. The roughly even split in the electorate between unionists and nationlists is the same as it was five years ago.

There were two results, however, that could have a bearing on politics not just in Northern Ireland but in London. The Ulster Unionist party – for years the dominant voice of unionism until it was displaced in recent elections by the more hardline Democratic Unionists – emerged with two seats at Westminster. That could be very good news for David Cameron. The UUP is a more natural supporter of the Conservative party than the DUP, and more likely to support the broader Conservative policy agenda.

The other big UUP gain was the defeat of the DUP’s sitting MP William McCrea in South Antrim. He lost to Danny Kinahan, who will be the second UUP representative at Westminster. That loss dashed the DUP’s hope of lifting its seat tally from eight to nine, and gives the initiative to the mainstream unionists in any post-electoral haggling.

It looks like David Cameron’s seat of Witney is about to declare – an hour or so late

Lord Ashcroft is pointing out that the SNP’s triumphs in Scotland appear to have helped the last party she wants to assist

Tory takes Somerton Frome from LibDems with a 15% swing against the latter.

Labour have just taken Wolverhampton Southwest (from the Tories) and Bradford East (from LibDems)

Emoticon David Cameron has easily held his seat of Witney

There will be some questions being asked about the pollsters efforts in the run up to voting day if the results continue their similarity with the exit poll.

David Cameron says in his acceptance speech:

This is clearly a very strong night for the Conservative Party

But he warns “it is too early to say what sort of result there will be at the end of this night” as he declares “we should never in politics duck the difficult issues” and promises to have the “referendum we should hold on the country’s future in Europe”

Emoticon Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem first secretary to the Treasury, has LOST his seat to the SNP

Big names who have lost so far:

Labour: Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy

Liberal Democrats David Laws, Vince Cable, Simon Hughes, Ed Davey, Jo Swinson, Charles Kennedy and Danny Alexander

Conservatives: Esther McVey

Emoticon And it just gets worse and worse for the Lib Dems as David Laws loses his seat in Yeovil to the Tories – it now seems that every Lib Dem that has held a cabinet position in the last government, apart from Nick Clegg and Alistair Carmichael, has lost their seat

The FT’s Michael Pooler who is at the count in David Cameron’s seat of Witney observes about the PM’s acceptance speech:

While clearly trying to mark out an unambiguous electoral victory for the Conservatives, his short speech was not draped in triumphalism. Indeed, he spoke of whether he might be “fortunate enough” to form a government.

But most remarkably he struck a conciliatory chord towards the voters of Scotland aimed at strengthening the fraying binds of union, by calling for further devolution to Scotland and Wales.

The Mirror is poking some fun with its pictures

Ukip are third on the number of votes cast (2,478,409) but have only secured a single seat so far. The Conservatives have the most: 6,939,340. Labour follow with 6,788,493.

The Lib Dems are fourth with 1,591,818, the SNP are fifth with 1,434,291 and the Greens have 716,919.

In the percentage of votes won that’s:

Con 33.1
Lab 32.4
Ukip 11.8
LDs 7.6
SNP 6.8
Greens 3.4

Bradford West is being announced finally

EmoticonGeorge Galloway has lost his seat!

Labour is in.

So that’s some good news for Labour. And even though it has not been a fun night for the Labour party as a whole, Miliband increased his own majority.

Miliband is tweeting (or his people are)

So the BBC is now predicting that the Tories are one short of a majority

Naz Shah’s victory over George Galloway for Bradford West comes at the end of a brutal campaign for her. Here’s the Independent’s take on it and his reportedly personal attacks on her.

This is how the WSJ’s Europe front page looks

Emoticon Former Lib Dem minister Norman Baker has lost his seat, in Lewes, Sussex.
Conservative candidate Maria Caulfield won with 19,206 votes to Baker’s 18,123 votes. The rest were nowhere.

Emoticon Mark Reckless, a former Tory MP who switched to Nigel Farage’s party and was re-elected in Rochester & Strood in a by-election, has lost his seat. He was defeated by Tory Kelly Tolhurst, which was widely expected, making him a Ukip MP for just 6 months. Despite garnering millions of votes, Ukip could now be left with just one MP.

And meanwhile, over in South Thanet, Barney Thompson says:

Dawn broke long ago and still no sign of a South Thanet result – the latest estimate is 11am. Press officers blame exceptionally high turnout ” and some late boxes coming in from Dover.” Al Murray has given up and left; Nigel Farage has not yet arrived. Perhaps it’s time for a stroll along the Margate promenade.

Photographic interlude: Dawn breaking over Westminster

Nate Silver, the blogger who predicted the US presidential election with uncanny accuracy and has been over here following the UK general election, has written a post saying that while the scale of the Tories’ win was “a big miss for the pollsters, it’s far from unprecedented”.

In the October 1974 election, the Conservatives beat their polls by a net of 5.9 percentage points. In 1997, they did so by 5.7 percentage points, and in 2001, by 5.9 percentage points. The 1992 election was the biggest and most infamous miss of all: The Conservatives beat their polling average by 9.4 percentage points.

Some forecasters accounted for the Conservatives’ tendency to outperform their polls, but only around the margin. Betting markets were somewhat more confident about Tories’ chances than the polls alone implied. And our forecasts, put together by the team at, projected the Conservatives to win the popular vote by 1.6 percentage points instead of the tie the polls showed.

Vote counting is not as easy as you might think – as this picture testifies

Hat tip to Esther McCarthy on how the UK now looks like Maggie Simpson

More from Barney Thompson, our man on the Kent front lines:

Al Murray, FUKP candidate in South Thanet, says he now has “huge sympathy for politicians” as a result of his spoof candidature. “They have to go places, not mess up, remember everyone’s names, stay on message, be nice to everybody, while people try to catch them out and are filming in their face — and everyone hates them for it. Who would want to put themselves through that?” The whole thing has been fascinating and “mostly hilarious”, he adds.

John McDermott has spotted a neat phrase that might catch on:

The Tories have just taken Dorest Mid and Poole North from the Lib Dems – another one bites the dust. The new MP is Michael Tomlinson

Lovely sketch here by Matthew Engel on how voters flummoxed the pollsters

We’re closing in on just 100 seats to declare out of 650

Lil bit o romance…or taking Samantha’s eye out…

Looks like Ed Balls’ seat announcement is coming imminently, according to Sky

Howard Archer, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, says the result is being “very well received” by the markets.

Sterling has surged and other markets are likely to follow suit. Gilts will likely benefit from the fact that the Conservatives will likely be able to press ahead with their plans to reduce the deficit more quickly than Labour would have done.

The three key issues that “have the potential to be major causes of uncertainty and instability” are:

In particular the EU referendum looms larger now which is likely to lead to appreciable market and business uncertainty further out

Relations with Scotland & effective increased influence of Conservative backbenchers are also areas of potential instability

In addition, the Conservatives will now need to make clear exactly where their cuts are going to come to meet their fiscal targets

FT Columnist Janan Ganesh has written his first take on the results, saying “there is no getting around it, the Tories have performed sensationally”:

Years will pass before we arrive at some understanding of what has just happened in Britain. David Cameron will struggle to make sense of it on Friday morning, even as he savours electoral vindication and at least a few more years as prime minister.

To put the shock in context: Scotland has become a nationalist monopoly, the Liberal Democrats have lost around four-fifths of their MPs, members of the cabinet were felled — and yet none of these events was the most surprising of this general election. That status belongs to the Labour party’s horrendous showing in England, where Mr Cameron’s Conservatives exceeded their most sanguine expectations..

Chancellor George Osborne’s seat is about to be announced

Emoticon Chancellor George Osborne has held his seat in Tatton with a storming majority, winning over 26,000 votes. He has been MP for the constituency since 2001.

Conservatives have gained Taunton Deane in another blow to the LibDems

Or perhaps not quite so fast on Ed Balls. Apparently a recount has been ordered.

Another Conservative gain from the Lib Dems is Cheadle. The new MP is Mary Robinson

With 110 seats still to declare, readers might think that the Conservatives will struggle to reach the 323 seats currently being predicted. However, the majority of the remaining seats are rural constituencies and many of them, in the past, have voted Tory. So don’t diss the predictions quite yet.

BBC are saying that the recount at Ed Balls’ seat has been demanded by Labour

Tories have won St Austell and Newquay from the LibDems.

Awaiting Dave:

The media are camping outside the Tory HQ, where Cameron is thought to be heading.

And in a gain for Labour, they have gained Chester from the Tories

Ahead of the London markets opening, Michael Hunter on the FT’s Markets Desk reports that traders are making bullish opening calls, with many expecting the FTSE to smash through the 7,000 point mark as the “relief rally” lifts banking, property and energy stocks higher. He tells us:

Equities indices are expected to follow the pound higher. According to opening calls from ADS Securities, the FTSE 100 will rise by 114 points in opening trade at 8.00am, enough to take it back over the 7,000 point mark to 7,004.

So how might this filter down to individual stocks? Labour’s promise of an “energy price freeze” and harsher regulation has been weighing on the big utility stocks such as Centrica and SSE who could see a sizeable rebound in their share prices this morning, some commentators predict.

Simon French, senior economist at Panmure Gordon, is predicting that RBS and Lloyds will both stage a rally as the threat of increased regulation and taxes for the banking sector appears to have been lifted.

