Conservative Diary

Hung parliament

8 May 2010 21:31:56

58% of voters want Cameron to rule on his own

Screen shot 2010-05-08 at 21.29.23The poll was taken by BPIX for the Mail on Sunday.

Tim Montgomerie

Sunday morning update:

The Sunday Times carries a YouGov poll which suggests that just 28% of people want Gordon Brown to remain as Prime Minster:

"The YouGov survey, carried out on Friday and yesterday in the wake of Labour’s election slump, shows a big majority calling for the prime minister to make way for David Cameron. By more than two to one, 62% to 28%, the poll of more than 1,400 voters shows that people think Brown should have conceded defeat on Friday, rather than hanging on in case the Conservatives cannot strike a deal with the Liberal Democrats.

"Voters are also clear that the new government should be led by the Tories, rather than be a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. By 48% to 31%, they say the government should either be a Conservative minority administration or a Cameron-led coalition."

Jonathan Isaby

8 May 2010 14:31:31

ConservativeHome, the election campaign, David Cameron and the current situation

It's decision time for David Cameron, as well as Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown.  The indecisive election result and the events that have followed it also mark an important moment for ConservativeHome.

We're a conservative site, but also an independent one.  It's integral to our mission to be free of control by CCHQ, and to be ourselves.  We've tried during the long election campaign to honour both our desire to see David Cameron in Downing Street, so that Britain gets a Conservative Government, and our responsibility to readers to give them the service they want.  We hope we succeeded.

At any rate, we intend to carry on, with Cameron perhaps on the doorstep of Downing Street, as we've started. For example, it was important to write this morning that he needs to give building internal coalitions with Party members that same priority as building external coalitions with others.

Furthermore, each of us is his own individual voice, and part of the beauty of the internet is that a site like ConservativeHome isn't an army, with contributors drilled to parrot out a line.  It's what it says it is: a home, where members of the family converse. As Editors we'll sometimes disagree with each other on these pages.

But even the most relaxed homes have boundaries, however rough and ready.  One of ours is that, during the next few days, we want to help ensure that Cameron crosses that Downing Street threshold.

Paul Goodman, Jonathan Isaby and Tim Montgomerie, Editors

7 May 2010 16:20:00

Cameron moves to stop Mandelson - and govern Britain

I wrote very recently an analysis of David Cameron's three options for dealing with the Liberal Democrats given a hung Parliament here.

Option one was to offer Clegg a formal coalition and PR.

Option two was to govern alone if necessary, but to say -

"I'm more than willing to reach an accommodation with the Liberal Democrats in the national interest. I'm open to any ideas and suggestions he puts forward.  I'm willing to make sacrifices and compromises if necessary.  I've always said that I'm a liberal Conservative, and I'm offering him the chance to join me in a change coalition.  I am of course willing to govern alone if necessary but, Nick, my door is open."

Option three was to offer Clegg option two - but, in addition, a referendum on PR.

In the wake of Cameron's statement, some MPs and members will worry that Cameron's opted for option one. I believe that he's opted for option two.  My reasoning's as follows -

* Cameron didn't offer a coalition, formal or otherwise.  He offered "confidence and supply" or "stronger and more collaborative government".  The first isn't coalition - since coalition means Cabinet seats - though the second could be. Clegg will be wary of these: they mean becoming entangled in a Tory Government. Cameron will be cautious, too, because Liberal Democrat Ministers could mean a Shadow Cabinet revolt or a leadership challenge.  It's in the interests of both leaders' to cook up a fudge.

Continue reading "Cameron moves to stop Mandelson - and govern Britain" »

7 May 2010 15:40:56

Areas where co-operation between Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is easy, possible, improbable and difficult

This blog examines the areas of policies where co-operation is (a) Relatively Easy; (b) Possible (c) Improbable and (d) Difficult.

But, before getting into the detail, some big picture observations:
1) Although the detail of the manifesto commitments are important, the gap between the leaderships of the parties is much smaller than the MPs and members. Most LibDem MPs are to the left of Clegg and most Tory MPs are to the right of Cameron. Both leaders will have limited wiggle room on agreeing anything other than short-term co-operation.

2) The LibDem manifesto's populist tilt at the nation's wealth creators is deeply embedded, and a serious potential obstacle to an understanding.

