Election Predicton: GENERAL ELECTION 2010
A Hung Parliament. Conservative Party short of an overall majority by 20 seats.
Final Seats Prediction
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS 86
Conservatives with the most votes and the most seats.
Share of the vote: CON 35 LAB 29 LIB DEMS 28
Ministers to lose seats: Phil Woolas, Jacqui Smith (ex-Minister, but this is the closest we'll get to a Portillo moment), Gillian Merron, Phil Hope, Jim Fitzpatrick.
Nick Brown only Cabinet Minister to lose his seat. Ed Balls to hold his seat.
Gordon Brown to concede defeat around 11am on Friday.
Tories to gain 2 seats in Scotland.
For the Conservatives, there will be huge relief at having secured a return to government for the first time in 13 years. There will, though, be increasing disappointment at their failure to secure an overall majority. 20 seats short, they will not be able to rely on the Ulster Unionists to get all of their business through; they will need to rely on other deals with the Liberal Democrats to get things done. They are unlikely to want to, or seek agreement for, any coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats. Minority government will not be easy for them. With a rookie team and an unpleasant menu of cuts - a second election in a year or so is likely.
For Labour, this result will be seen as a huge let off. Brown will quickly set out a timetable for his departure; he may lead Labour for a short time to avoid Harriet Harman building a power base for a leadership bid. Miliband will quickly declare his interest in the leadership - for him, the chance to oppose a minority Tory government, with a front-bench of competent former Ministers and, finally, rid of Gordon Brown. Labour will quickly want to pin the defeat on Brown and swiftly move on. Labour without Brown will soon seem a very different, re-energised beast. It will supplant Clegg as the new kids on the block.
The Liberal Democrats will be closer to power tomorrow morning that at any time since the Lib-Lab pact. My hunch is that there is no natural alliance between the Lib Dems and the Tories, and that there will be no deal on Friday or over the weekend. But if they fail to "break the mould", they may reasonably judge that a couple of places at the Cabinet table and being seen to make a difference; to keep Cameron's Conservatives in check from within and be tested with real power may be worth more than slavishly chasing electoral reform. If the election campaign has done anything for the Lib Dems it must make them realise they can do more than chirp from the sidelines. They have increased their vote election after election and gained impressive support across the country - north, south, urban, rural, Scotland, England. If the Lib Dem goal is ultimately to secure genuine three party politics; as a party unlikely to secure a majority of its own for decades (if indeed they ever could), being seen as constructive and serious players in government could be an offer too good to refuse. I am increasingly convinced that they should swallow their pride and take a constructive role in government. They grew up during this campaign - and government is what the grown-ups do.
Whatever happens - we're in for an historic night.