Stocks exposed to the property market are also expected to perform strongly, with Labour’s plans for a “Mansion Tax” left lying in the rubble. The property market – especially in London – had cooled ahead of the election, but Foxtons, Savills and estate agency portals Rightmove and Zoopla could build up some serious gains this morning – and the feelgood factor could wash through to UK housebuilders.

However, Panmure’s Simon French also sounds a note of caution:

Any euphoria we see in the markets today needs to be tempered. Looking at post-election market performance since the 1960s, in the three months following a general election, markets tend to decline as they face up to what the government has to do – in this case, what looks like an EU referendum and the detail of extensive spending cuts.

It will be also interesting to see what impact the SNP’s surge will have on so-called “Scot Stocks” such as Standard Life and Weir Group who suffered in the run up to the Scottish referendum last year.

And Labour has gained Dewsbury from the Tories as well

Now this is very interesting on first past the post versus proportional representation from Sky news’ Martin Daubney

ITV is reporting that Ed Balls was, perhaps, 300 votes down after the first count. The recount is expected to take about an hour, ITV estimates.

Labour has gained Hove from the Conservatives

Way to dig the LibDems – the seats they’ve gained 7 – mean you can fit its MPs into two London taxis, BBC says.

Here’s the latest prediction from the BBC:

And SNP takes Berwickshire from LibDems. The pummelling must really seem like its never ending.

Cameron arrives in London:

This might not turn out to be tongue in cheek.. This from Mirror and Star reporter Rob Golledge

All the Scottish seats are now in and here’s the final tally:
SNP: 56
Labour: 1
Conservatives: 1
Lib Dems: 1

One result we’ve missed that is worth pointing out is that the Lib Dems’ chair, Tim Farron, held his seat – Westmorland & Lonsdale. Many people are tipping him to be the next party leader if Nick Clegg steps down.

Hmmmm, just wondering here – those Labour woes….Russell Brand, who ended up backing Miliband. Instead of helping, did he hinder?!

The Green party’s Caroline Lucas has held Brighton Pavilion

The BBC is saying the turnout is about 66 per cent

George Osborne has just described the evening as a “great result” to the BBC.

“We’ve now got our clear instructions from the British people to continue the work in hand. We’ve got lots of ideas to turn into laws.”

On the impact of the results in Scotland, the former chancellor – who Cameron has said he will reappoint – said he was “willing to work across party lines where we can to address national challenges”.

He urged all parties in Scotland to build on the work done by the Smith commission to implement further devolution north of the border.

On a personal note, Osborne said he was sad to see the Lib Dems’ Danny Alexander, who was his deputy at the Treasury, lose his seat.

Ed Miliband said his party had been “overwhelmed” by a “surge of nationalism” in Scotland after a nationalist surge triggered an SNP landslide that saw Labour retain a single seat. He added:

“I want to say to all the dedicated and decent colleagues in Scotland who’ve lost their seats that I’m deeply sorry for what has happened. And I also want to say that the next government has a huge responsibility in facing the difficult task in keeping our country together. Whatever party we come from if we believe in the UK we should stand up for people in every part of our United Kingdom. Because I believe what unites us is much, much more than what divides us.”

Scotland is now virtually a one-party state and Labour’s losses have contributed significantly to a devastating night for Mr Miliband and his hopes to become Britain’s next prime minister.

How many political parties will be holding leadership elections in the coming weeks?

Lib Dems – very probably
Labour – possibly
Ukip – still waiting for the result from Thanet South but Nigel Farage has promised to resign if he loses.
Respect – Geroge Galloway has lost his seat but there isn’t really anyone else!

Biggest swing of the night so far seems to be in Glasgow North East, where the SNP recorded a 39 per cent swing from Labour. The “Portillo” swing in 1997, when the former Tory grandee lost his seat, was 17 per cent, by comparison.

What the commentators are saying:

James Kirkup, The Telegraph: “The breakup of Britain must now be considered a realistic possibility. (Exit from the EU) is another very real possibility.”

Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian: “Do not forget that the grim work of austerity is far from over. The voters have not rejected the medicine, but that is not to say that they will welcome its continued administration – in particular, the potentially horrendous cuts that the welfare budget now faces.”

Philip Collins, The Times: “Labour thought it could defy the laws of politics… The first law of politics that was upheld was that, if you run 20 points behind on your reputation for economic management, then you lose… Mr Miliband cannot survive this carnage.”

The Economist link: “Mr Cameron would ideally thrash out another coalition agreement… The chances are, however, that he will prefer to go it alone, wagering that a badly weakened Labour Party will be unable to unite enough opposition MPs to bring him down. This course will leave Mr Cameron more beholden to his irascible backbenchers. And it will make sensible policy less likely.”

If you’re wondering how bad the night has been for the Lib Dems, this is what former leader Paddy Ashdown has just told the BBC:

“You invent the instruments of torture, of pain, and I’ll agree with them.”

Blogger Guido Fawkes has acquired an email Ashdown has sent to Lib Dem members:

Last night was a bitter night for Liberal Democrats. Perhaps most bitter of all, the results do not do justice to your hard work, dedication or passion.

You have fought the campaign of your lives, and I am incredibly proud of you. Let us remember what we fought for – liberal values, offering a vibrant, positive, and hopeful alternative for our country.

The forces of decency, moderation, unity, respect for others and progressive politics are weaker this morning. But they are not lost, and they must not be lost.

However painful this defeat, our fight for all this party stands for must continue.

In 2010 we put the country before our party, and we should be very proud of everything that we, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats have achieved.

These will be tough days ahead for our party, and they could be tough times for our country too.

But Liberal Democrat resilience has battled through time and time again, and I genuinely believe that, while diminished in Parliament, our voice will be heard again and is needed now more than ever.

I look forward to fighting that fight alongside you.


FT editor Lionel Barber has written his initial thoughts on the result:

With the notable exception of Scotland and the Scottish Nationalist party landslide, the pollsters were wrong about the 2015 UK election and so were most of the pundits.

The Conservatives executed ruthlessly Aussie campaign strategist Lynton Crosby’s plan: focus on a few dozen marginals, squeeze the Liberal Democrats until the pips squeak and destroy Ed Miliband’s credibility as an alternative prime minister.

Labour’s defeat is a stunning rebuff to Mr Miliband’s decision to tilt left and abandon the Blairist centre ground. He was dignified in the face of appalling personal attacks, but dignity does not win elections. Voters simply did not credit Labour with economic competence. They also worried desperately about the prospect of a de facto Labour alliance with the SNP.

Prepare for a new generation of Labour politicians assuming power in opposition – and I do not mean the prince across the water, David Miliband. His moment may well have passed.

The Lib Dems under Nick Clegg have been wiped out, punished for playing a responsible role in a coalition government committed to restoring the public finances. Clegg will surely go.

Today, the Conservatives have good reason to celebrate. Despite the absence of the “feel good factor”, the Tories surely benefited from an economy which has created more than 2m jobs in the lifetime of the coalition and is growing more strongly than most of western Europe.

The other way to look at the election – especially in the light of Ukip’s strong showing which did not translate into Westminister seats – is nationalism playing a winning hand. England effectively voted against the SNP – and the Tories were the chief beneficiaries.

Tomorrow, and in the coming weeks, David Cameron will face two pressing constitutional challenges: the future of the Union and the UK’s future relationship with Europe.

A new deal to devolve more powers to Scotland is inevitable, and it will be more generous than anyone anticipated a year ago. The SNP’s near monopoly on power north of the Tweed does not yet spell the break-up of the UK – nor the prospect of another referendum on Scottish independence. But the terms of Devo Max squared will be fiendishly difficult to agree upon.

As for Europe, Mr Cameron knows his own demands for a new deal have necessary limits, set largely in Berlin. Yet the prime minister has promised a referendum based on EU treaty changes and his restive backbenchers expect no less.

The clarity of the Tory victory is therefore misleading. The UK is heading into a period of considerable political uncertainty. Shades of John Major in 1992?

The FT’s Energy Editor Chris Adams is reporting that:

Shares in UK power generators are now soaring this morning after markets were spooked over a price freeze pledge from Ed Miliband had he got into power.

Emoticon Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has lost his seat – Morley and Outwood – by 412 votes.
He is, arguably, the biggest casualty of the night.

The latest update from Barney Thompson, the FT’s man on the ground in Thanet South where Nigel Farage is hoping to win:

As the count progresses (at last), Ukip supporters seem to think Nigel Farage is back in it. Neutrals (OK, they were Lib Dems) still reckon the Tories are on course “but it’s a lot closer than it was earlier on”. As if this result wasn’t late enough – your correspondent has already bought a house here – the dreaded word “recount” is creeping into every conversation.

Ed Balls has just spoken. He congratulates his opponents – particularly the victor, Andrea Jenkyns – but initially struggles to speak coherently.

Fighting to hold back tears, he says his personal disappointment is “nothing compared to the sense of sorrow at the result Labour has achieved across the UK and sense of concern I have at the future.”

He vows that Labour will “come back more united and determined”.

“I’m confident that Labour will be back.”

London markets update from the FT’s Michael Hunter:

The FTSE 100 is up 2 per cent, or 138 points, and heading back toward the 7,024.96, led by utility and banking stocks – two of the sectors seen as vulnerable to increased regulatory scrutiny and a higher tax burden under a Labour government.

The FTSE 250, seen as more representative of the domestic UK economy, is making an even more brisk ascent, up 3.2 per cent at 18,019.90, a rise of 557 points.

