Election

So after a long night which rewarded those like me who stuck with it all the way through by delivering almost exactly the result predicted by the exit polls at 10pm, we now know that Nick Clegg will give David Cameron the first shot at forming a government.

Clegg’s decision to all but offer the keys to Number 10 to David Cameron is very interesting indeed. The Liberal Democrat leader must be bitterly disappointed this morning – in the end it was almost as if the debates that projected him to the electoral stratosphere never happened. He woke up and it was all a dream, which made it far harder for him to swagger around playing kingmaker. However, the decision effectively to cut Gordon Brown off at the knees so early is a surprising tactical move. Read more

Helen Warrell

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Helen Warrell, who has helped steer the FT’s online election coveage, will man this blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of the unfolding result.

12.05: As the clock has struck noon, we are going to take a 10-minute rest. In the meantime, Robert Shrimsley, writer of the armchair election, has written a post, which will appear above very shortly.  We will be back soon…

11.59 HW: An ongoing tussle on electoral reform as both major parties continue to woo the Lib Dems: Charlie Whelan, former press secretary to Gordon Brown, says he is “sure” that Labour will offer the Lib Dems proportional representation as an incentive to form a Lib-Lab coalition. Meanwhile Conservative sources tell the BBC that Cameron “hasn’t ruled out” the possibility of some sort of electoral reform.

11.51: Jim’s headline of the day goes to The Sun: “Right Wing Brings Down Ukip”. Let’s hope Nigel Farrage is enjoying the joke as much as everyone else… Read more

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Kiran Stacey, a fellow political hack, and Helen Warrell, who has helped co-ordinate the FT’s online and multimedia election coverage, will man this live blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of election night here.

The page should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer for those reading on a mobile.

1.58 KS: We’re about to shut this particular post down and open a new one, so sorry to make you navigate away. But stay with us and follow the story in the next post: The view from 2am.

1.57 KS: More bad news for the Lib Dems. They lost ground in Newbury, which the Tories took from them in 2005. Perhaps the message of “Vote Clegg, get Brown” was successful.

1.52 KS: 57 seats done, with an average swing of 3.3% from Labour to the Tories. But this number is warped by much figures from Scotland and Northern Ireland, says the BBC.

1.51 KS: Ed Miliband equivocal to say the least about Gordon Brown’s position. When asked by Paxman “It’s Brown or bust is it?” he replies, “I wouldn’t quite put it that way.” Read more

Will I be up for Balls? – Gideon Rachman in The FT
The last Brown and Cameron battle could be yet to come – The Guardian
General election 2010 is shaping up to be a good vintage – The Guardian
Labour voters return as doubts grow over Clegg – The Times
New parliament will be least experienced in decades – The Telegraph
The White House dreads a Hung Parliament - The Telegraph
Will the golden rule survive the night? – Mike Smithson on Political Betting

From an email doing the rounds in the City of London on Thursday morning:

Westminster will never be the same again – Philip Stephens
Don’t let Downing Street call the shots, ma’am – Eamonn Butler for the FT
Battles on the path to power – The FT
The Final Projection: Tories 19 seats short of a majority – Politics Home
Could the Conservatives steal this election? – Martin Kettle for the Guardian
Big increase in postal voting could mean delayed result – The Guardian
Treasury starts work on £6 billion Conservative cutbacks – The Times
Unsure how to vote? My contortions may help - David Aaronovitch for the Times
A reminder of the price we pay for political freedom – Benedict Brogan for the Telegraph
As Britain goes to polls, economic clouds hover – New York Times

Follow every twist and turn on our live election special, running through the night and into Friday. The Westminster Blog team will track key marginal results and the latest news from FT correspondents at election counts around the country as the nation heads to the polls.

London: the key seats – The Guardian
EU warns on UK deficit – Politics Home
Lib Dems squezed on both sides – The Times
Nerd wars over the result – Chris Giles for FT Money Supply
He has his faults, but my God you have to admire GB depth and resilience – Alastair Campbell
Gordon’s fighting talk - Jon Craig on Sky
Labour jittery in Scotland - The Guardian
Why isn’t Dave 15 points ahead? - Norman Tebbit in The Telegraph

Political scientist Dr Tim Bale of Sussex University says voters aren’t as scared of a hung parliament as the Tories would like, but also warns that Labour’s hopes of a swell in underlying support on election day are likely to be dashed. He goes on to examine poll reliability, the weather’s effect on turnover, and makes his own prediction

Cuts won’t trigger social unrest – George Osborne, FT
Which pledge will Cameron break first? - Gideon Rachman, FT
Brown’s legacy: no more Labour majorities – Donald Macintyre, The Independent
Honest Nick and his Lib Dem stardust – Jonathan Freedland, Guardian
Cameron in danger of pulling Queen into politics – The Guardian
Even though there are no constitutional rules – Ruth Fox, The Guardian
How has your region changed since 2005? - Political Betting
Agent Ashdown’s dead letter drop – Paul Waugh

Labour’s possible defeat fills European Left’s cup of woe – Tony Barber in The FT
Brown ponders post-defeat exit – The FT
Tories fear tax credit threat - Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph
Election leaflets: The best and worse revealed – The Guardian
Brown’s barnstorming speech: What took him so long? – Jonathan Freedland
The Ulster effect – James Forsyth on Specator Coffee House

Our expert election panel will meet for the final time on Friday afternoon for a video election debriefing. See the full list in the UK election podcast archive.

If coming third in the polls and a seemingly collapsing campaign strategy wasn’t causing enough stress within the Labour party, a Labour parliamentary candidate from North west Norfolk has called Gordon Brown “the worst prime minister we have had in this country”.

According to the Lynn News newspaper, Manish Sood, who is contesting a Tory-held seat, said: “I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country … It is a disgrace and he owes an apology to the people and the Queen.” Read more