Conservatives now need 22 seats to win a majority, with just 40 seats to go

The Economist’s Henry Curr has a good memory:

Property shares are surging as the threat of a “Mansion Tax” is demolished:

Foxtons is up by more than 11% at 253p

Savills is up nearly 10% at 913p

Rightmove is up 4.4% to £32.53

Zoopla is up nearly 5% at 225p

As it looks increasingly likely that Conservatives are set to remain in power, Barclays analysts have published a note on the market reaction in London on Friday. Despite the gains during early trading, there may be trouble down the line…

We expect an initial positive market reaction due to the removal of substantial uncertainties and the likely introduction of policies generally believed to be more favorable to business. Also, the co-operation of the Conservatives with the Lib Dems and DUP will likely considerably reduce the magnitude and pace of fiscal consolidation, which the market is likely to take positively, in our view, in particular given weak data in recent weeks.

However, markets will also have to process the holding of an in/out EU referendum by 2017, an event that is likely to generate a substantial amount of uncertainty, particularly if polls fail to show more substantial support for EU membership in the coming weeks and months. As such, initial short-term cheer could be followed by a medium-term downside chill. In this environment, the BoE will likely stick to a wait-and-see approach, changing its stance only upon the release of stronger data.

HSBC has put out a note on the result. Titled: “What’s the story? Tory glory” – Europe’s biggest bank says there are “two big medium-term implications of the probable result”.

First, a referendum on EU membership by end-2017 now seems much more likely. The economic implications of a possible British EU exit could be far-reaching and the BoE may soon be turning its attention to the regulatory and financial stability implications of such a scenario.

Second, the huge gains made by the SNP once again call into question the future of the UK itself. If Scotland were to vote to stay in the EU, but the rest of the UK were to opt leave, pressure to break up the union could increase further.

Ed Miliband is set to make a speech at 12pm – that could be his resignation.

David Cameron will see the Queen at 12.30pm.

In further property news, shares in the UK housebuilders are all surging this morning:

Berkeley the most London-exposed house builder is up by nearly 9%

Bellway and Bovis have both gained by nearly 6%

Barratt, Redrow and Taylor Wimpey are all showing rises of around 5%

The CEO of YouGov is the first in what could be a long line of pollsters offering apologies as scale of inaccuracy of their election predictions becomes apparent:


Sterling has enjoyed strong rises across the forex stratosphere, reports the FT’s currencies correspondent Roger Blitz.

The sterling index, measured against a basket of its peers, is now up 2 per cent to 91.2.

The pound also rose 2 per cent against the euro, recovering most of its losses of the past week against its European partner.

Stephen Barrow, G10 currency strategist at Standard Bank, said he expected sterling to continue to rise and gilt yields to fall.

“This is because most of the market – including ourselves – felt that the polls would prove more accurate, paving the way for a Labour minority government, probably supported by the Scottish Nationalists,” he said.

The Conservatives’ triumphant night is also focusing attention on the political ramifications that could weigh on sterling.

But Simon Derrick, chief market strategist at BNY Mellon, said while “the principal topic of conversation amongst investors will be the possibility of at least one and possibly two referenda in the UK over the next few years”, these votes were some years away and would weigh on opinion for no more than a week or so.

Home Sweet Home. Cameron returns to Downing Street.

The FT’s Kadhim Shubber reports that shares in bookmakers have leaped this morning as the results of the election continue to come in.

Britain’s two largest bookies, William Hill and Ladbrokes, up 5.34 per cent to 394.6p and 9 per cent to 115.2p respectively. A Conservative victory has largely removed the threat of tighter restrictions on retail gambling. Labour had promised to give local councils powers to ban highly profitable fixed-odds betting terminals.Tobacco stocks have also seen a boost, with Britain’s leading seller of cigarettes, Imperial Tobacco, up 2.5 per cent to £32.85, now that Labour’s levy on tobacco profits is no longer a worry. The Conservatives had previously floated pursuing the same policy, but backed down at the last Budget in March.

The FT’s Martin Wolf says that the result has not answered two big questions about the future of the country.

” It has rather made the future even more uncertain. How long will the union survive? And how long will the UK (or maybe it will just be England) remain inside the European Union?”

Emoticon SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has told the BBC: “The tectonic plates of Scottish politics shifted yesterday.”

“There’s an appetite for change in Scotland. There’s a very strong appetite for Scotland’s voice to be heard more loudly in Westminster.”

She rejected accusations that the SNP was to blame for Labour’s failure.

“Labour can’t blame the SNP for their failure to be strong enough to beat the Conservatives.”

However, she warned Cameron not to ignore the results in Scotland:

“The issues the SNP put at the heart of the campaign were supported by the people.”

She also stressed this was not a vote to kick start another bid for Scottish independence.

“This was a vote to make Scotland’s voice heard loudly at Westminster.”

Kate Allen, the FT’s property correspondent, writes:

Ed Mead, a director of London estate agents Douglas & Gordon, said the election result would “restore overseas investor confidence in the UK”, triggering what he predicted would be a “surge in [house] values over the next five years”.

“This is a very bullish outcome for London real estate markets at all price levels,” he said.

Houses worth over £2m could see price rises of as much as 20 per cent in the next 12 months, Mr Mead predicted, and could double in the next five years.

There will be a renewed flood of cash into the capital’s housing market from foreign buyers, he said.

Giles Hannah of Christie’s International Real Estate said that buyers from Canada, the USA, the Middle East and Asia would buy in London, as they will now “view the market as a safe haven to invest in”.

A shortage of properties for sale would fuel house price rises, he said.

Mure Dickie, the FT’s Scotland correspondent, has picked up an idiosyncratic proposal from Scottish businessman and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter that will be as unappetising to the SNP as it is to the Conservatives.

Sir Tom said:

“Its now time for David Cameron to offer Alex Salmond the Secretary of State for Scotland position. The Prime Minister has said his priority is the Union and Nicola Sturgeon has offered the hand of friendship across the UK; this would test both intentions and would reflect the democratic will of the people.”

A visibly harassed Nigel Farage has just appeared in front of TV cameras (though his Thanet South seat is not expected to declare until 11am).

“The narrative that Ukip takes Tory votes has been completely blown out of the water,” he said. Although the party has so far taken a 12.5 per cent share of the vote – which would be equivalent to around 81 seats under proportional representation – the swing has failed to translate into seats, with so far just one seat won by Ukip. If Mr Farage fails to take Thanet, that tally could remain at one.

Journalists outside the count asked Mr Farage if he would still resign as leader of the Eurosceptic party if he failed to be elected as an MP. “Are you calling me a liar?” was his weary riposte.

He was bitter that the swing to the SNP in Scotland had translated into dozens of seats. “It shows that political change can happen… but I do think the system [of first past the post] is bust,” he said. “I would like to see the Conservative prime minister break one pledge, the one to maintain the Barnett Formula,” he added, referring to the favourable tax distribution system currently enjoyed by Scotland as “ludicrous”.

Journalists told Mr Farage that many supporters were calling on him not to step down as leader of Ukip even if he lost his seat. He broke into a broad smile and said: “Awwwww, they’re sweet aren’t they.”

More from Kadhim Shubber, who reports that pub shares have been boosted by the prospect of another 5 years of a Tory-led government :

Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns, two pub companies whose business models are threatened by legislation passed last year, are up around 2 per cent this morning. Both companies typically offer their pub tenants discounted rent, but in return force them to buy beer at a premium. Last year, parliament voted to end the so-called “beer tie” and to allow tenants to choose a “market rent only” or MRO contract.

“A new Tory minister at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills should be much less interested in tightening the dreaded MRO clauses that so worry the owners and managers of the tenanted pub industry,” according to Nigel Parson, analyst at Canaccord Genuity. Enterprise is up 2.15 per cent to 128p, while Punch is up 2.26 per cent to 117.6p. Together, the companies run 9,500 pubs in the UK, almost a fifth of the total. Enterprise is due to update on its strategic response to the legislation next week.

“A hung parliament or a Labour/SNP victory would have made this problematic but fortunately now management can present against what should be a more benign political outlook,” adds Mr Parson.

Who will replace Vince Cable as business secretary? Terry Scuoler, chief executive of manufacturers’ organisation, EEF wants a “really big hitter”.

[The new minister] will have an in-tray which will include the need to tackle some of the issues which will help Britain embed and build on the recovery. These include reversing the trade deficit, tackling an energy policy which remains a mess and redoubling efforts to deal with a creaking infrastructure by getting on with important projects, especially building a new airport hub.

“The biggest threat to our long-term economic well-being, however, remains the prospect of leaving the EU.”

Channel 4′s Michael Crick has put some historical perspective on the result:

The BBC is reporting that when Ed Miliband addresses staff at party HQ shortly he will announce his intention to resign. This has not been confirmed but it is a view that is gaining traction.

Harriet Agnew, the FT’s City correspondent, reports that the City is buoyed by such a decisive result for the Conservative party.

Hedge funds in particular had feared the prospect of a Labour government, which would bring with it higher income tax, mansion tax and the removal of favourable “non-dom” tax status. Manny Roman, CEO of Man Group, the UK’s largest hedge fund, said: “A clear outcome and a level of continuity is certainly a positive thing for the UK economy, and the City will no doubt welcome what is expected to be a more business-friendly environment.”

While they cheered the avoidance of a hung parliament, the Conservative victory was soured slightly by a now likely referendum of Britain’s membership of the European Union, which Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to hold by the end of 2017 if he stayed in power.

Sam Smith, CEO of broker finnCap, said: “We may now face the possibility of turmoil over a potential in/out referendum on our membership of the European Union. The crucial thing for business is that the Conservative government can demonstrate quickly that it will continue to be pro business and pro growth. We need a government that will pledge to help businesses across the country compete on the world stage and help unite what appears to be an increasingly politically fractured and divided UK.”

Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, has just told the BBC he thinks there’s “no obvious candidate” to replace Miliband, if he does resign.

Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary in the last government, is on the BBC. He said that, taking into account the difficulties of ruling with a small majority – particularly with so many potential rebels in his ranks, David Cameron is likely to “keep it simple, keep it focused and stick to the manifesto commitments”.

Wondering who might be the next Labour leader? Bookmaker Paddy Power is giving you a helping hand.

FT Markets Editor Mike Mackenzie has pulled together a Bloomberg chart showing how Sterling and the FTSE100 equities index have reacted to the election result:

Chris Adams, the FT’s energy editor, reports on the impact of the election result on the energy sector:

Shares in big UK power generators have soared this morning as general election results point to a Conservative government. Centrica, led the way, trading some 9 per cent higher in early trading. Here’s why.

Centrica, SSE and the subsidiaries of European utilities that make up the rest of the so-called “Big Six” would have been hit with freeze on energy prices until 2017 were the opposition Labour party to have won. Ed Miliband, the party’s leader, has proposed forcing the companies to split their power generation and supply businesses and to open their books.

Moreover, Labour planned a new regulator that would have the power to cut bills from winter 2016 and strip energy groups of their licences if consumers were harmed. As such, a Conservative victory is the most benign outcome and a relief rally is underway, not just in energy companies’ shares but in banks, gambling, tobacco and pub groups too.

Macquarie said: “This election result is extremely positive for UK utilities as the Labour base position of a price freeze could, in extremis, have caused financial distress for UK retail companies.”

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Centrica has avoided a possible 14 per cent hit to earnings per share by 2016, SSE 7 pert cent and RWE, which owns RWE npower, a 9 per cent hit. The expectation now is that the Competition and Markets Authority, undertaking a probe of the energy market, “will do its job without political interference,” said BAML.

“Given the now high probability of a Conservative Government in the UK it is clear that we will today see a relief rally in the shares of Centrica,” said analysts at Exane BNP Paribas, who saw a 5 per cent gain in the shares on Friday.

“We should now be into a period of improving visibility,” they said. Iain Conn, new Centrica chief executive is to unveil a strategy revamp with the group’s first half results on July 30. “2015 should also be an earnings trough.”

City analysts said they expected a Conservative-led energy department (Liberal Democrat Ed Davey, the previous energy minister, lost his seat) to be less friendly towards renewables than Labour or the Lib Dems. The Conservatives have proposed a moratorium on onshore wind power.

Nevertheless, the Tories are keen to promote competition in energy supply. They are backing the introduction of smart metering by 2020 as a way for households to control their costs. Like the Lib Dems, they plan new rules that would force energy groups to allow customers to change their supplier within one day.

Interesting stat to ponder this morning from FTfm reporter Madison Marriage:

Plaid Cymru has not had a great night – winning no new seats, and only an additional 0.8 per cent of the vote in Wales.

Its leader Leanne Wood told the BBC that the party is now focused on next year’s assembly elections. Wales has a “third-rate devolution settlement unable to withstand [future austerity measures]”, she added.

All the Welsh constituencies have declared. Here are the results:
Labour 25
Tories 11 (+3)
Plaid Cymru 3
Lib Dems 1

The BBC has been showing grainy mobile phone footage of Cameron’s speech to staff at Tory HQ. He described the result as “the sweetest victory of all” when comparing it to Tory wins in 1987, 1992 and 2010.

“The real reason to be proud is that we’re going to get the opportunity to serve our country again – to offer real hope to people.”

John Murray Brown, the FT’s correspondent in Birmingham, writes:

Liam Byrne, the politician who left the infamous note for incoming coalition ministers stating that there was “no money left”, was contrite about his “mistake” and the damage it might have fdone to the Labour cause. But voters in Birmingham Hodge Hill did not hold it against him, doubling his majority – one of the party’s best results in the Midlands where Labour failed to unseat the Tories in key target marginals like North Warwickshire and Nuneaton.

The Tory gains were just as remarkable in Wales increasing its seats from 8 to 11 in a region where in 1997 and 2001 the party did not return a single MP. Last night, Tories held on to Cardiff North marginal against predictions it would fall to Labour. It also took Vale of Clywd and more surprisingly Gower, which the Tories have never held not even when Margaret Thatcher was in her pomp when the Tories won 14 of Wales’s 40 seats in 1983 after victory in the Falklands.

The FT’s Barney Thompson says it’s getting closer to decision time in Thanet South, where Ukip leader Nigel Farage is running.

Craig Mackinlay, the Tory candidate for Thanet, South has arrived at the count. Nigel Farage is not expected for another 45 minutes, according to UKIP officials. But after a marathon wait, we’re close – and North Thanet is about to declare…

Sarah Gordon, the FT’s European Business Editor, has spoken to John Cridland, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry.

On the result: “You’ve seen what’s happened in markets – [the result] is clearly welcome. It did look like business was preparing for a period of uncertainty and business doesn’t thrive on uncertainty. We now know what the likely direction of economic policy is going to be.”

On the prospect of a Brexit referendum: “The CBI plans to play an active role in arguing the case for remaining in a reformed European Union. We feel that the PM has a reform strategy that the British business community can get behind. We want Europe to do more of the things it does well, and less of what it does badly. We need to make clear that what is good for British business is good for Spanish business and good for Slovakian business.”

On the timing of the referendum: “The overwhelming majority of CBI members want to stay in a reformed Europe. Reform work is underway, but we need to land genuine reform. We need to make these reforms stick [before a referendum is held].”
“The next task is to take those arguments for being in a reformed Europe and learn the lessons from the Scottish referendum and not talk down on those arguments. The business community has to find the right language. We’ve got a job of work to do in that area.”

On the first 100 days: “We can now get on with more ambitious plans to get the deficit down, focusing on the big areas like investment in infrastructure, delivering on devolution but avoiding knee jerk solutions.”

On the new business secretary to replace Vince Cable: “After 5 years of working with Vince, I felt Vince and the CBI worked very effectively together and it was probably the longest period in office of a secretary of state for business. I’ve always felt it’s very very important that the secretary of state for business is a big hitter and carries the PM’s ear.”

Harry Potter author J K Rowling has tweeted on a subject many people are probably thinking about….

Labour has won… in London. The party picked up 7 extra seats – and now holds 45 seats in the capital to the Conservatives’ 27.

Labour won mainly at the expense of the Lib Dems – taking seats like Bermondsey (held by Lib Dem Simon Hughes since 1983). That’s despite its proposal of the mansion tax, which would have hit London hardest. The Lib Dems lost 6 seats in the city, and now have just one.

The political landscape of Westminster seems to be changing by the hour now:

More evidence of the Ukip rising tide – the party is now the third force in Wales, in terms of number of votes won.
According to the BBC, the share of the vote in the principality:

Labour 36.9%
Conservative 27.2
Ukip 13.6
Plaid Cymru 12.1

The FT’s Judith Evans has picked up reaction from Neil Woodford, perhaps the UK’s best-known fund manager, has hailed the apparent result as “much better than expected”.

“That isn’t a politically inspired statement but one that is based on the fact that such a decisive result removes the risk of the prolonged period of political uncertainty that we had expected to prevail,” he says.

Nevertheless, Mr Woodford is downbeat on the next few years thanks to the expected referendum on EU referendum and the UK’s productivity problems.

“Our assessment of the UK economy suggests we should expect modest growth at best over the next few years,” he says.

So the pollsters were hopeless… but you should still invest in YouGov, say brokers Peel Hunt. The reason?

political polling is a very small profits stream for the Plc, and we suspect there will be no lasting damage

Then again, YouGov’s shares have fallen about 4 per cent over the past year, underperforming the FTSE 100. Its chief executive has already apologised for its “terrible night”.

Iain Martin, a former editor of the Scotsman, has analysed the Scottish results for the FT – calling it a Labour defeat the Tories cannot celebrate.

Imagine a general election in which the Conservative party has been wiped out by Labour in Surrey and across its other home counties heartlands. The Scottish National party has just pulled off a similarly seismic feat , destroying Labour in this general election in once ultra-safe seats where the party used to weigh the vote, where Scottish Labour MPs used to think they had seats for life.

Polling expert John Curtice has said the Lib Dems have lost their deposit in as many as 338 of the 650 constituencies – its worst result ever.

Jonathan Eley, the FT’s Money editor, is ruminating on what will happen to pension reform.

Both the incumbent pension minister Steve Webb and his shadow Gregg McClymont have lost their seats.

The loss of Webb, who had detailed technical and operational knowledge of the pensions industry, is being viewed with some concern. At a time when the private and state pension systems are undergoing seismic change, a journeyman minister without technical competence would be risky. One possible contender, according to pensions correspondent Josephine Cumbo, is David Gauke, a treasury minister in the last government. An alternative might be a wider brief for Ros Altmann, an economist, pension expert and “champion for older workers” who is set to become a Conservative peer.

Emoticon Ukip leader Nigel Farage has failed to get elected
Farage got 16,026 votes. He was beaten by the Conservative candidate (and former Ukip member) Craig MacKinlay, who got 18,838. Turnout was an above average 69 per cent.
Remember Farage said he would resign as party leader if he failed to win.

Peter Spiegel, the FT’s Brussels bureau chief, reports on the reaction from the heart of the EU.

In Brussels, attention immediately focused on David Cameron’s pledge to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership in the EU by 2017.
With the EU already struggling with the chance of a Greek exit from the eurozone, starting negotiations with a re-elected government in Downing Street was the last thing many continental governments wanted to begin. Mujtaba Rahman, a former European Commission official who now heads European analysis for the Eurasia Group risk consultancy, warned in a note to clients that the “escalation of Brexit risk” will “jolt European politics for the next two years”, with many continental governments resisting Cameron’s attempt to reform EU policies.

Here’s an excerpt from the note:

“Cameron’s ability to deliver on these concessions will be constrained by political dynamics in other EU capitals. In no scenario do we believe Cameron will be able to limit inward EU migration or secure a veto for the Commons, the key ask of his EU-sceptic backbenchers. Not only would the former challenge one of the EU’s founding freedoms, but both would imply a change to EU treaties, which would trigger referenda in a large number of EU capitals, something those EU leaders’ will be keen to avoid.

The 2017 electoral timetable – with federal elections in Germany and Presidential elections in France — will also frame and limit the nature of the concessions Germany and France are able to afford the UK in its renegotiation over the EU’s powers”

What on earth is going on in Mauritania?

Here’s the front page of the Evening Standard:

Here are a few of the headlines as the fog clears:

Nigel Farage has put on a brave face following his defeat in Thanet South – but has refused to say whether he will make good on his promise to resign as leader of the eurosceptic party.

“On a personal level, an enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve never felt happier,” he said, appearing to allude that he would make good on his promise, though he bitterly criticised the UK electoral system and promised that Ukip – which has ended up with one MP despite winning a 12.5 per cent share of the vote – would “be the party that leads [electoral] reform.”

“Five years ago on election day, I was in intensive care following an aeroplane crash, so compared to that this feels pretty damn good,” the Ukip leader said.

Speaking of an “earthquake north of the border” in Scotland, he said that fear of a Labour / SNP coalition had driven people to vote through a Conservative majority at the polls, offering his congratulations to David Cameron.

Fancy an each-way bet on an outsider to be the next leader of the Labour party. How about a former director of public prosecutions who has just defeated Green party leader Natalie Bennett?

Here’s a clip, courtesy of Sky, of Cameron declaring the result “the sweetest victory of all”:

Miliband: the “responsibility for the result is mine alone”.

John Longworth, head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“We congratulate David Cameron and the Conservative Party on their election victory.

“Businesses in all parts of the United Kingdom want to see a pro-growth, pro-enterprise programme – building on the positive steps taken, and lessons learned, during the Coalition years.

“The Conservatives now have a clear mandate to take bold and important decisions, and must use it to help British businesses invest and grow. In return, business stands ready to work with the new government to deliver prosperity, jobs and sustained economic growth.”

So the news still expected – 11.30am, Clegg to speak; 12pm: Miliband to speak; 12.30pm: Cameron to meet the Queen.

What (some) pollsters forecast correctly…

1. The SNP did win about 50 per cent of the Scottish vote: Their rout fitted with the polls, said Peter Kellner, president of YouGov.

2. Ukip did win 100 “silver medals”: Rob Ford of the University Manchester said in March that Nigel Farage’s party would win at least 100 second places, compared to zero in 2010. So far Ukip has finished second in 118 seats.

3. Nick Clegg did hold his seat: A Guardian/ ICM poll suggested a surge in tactical voting in Sheffield Hallam would save the Lib Dem leader. That came after Lord Ashcroft’s polling said he was on course to lose.

4. Tories did win most votes overall: But the pollsters underestimated by how much – and how the lead would translate into seats. A very honourable mention to Number Cruncher Politics – whose model did imply “a Conservative lead of just over 8 points.”

Of course, if you make enough predictions, a few will be right.

Jonathan Guthrie, the FT’s City editor, has also analysed the result.

Guess which company failed to benefit from the stock market’s opening relief rally? It was pollster YouGov. A recent survey by the research company had pointed to a hung parliament rather than a Tory majority.

The FTSE-100 popped 1.6 per cent, acknowledging that serious post-election haggling between parties had been avoided. For business, the worst possible coalition would have been the toxic left-of-centre marriage of Labour’s Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party.

In the event, the electorate has handed stronger control to the Tories, whose number includes Nadhim Zahawi MP, co-founder of Yougov, who held his Stratford seat. For most business people a Conservative victory is the best outcome, returning to power a government which has proved its support for larger companies by cutting corporation tax to a historic low. In contrast, Labour proposed a raft of hostile measures, ranging from an energy price freeze to the abolition of zero hours contracts.

The relief rally was a decent one, though hardly on par with the Bolly-popping City celebration that greeted Margaret Thatcher’s third consecutive Tory victory in 1987. This time, sterling rallied 2.1 per cent against the dollar and ten-year gilt yields tightened 10 basis points.
Good results for the Conservatives delivered executive relief most plentifully to companies specialising in expensive homes. Foxtons, whose be-gelled estate agents are the shock troops of gentrification across London, rallied 12 per cent. Berkeley which builds traditional-looking dwellings, but without the traditional damp and death watch beetles, was up almost 9 per cent.

Ed Miliband, whose defeat by a bacon roll presaged worse electoral humiliation, will not now get the chance to impose a mansion tax on properties worth more than £2m.

Labour had also aspired to cap the profits of private contractors who work for the NHS. The death of that ambition, emblematic of a union-inspired distrust of outsourcers, prompted rallies in the shares of Capita, Babcock and Serco.

The banks jumped too, as the threat of an £800m increase in the banking levy lifted from their shoulders. Lloyds, which Labour had threatened to break up, led the pack. HSBC rose only in line with the market, perhaps because the City expects the Asia-focused bank to quit the UK.

The shares of some Scottish companies were also subdued, perhaps because Scotland looks set to quit the UK too. The SNP landslide means Caledonian companies will dust off plans to relocate parts of their operations to England. Royal Bank of Scotland, would, for example, inevitably re-register as an English bank to keep a lid on its borrowing costs.

At the same time, the Conservative victory sets the UK on course for a referendum on EU membership in 2017. Most business leaders fear a vote in favour of Brexit, which they believe would increase costs and reduce access to markets. “It would add complexity and deter foreign direct investment,” one FTSE-100 boss said, “I expect chief executives will make a lot more noise about this than they did about the Scottish referendum.”

The FT’s Dan McCrum has got his abacus out to work out (some of) the Lib Dems’ financial losses:

Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt has tweeted his reaction to Farage losing. I reckon quite a few people across the Channel might be saying “Hear Hear”.

You can’t keep a good loser down. Ukip leader Farage has just called a press conference at a hotel near the Thanet South count centre. The press pack is legging it down the road, says our man in Kent, Barney Thompson.

Ukip may only have one MP, but it could be in for a windfall in the House of Lords. As a campaign group has pointed out:

Since 1997, appointments to the House of Lords have been conducted to broadly reflect the share of the vote at the previous general election, and this was made explicit in the 2010 coalition agreement.

Ukip has 12.6 per cent of the votes counted so far, more than the Lib Dems and SNP combined.

More from Barney Thompson in Thanet South:

Nigel Farage, leader of Ukip lost the race for Thanet South by a convincing margin but said he felt an “enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders and I’ve never felt happier”.

After a marathon wait for the results, Craig Mackinlay the victorious Conservative candidate beat Mr Farage by 2800 votes.

Jubilant Tory activists savouring the party’s national success were quick to point out that Mr Mackinlay was a founding member of Ukip “and now he is burying them”.

Mr Mackinlay said: “It was here that the ground was supposed to shake in a political earthquake with Nigel Farage as its epicentre”. But it turned out there had been “not even a tremor” he added. Thanet South did not need an MP “who will protest from the sidelines, but one who will work for them and get things done. There is no need for Nigel Farage and there is no need for Ukip.”

Mr Farage responded by pointing out that 4m Ukip votes had resulted in only 1 MP.

Referring to the Scottish National party, he said, “We’ve got a party who got 50 per cent of the vote in one of the regions and ended up with almost 100 per cent of the seats.”

“The time has come for real, genuine and radical reform and Ukip will lead it.”

The party leader and his entourage left the stage immediately to heckling and jeers.

Emoticon Nigel Farage has resigned as Ukip leader

However, he said that he might run in the leadership election that he said would be held in September after “taking the summer off”.

“I want to make this a party that you can join for £10 not £30. I want to make a more vibrant, energetic Ukip, not just to control immigration sensibly but build a fairer society and an electoral system that engages [people] and will give them a government and a parliament that’s representative of their views.”

The FT’s Barney Thompson adds from Margate that Nigel Farage has recommended that Suzanne Evans, the party’s deputy chairman, be the interim Ukip leader.

He denied the election had been a disaster for UKIP, saying that the party was supported by new and younger voters, many of them women.

First-past-the-post had been broken for a long time, he added. It was wrong that the
SNP had ended up with 56 seats and UKIP with only one since his party
had garnered 4m votes.

The FT’s Helen Warrell reports from Nick Clegg’s press conference:

Sombre-looking Lib Dem staffers are filing into their press conference to await a statement from leader Nick Clegg. Party grandee Paddy Ashdown has taken his seat in the front row.

Arriving at the venue, Clegg’s closest lieutenants hugged resignedly — it could not be more different from the optimism of May 2010.

Emoticon Nick Clegg has resigned as Lib Dem leader after results that were “immeasurably more crushing” than he expected.

“I always expected this election to be exceptionally difficult for the Liberal Democrats,” he says. But the results were “immeasurably more crushing and unkind that I can ever have feared”. It is “simply heartbreaking” to see so many colleagues lose their seats due to forces beyond their control.

That’s two party leaders resigning in nine minutes. Will there be more?

Clegg is sounding as beaten as you’d expect, but he defends the Lib Dems’ record in government, saying:

The history books will judge our party kindly

Britain is a “far stronger, fairer, greener and more liberal country than it was five years ago,” he adds.

Clegg says this is the “most crushing blow” to the Liberal Democrats since the party was founded.

Fear and grievance have won, liberalism has lost… But we must keep fighting for it.

He leaves to cheers, now the former leader of the Lib Dems and the former deputy prime minister.

Another former leader, Lord Steel, tells the BBC that Clegg made a “great statement”, but that the cause of liberalism has been set back “several decades”. The new leader must shift the party to the left, Lord Steel argues.

The Queen has returned to Buckingham Palace and is preparing to receive David Cameron

Toby Young has asked an interesting question:

Jonathan Guthrie, the FT”s City editor, and Matthew Vincent, deputy companies editor, discuss the business reaction to the UK election result.

The BBC’s Linda Yeoh has picked up reaction from Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, to the election result:

The FT’s Peter Spiegel has warned that Europhiles should perhaps not crow too loudly at Farage’s defeat:

The BBC is now predicting that the Tories will end up with 331 seats, which would give them a majority of 12.

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston has highlighted a BBC story – the number of women in parliament has jumped significantly.

The FT’s Helen Warrell has sent more from Clegg’s resignation press conference

Nick Clegg used his resignation as Lib Dem leader to issue a powerful warning about the forces of liberalism coming under fire from the nationalism sweeping the UK — as well as more widely in Europe. The former deputy prime minister said the UK was at a “perilous point” in its history, and said that uniting the country would be a serious challenge for the next government.

However, the real emotion in Mr Clegg’s voice broke through as he hoarsely defended his party’s record in government and said that despite this “dark hour” in Lib Dem history, his party would regroup and “win again”. Reprising the Lib Dems’ high points in the coalition — helping to reform the tax system, introducing the pupil premium and boosting apprenticeships‎ — he said he hoped he had left the country “fairer, greener and more liberal” than it had been five years ago.

As soon as his speech was over Mr Clegg swept his notes from the lectern and immediately left the press conference without taking questions. He descended the ICA’s two flights of iron-wrought spiral staircases, lined by applauding activists and staffers who were pressed to the walls ‎to allow him to pass. Their cheers echoed through the building but tears also flowed as they watched him leave.

Ed Miliband is preparing to speak and expected to resign

Emoticon Ed Miliband resigns as party leader after taking “absolute and total responsibility for this result”.

He describes the high profile Labour MPs who lost, naming Ed Balls, Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander, as “standard bearers for the party”

He thanks the “incredible team” at the Labour party and the “incredible team of activists who pounded the streets”.

Miliband says his resignation will take effect after the VE Day commemoration this afternoon.

He then praises Harriet Harman as the “best deputy leader one could have”.

He says he will now look forward to “reacquainting” himself with his wife Justine, and children.

He thanks all the people he met during the campaign.

“Thank you for the selfies, for the support and for the most unlikely cult of the 21st century – Milifandom!”

Miliband adds:

“I know labour will keep maing the case for a country that works for working people once again.”

Discussing the future of the UK in the wake of the SNP’s virtual sweep of the Scottish seats, he urges people to “rise to the challenge of keeping our country together”.

Addressing Labour’s supporters, Miliband says:

“Your responsibility is not simply to mourn our defeat but to pick yourself up. We’ve come back before and will come back again.”

On the future of the Labour party, Miliband urges the party to “maintain a culture of disagreement without being disagreeable”.

He ends on a reflective note:

“The course of progress and social justice is never simple and straightforward. When we see injustice we must tackle it.

“It’s not simply leaders who initiate change, it’s people that make change happen.”

If the bookies are right, these will be the next party leaders:

Labour: Andy Burnham or Chuka Umunna
Liberal Democrats: Tim Farron
Ukip: Suzanne Evans

Cameron is on his way to Buckingham Palace

Here’s Ed Miliband during his resignation speech:

Adam Palin of the FT’s personal finance team has assessed what the election result means for tax policy.

Despite relief from higher earners and wealthy non-domiciled residents at the prospect of a Conservative government, the well-off may not escape tax rises during the next five years, said George Bull, senior tax partner at Baker Tilly,

The prime minister’s pre-election pledges to not increase income tax tax rates, national insurance, or VAT during this parliament, “padlocks the levers” of the Treasury. However, he said.

“I can’t help feeling that the tax promises made during the campaign are going to make the chancellor’s [deficit reduction] plans difficult to deliver.”

“A fairly obvious target” for a restricted chancellor is the lifetime limit for entrepreneurs relief, said Mr Bull. The tax break, which allows business sellers to pay capital gains tax on their profits at a lower rate, has been criticised for costing the Exchequer much more than forecast.

Restrictions on capital gains tax relief on the sale of primary residences could also be introduced, Mr Bull added, either through a lifetime allowance on tax-free gains or by a limit per transaction.

Moody’s, the rating agency, has published its reaction to the election.

Marie Diron, Senior Vice President:

“If implemented, policies proposed by the Conservatives may create risks for renewable energy developers, banks, life insurers and Housing Associations. The election result reduces risks for energy retailers and bus and rail operators”

On the UK’s credit rating, UK rating – Kathrin Muehlbronner, Vice President-Senior Credit Officer, said:

“While the election result will have no impact on the UK’s rating, if the Conservative Party’s plan to hold a referendum on European Union membership results in the UK’s exit this could have consequences for the whole economy, including potentially for the sovereign rating, if the UK was unable to broadly replicate the benefits of membership.”

“The outlook for the country’s public finances has improved irrespective of the government’s composition: following several years of very subdued real GDP growth, growth accelerated significantly in 2014. We expect the economy to continue to expand at rates above 2% for the next several years, as the effects of the financial crisis fade.”

Emoticon The BBC is reporting that the Conservatives have now won 326 seats, an outright majority. With seven seats still to declare, the total is expected to rise by another five.

The FT’s John McDermott is holding a Facebook Q&A on the result.

Pls send him your questions.

Unsurprisingly, David Axelrod – the former Obama adviser hired by Labour – is coming in for some serious stick.

Axelrod himself said this week: “My operant theory about politics is you’re never as smart as you look when you’re winning and you’re never as dumb as you look when you’re losing.” Hmmm.

Andrew Mitchell, the former Conservative chief whip, tells the BBC there are two big differences between 1992, when the Tories last had a slim majority in parliament and were ripped apart over their disagreements over Europe, and mow.

1) The party has learnt the lesson of its “indiscipline” of the 1990s and its failure to talk to the country rather than just itself.

2) There is a clear plan now – to renegotiate the UK’s relations with Brussels and then hold an in-out referendum.

Matthew Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair, has written for the FT, saying the election result poses the Labour party with some big, perhaps existential, choices:

On the one hand, there is a story of reassurance and continuity. From this perspective Labour’s defeat was a result of one-off factors such as the rise of the SNP and Mr Miliband’s personal unpopularity: elect a more voter friendly leader, wait for the SNP flame to die down, watch the Tories tear themselves apart over Europe and all will be well.

On the other hand, there is a story of self-criticism and modernisation. While the ageing cadre of New Labour true believers exert little or no direct influence over today’s Labour party, this view starts from Tony Blair’s prescient electoral prediction last December: “A traditional leftwing party competes with a traditional rightwing party, with the traditional result.”

Buckingham Palace is now firmly part of the national Twitterarti:

Cameron has left Buckingham Palace

Russell Brand has resigned. No, he hasn’t because he’s “just a comedian”.

His video reaction to the results is here. He has learnt he “can’t influence the outcome of an election… The old media, the establishment is a powerful thing.”

We’re trying to work out the meaning behind Samantha Cameron’s dress, with a small patch of green on the front and a large swath of SNP yellow on the back…

Downing Street staff are now preparing a podium outside No 10 for David Cameron to give his formal reaction to the result.

Another Tory gain, reports Chris Tighe from one of the most northerly English constituencies.

The Tories have won Berwick-upon-Tweed, the seat held since 1973 for the Liberals, then the LibDems, by Sir Alan Beith.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan polled 16.603 votes, giving her a substantial majority over the 11,689 polled by Julie Porksen for the LibDems.

Cons 16,603, Lib Dem 11,689, Labour 6042, UKIP 4513, Green 1488, English Democrat 88.

The Tories’ Berwick win means they look set to have three north east MPs in the new parliament, with James Wharton having boosted his wafer thin 332, 2010, majority in Stockton South to a comfortable 5,046.

Their safest north-east seat, Hexham, where Guy Opperman is seeking relelection, is still counting.

The LibDems however have been wiped out from the region’s Westminster map, having lost Redcar and Berwick.

Harriet Harman is Labour’s acting leader – but she will not continue as deputy leader once a new leader is chosen.

A reminder – the bookies’ favourites to replace Ed Miliband are Chuka Umunna and Andy Burnham (both roughly 5/2).

David Cameron says he was called by Ed Miliband this morning – it was a “typically generous gesture” by someone who is in public service for the right reasons.

Cameron intends to form a majority government. Majority government is “more accountable” than coalition, he says.

“We will deliver that in/ out referendum on our future in Europe.”

Cameron goes for the centre ground:

We will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom.

That means “rebalancing the economy, building that northern powerhouse”.

He also promises to stay true to his word on further devolution. “In Scotland, our plan is to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world,” while also offering “fairness to England”.

His speech was short and calm – there was none of the hysteria and negativity that has sometimes marked the Conservative campaign.

The BBC’s Nick Robinson says the challenge is to live up to that rhetoric, particularly in the face of rowdy backbenchers. “Every single Tory vote counts,” Robinson says.

Sarah Gordon, business editor, has rounded up the business reaction we’ve been posting. Here’s her summary:

Amid sighs of relief from business over the election result on Friday morning there were immediate demands for bolder action to rebalance the economy and to confront the vexed question of UK membership of the EU.

Grant Shapps, Conservative party chairman, has just told the BBC he put a bet on an outright Tory majority on March 21. Drinks on him then!

He’s discussing boundary changes, reminding viewers that they come into effect in 2018 unless something is done – which is unlikely now that the Tories have an outright majority. The number of MPs will be cut by 50 to 600.

He declines to say whether the changes will benefit the Conservatives…

Peggy Hollinger, the FT’s industry editor reports that John Rishton, Rolls-Royce’s outgoing chief executive, has urged David Cameron to clarify uncertainty surrounding the promised referendum on British membership of the European Union.

The priority for the new government would be to “clear about what the question is,” he said. “To actually see what it is, when it is, and why, is the most important thing.”

His comments made on the sidelines of Rolls-Royce’s annual meeting on Friday echo calls from other industrial leaders for clarity on the forthcoming referendum amid speculation that the government could accelerate a vote on membership of the EU.

Terry Scuoler, head of the EEF manufacturers association, warned against the potential for an atmosphere of “feverish competitveness” among eurosceptics which would be damaging to industry.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, has congratulates David Cameron on his re-election:

I wish to congratulate David Cameron on his re-appointment as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom following yesterday’s elections.

The United Kingdom plays a key role in ensuring that Europe has a common sense agenda, keeping the emphasis on a competitive economy through an effective Single Market, non-intrusive regulation, openness to trade with other nations, and a confident foreign policy. Objectives which I share.

I count on the new British government making the case for the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union. In that I stand ready to help. I am deeply convinced that there is no better life outside the European Union, for any country. A better EU is in the interest not only of Britain but of every member state.

The European Union is faced with challenging times ahead. The UK’s voice counts in defining the future of Europe. I look forward to continued close cooperation with Prime Minister Cameron.

Alan Yarrow, Lord Mayor of London, said that what the City wants to see “is an agenda which makes sure the financial and professional services sector remains as internationally competitive as ever”.

“As a major engine for growth and a huge employer across the whole country – not just London – we need policies that work to our strengths and support the entire UK economy. If we want to see a dynamic, sustainable and growing economy, we need all sectors firing on all cylinders: the financial and professional services industry is critically important to this.

“A more internationally sensitive and smarter approach to regulation, policies which bring stability to businesses, a quick decision on airport capacity, power generation and a strategic approach to boosting trade and investment are among the many things the City would like to see. The Government will also need to act quickly to win the argument on our future in a reformed EU.”

Further to Donald Tusk’s statement, more European politicians and officials are wading in on the election result.

James Politi, Rome correspondent, writes that Sandro Gozi, Deputy Secretary to the Italian prime minister for European Affairs, urged Mr Cameron to offer more details on how the UK might want to change its relationship with Europe in the run-up to the probable referendum.

“He needs to say more clearly what it means to renegotiate, what policies he wants to change, and how he wants to modify the treaties” Mr Gozi said in an FT interview on Friday. “It’s up to him to explain. We have worked well with them, but the ball is in their court”

“We cannot say what concessions we can give Britain without them telling us what they are looking for”

“The European union already has different relationships – the UK has already had many opt-outs – but it’s important that no one blocks those who wants to go further [on integration]”

Pilita Clark, the FT’s environment correspondent, has analysed what the result might mean for the renewable energy industry.

The election of the first Conservative majority government in nearly 20 years on Thursday has kicked off a round of speculation about the fate of the country’s policies on green energy and global warming.

The energy and climate change department was one area in the government of the last five years where the influence of the Conservatives’ junior Liberal Democrat coalition partners was highly visible.

Under its two Lib Dem secretaries, Chris Huhne and then Ed Davey, who lost his own seat on Thursday, subsidies for the onshore wind farms that many Tory MPs oppose were kept in tact, along with a raft of support for other renewable energy projects.

An effort by the Conservative Chancellor, George Osborne, to change targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions that he feared would make the UK less competitive was rebuffed.

And Conservative Party enthusiasm for a homegrown shale gas industry was tempered by stringent drilling rules that some in the energy industry said would add millions of pounds to production costs.

So what will happen now that the Conservatives are free to govern in their own right and the Lib Dems have been reduced to a rump in Westminster?

The Tories’ manifesto says the party will keep supporting the 2008 Climate Change Act, which commits the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent in 2050 from 1990 levels.

And the Prime Minister, David Cameron, signed an unusual cross-party agreement in February with the (then) Labour and Lib Dem leaders, pledging to accelerate the shift to a low carbon economy and back efforts to seal a strong global climate change deal in Paris at the end of this year.

But the Conservative manifesto also angered wind industry executives because it promises an end to any new public subsidies for onshore wind farms and a change in the law “so that local people have the final say on windfarm applications”.

And while Labour had promised to set a legal target to remove carbon from the UK’s electricity supply by 2030, the Conservatives said they would not support “additional distorting and expensive power sector targets”.

Some Conservatives deny this heralds problems for the green energy industry.
“I think people are wrong to say there’s going to be a lurch [from green] to brown,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance research firm and a potential Conservative Party candidate for London mayor.

A lot of the party’s attitude to green policies was driven by a desire to protect itself from an expected surge in support from the UK Independence Party, he said.

“Now UKIP is in disarray,” he said, pointing to the party’s failure to achieve the political upset its followers had hoped for, despite winning more than 10 per cent of the popular vote, and the resignation of its leader, Nigel Farage, who did not win the seat he was contesting.

Still, the fate of the energy and climate change department itself is unclear, as is the name of the person who will run it.

Andrew Bounds, the FT’s northern England correspondent, assesses David Cameron namechecking the “Northern Powerhouse” in his Downing Street speech:

Why not? The Conservatives held most of their marginals in the region, and grabbed some from the Liberal Democrats. Wirral West, Dewsbury and Lancaster and Fleetwood were the main setbacks but from Labour they gained Bolton West and also the Morley & Outwood of Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, and increased majorities in key swing seats.

The Northern Powerhouse aims to detoxify the Conservatives in the north by building the infrastructure to create a coherent city region encompassing cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

Manchester has gained most with control of the £6bn health and social car budget and more than £1bn in rail and tram improvements. In return it is to have an elected mayor from 2017.

Tony Lloyd, the former Labour MP who has applied to become the interim mayor later this year, fears the north will be “squeezed” between Scotland the Tory heartlands of the Home Counties.

“We face a real challenge here in Greater Manchester, no matter what our political allegiances, to make sure our voice is heard,” he said. “ We need to ensure we aren’t squeezed out by the new pressures exerted on Whitehall by Scotland and the Home Counties as a result of the changing political landscape.”

Andrew Carter, of the Centre for Cities think tank, thinks there is political appetite for only one more city to join London and Manchester on the devolution road. He thinks the government will have four criteria:

1. Politics: a city and city-region where there are possibilities for the Conservatives to increase their share of the national vote and ultimately get more MPs.

2. Finances: a city and city-region where there is realisable potential to achieve significant efficiency savings in public service delivery through integration, innovation and co-ordination – doing more with less.

3. Risk: a city-region where if the power and money is devolved, collectively the local authorities (and other parts of the public sector) have the capacity, resources, quality control procedures, and robust decision-making systems in place to manage the risks – or in the words of one Whitehall insider ‘not to mess it up and then expect us to get them out of the hole’.

4. Economy: a city-region big enough in terms of its economy and its share of public expenditure that improvements (more growth and less spending) would have an impact that would be felt at the national level as well as the city level.

That would suggest Birmingham or Leeds is better placed than the Labour-dominated Sheffield, Newcastle and Liverpool.

William Hill, the bookmaker, has just sent us a release on the vicissitudes of its election.

One client who staked the biggest winning political bet of all time on the Scottish Referendum was licking his wounds after his £205,500 bet on a Hung Parliament in the General Election proved to be the biggest losing political bet of all time.

The customer, a man from south-west London, bet £900,000 on the result of the Scottish Referendum – making a profit of £193,000.

However, he then *staked £205,500 on a hung parliament in the general election – but lost it all.

The biggest losing bet on Labour was a £9,673 stake by a London betting shop client on Ed Miliband to become Prime Minister.

However, the company suffered a ‘six figure loss overall’- (‘probably up to £500,000 when everything is finally totted up’ said spokesman Graham Sharpe )- after taking almost £3m on the general election. ‘We took a string of bets, big and small, on an overall majority for the Tories at odds ranging from 10/11 back in 2010 ,to 10/1 on Election night and for much of the night it looked as though we would be winning those bets.’ said Sharpe, ‘But one client from Wiltshire staked £13,500 on an overall majority and collected £80,000, and another, from Devon, bet £85,000 on the Tories to win most seats and received £153,000.

There was another £20,000 from a Southgate, London client on the Tories to win the most seats at 4/11 which returned £27,272 and a £10,000 bet from a Yorkshire customer on David Cameron to remain as Prime Minister returned £20,000.’

Overall, William Hill said they estimated that ‘up to £20m was at stake on the outcome of the election industry-wide.

The political leaders are taking a breather from the post-election frenzy as the nation commemorates the 70th anniversary of VE Day with a ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

However, we are still expecting some cabinet announcements today. And there is still one constituency – St Ives in Cornwall – that has yet to declare.

Here’s a fascinating map – of the second-placed parties.

Emoticon The British Pollilng Council has set up an independent inquiry into why the final opinion polls were so inaccurate as pollsters and forecasters struggled to defend their methodology after dramatically understating the Conservative share of the vote.
Patrick Sturgis, professor of research methodology at the National Centre for Research Methods will chair the inquiry, the council said in a statement on Friday.
“The final opinion polls before the election were clearly not as accurate as we would like, and the fact that all the pollsters underestimated the Conservative lead over Labour suggests that the methods that were used should be subject to careful, independent investigation,” it said
Of the four polls released on Thursday, half had the two main parties at level-pegging while the others had them within one percentage point of each other: all pointed to a hung parliament.
In the event, the Conservatives won about 38 per cent of the total national vote share and Labour about 31 per cent.

Prime Minister David Cameron (right) stands with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (second right), Labour leader Ed Miliband (third right) and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon (second left), as they wait to lay wreaths during a Service of Remembrance to mark the 70th anniversary of VE Day, at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London.

Emoticon St Ives has just announced its result – the Conservatives have taken it from the Lib Dems. That means all 650 seats have been declared.

Here is the final seat tally:

Conservatives 331
Labour 232
SNP 56
Lib Dems 8
Sinn Fein 4
Plaid Cymru 3
Greens 1
Ukip 1
Other (Speaker) 1

This gives the Conservatives a majority of 12 but de facto 16 because the Sinn Fein MPs are not expected to take up their seats.

Has the Canadian PM got a little carried away in his reaction to the election result?

While we wait for David Cameron to announce news of the new Conservative cabinet, here is a quick reminder of the party’s electoral pledges from their manifesto:

An in-out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017, after work to negotiate a new settlement for Britain and reclaim powers from Brussels

To devolve new powers to the Scottish government in line with the Smith Commission’s recommendations, and to implement the agreed settlement for Wales. English MPs gain a veto over English-only matters.

To eliminate the budget deficit by 2018-19 by reducing government spending by 1% in real terms for the next two years, cutting £13bn of departmental spending, making £12bn of welfare cuts and raising £5bn from combating tax evasion

Keep the triple lock on the state pension, maintain all current pensioner benefits and replace pension credit with a new single tier pension

To cap elderly care costs from April 2016 so “nobody has to sell their home”

Increase the effective inheritance tax threshold for couples to £1m…

…funded by reducing tax relief on pension contributions for those earning over £150,000 a year

Commit to £100bn of infrastructure spending over the next government, including the Northern Powerhouse

Build 200,000 new starter homes for sale at a discount to first time buyers under the age of 40

To extend the right to buy to tenants of housing associations

To extend Help to Buy equity loans until 2020, and mortgage guarantees until 2017, plus introduce a Help to Buy ISA for first time buyers

Reduce the benefits cap to £23,000 per household from £26,000

Increase NHS funding and continue to ringfence the schools budget

No rise in income tax, VAT or National Insurance for the next five years

Reduce income tax for 30m people by raising the basic rate income tax threshold to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000

Keep the bank levy and restrict the banks’ abilities to offset tax against previous losses

Sell a further stake in Lloyds Bank to private investors at a 5% discount

Create 3m new apprenticeships

30 hours of free childcare for working parents of 3-4 year olds, worth up to £2,000 per child, per year

Uphold the government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid

A British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act

The FT’s chief political commentator Philip Stephens discusses how the result will affect the UK’s relations with the rest of the EU and how David Cameron will try and renegotiate the UK’s links with Brussels.

Political correspondent Kiran Stacey explains the results

Here’s the Obama statement in full:

I congratulate Prime Minister Cameron on his impressive electoral victory. The special and essential relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is rooted in deep and abiding shared interests and values. I have enjoyed working closely with Prime Minister Cameron on a range of shared interests these last several years, and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the bonds between our countries, as we work together on behalf of global peace, security and prosperity.

The FT’s deputy political editor has a sniff of what more we can expect tonight:

How do you spell “herd mentality”?

Just how inaccurate were the pollsters?

George Osborne has just gone into No 10 Downing Street – and I don’t think it’s to empty the wastepaper baskets.

Ukip has got back on to the front foot pretty quickly…

Stephen Foley, the FT’s US investment correspondent, reports that the election was topic no 1 at the SALT hedge fund conference this morning.

Larry Summers, Harvard University professor and former US Treasury secretary, said the result should be a warning to left-leaning parties campaigning on an anti-inequality platform. He said:

“There are three cautions that come from last night’s results. The first is, don’t believe pollsters. They were all wrong, a stunning thing that should affect viewpoints coming into elections in the future.

“Message two: this was a vote against internationalism, against elite cohesion. The elite cohesion of Britain was rejected in Scotland, elite cohesion in Europe was rejected in England, and the broad internationalist elite is not in fashion anywhere.

“And the third lesson is cautionary for populism that threatens aspiration. On the one hand there is a clear mandate to do something about inequality; on the other is a basic need for credibility in pursuing economic policies that will have strength in a world of globalised competition, and at the end of the day there were issues of credibility that, rightly or wrongly, dogged Labour. Be careful on populism.”

Speaking at the same conference, Julia Gillard, the former Australian prime minister, warned that the business community’s enthusiasm for a Conservative victory could soon wane.

“People like stability, but the price for that short term good news is the longer term uncertainty” around a referendum on British membership of the European Union. “This is a pretty easy world in which to sell an anti-internationalist message.”

Mr Summers said it would be a “terrible thing” if the UK leaves the EU, since the union would lose a counterweight to Germany and Britain would lose its voice in the world.

“Britain will be an island nation in the purest sense and very much on its own if it leaves Europe. It will mark the end of a several hundred year chapter in history when Britain’s opinion loomed large on the world stage.”

John Gapper, the FT’s chief business commentator, has stirred the Labour-Miliband pot:

Cameron has, sort of, confirmed Beth Rigby’s tweet.

Theresa May has also walked up Downing St and into No 10. Will she stay at the Home Office?

Geoirge Osborne has got a promotion of sorts

If you’re wondering just how excited Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, is at Cameron’s election victory, take a second (won’t need much more than that) to read his message of congratulation to the PM:

Theresa May stays where she was – Home Secretary.

Former Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod, who was hired by Labour to help win the election, appears to be passing the buck for his client’s loss.

And Philip Hammond is going to continue to clock up the air miles:

While we wait for the rest of the Cabinet, here’s a quiz to pass the time. What should one call a reshuffle where no one’s been reshuffled?

Here’s Michael Hunter’s report on the reaction of the London markets to the election result.

Investors cheered the result of a Conservative UK government, pushing sterling, share and bond prices firmly higher, with the FTSE 250 equity index of domestic focused companies climbing to a record peak.

Unexpected gains for the Conservatives allayed pre-election market jitters, sparking a solid rebound in asset prices with the pound experiencing its largest one-day rise in five years against the dollar. Investors were for now playing down the challenge facing a new government about the role of the UK in Europe and the rise of the Scottish National party.

“The odds were stacked against such a decisive outcome,” said Bill O’Neill, head of the UK investment office at UBS Wealth Management. “This result is far less complicated than the market’s worst fears.”

By the close of tade in London, the FTSE 100 was 160 points, or 2.3 per cent, higher at 7,046.82, led by utilities and financial stocks — sectors considered vulnerable to increased regulatory scrutiny and a higher tax burden under a Labour government.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 set a cracking pace. The index, mainly comprising domestic-orientated companies, rose to a record high of 18,161.18, before closing 2.8 per cent higher at 17,935.93.

Among notable FTSE 100 gainers, Centrica, the owner of British Gas and one of the UK’s main energy providers, gained 8.1 per cent to 278.2p. SSE was up 5.3 per cent at £16.47.

Lloyds Banking Group rose 5.7 per cent to 86.9p, while Royal Bank of Scotland gained 6.1 per cent to 352.4p.

Persimmon led a broad rally for housebuilders as policies to encourage access to the housing market looked secure. Shares in the UK’s biggest residential developer rose 5.6 per cent to £17.45.

Volumes were also unusually high. Nearly €4.2bn worth of FTSE 100 stocks were traded in the first two hours of Friday morning, according to data provided by BATS Chi-X Europe, the stock exchange.

And for the full house of non-shuffled ministers:

Sky has produced a neat graph on the election turnout

The rest of the Cabinet is expected to be announced on Monday

After 20 and a half hours of blogging, we’re going to shut up shop.

It’s been a momentous day in British politics. While the SNP’s surge was widely expected, few people predicted the Tories would secure an outright majority or that the Lib Dems would suffer such humiliation.

Thank you for reading and commenting. For continued election coverage go to