3) When policy touches on the environment, the poor, local freedom - the two parties tend to be closer. On the economy and public services, they could strike a short-term bargain. But when policy engages primal emotions - sovereignty, defence, national identity, Britain's place in the world - the parties gaze in different directions although might agree to maintain the staus quo.

4) If there is to be any agreement, it's much easier to see a time-limited understanding between them in a hung Parliament - if that - than a formal coalition government.
Areas in which a Conservative-LibDem understanding looks relatively easy to reach
Climate change, energy security, the environment and farming

Nuclear power remains a potential stumbling block - the Conservatives are for (though without public subsidy), the LibDems against.  But otherwise the two parties paths tend to converge.  Both are set on a global climate change deal, reducing emissions, greater energy efficiency, creating green jobs, encouraging renewables, raising home insulation, more offshore provision, carbon capture, more local energy production, and supermarket regulation. The Conservative accent is on energy security and a greener national grid; the LibDems on climate change and a European dimension (the party wants a European "supergrid"), but their views are compatible.  Cameron's shift to green politics - which has upset a large number of his own MPs and candidates - could pay dividends in a hung Parliament.

Both parties, unlike Labour, oppose a third runway at Heathrow, are against second runways at other major airports, want to replace air passenger duty, support network rail being more accountable to its customers, and would scrap the backdated ports' business rates demand.  The Conservatives would view the LibDems as too pro-rail rail (the party wants to cut fares), and the LibDems would view the Tories as too pro-road (they would question the Conservatives' proposed fair fuel stabiliser, and their plan not to fund new speed cameras.  The parties also differ on road pricing - the LibDem manifesto wording implies a national scheme, which the Conservatives oppose).  But on the big ticket items, the two parties are close - another product of the Tory leadership's greenery.

Continue reading "Areas where co-operation between Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats is easy, possible, improbable and difficult" »

7 May 2010 14:26:13

David Cameron makes a "comprehensive offer" to the Liberal Democrats

Due at 2.30pm. Highlights, not verbatim.

Screen shot 2010-05-07 at 14.40.53 David Cameron says the Tories won more votes than Labour at the last General Election when they won a majority.

We can be proud of the result. We won more new seats than Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Despite the advance we have to accept that we have fallen short of a majority.

Britain is at war in Afghanistan. We are facing a serious economic situation because of the dangerous debts. We need a government that will deal with these urgent problems and that will avoid political point-scoring and grand-standing.

I thank Nick Clegg for recognising that the Tories won most new seats and I will now talk to the Liberal Democrats about delivering the kind of government Britain needs.

I offer reassurances to the Liberal Democrats so that they support a minority Conservative government but I am also willing to discuss other possibilities.

There are some non-negotiables. No government can give more powers to Europe. We must be strong on immigration. It is reasonable that the bulk of the Tory manifesto is implemented.

But in some areas there must be compromise. Conservatives have ideas for electoral reform although they are not the same as the Liberal Democrats' ideas. But coooperation will allow the Liberal Democrats to implement part of their manifesto.

The Conservative Party has always put the national interest first and that is what we will do now.

Tim Montgomerie

7 May 2010 11:38:37

There will be a majority in this House of Commons in favour of First Past The Post

In his statement  outside Lib Dem HQ Nick Clegg again talked in terms of wanting to see Britain's broken political system fixed, in reference to his demand for electoral reform.

What he would do well to remember is this: that of the expected 306 Conservative MPs in the new House of Commons I am aware of only one who favours electoral reform (Douglas Carswell).

But more importantly, there is a significant minority of Labour MPs who also support the retention of First Past The Post - many of whom are from Scotland or the urban North of England.

If it came to a vote on the floor of the House of Commons, I reckon that retention of First Past the Post would win the day.

Jonathan Isaby

7 May 2010 11:13:36

Clegg hands Cameron to keys to Number 10

That's what the lobby's tweeting about Clegg's remarkable statement - made a few moments ago outside Liberal Democrat HQ in Downing Street.

Clegg reaffirmed his commitment to let the Party with most votes and seats have first go at forming a government.  He specifically named the Conservatives, and went further than before by emphasising that Cameron should, if necessary, be allowed to go it alone.

It's hard to see where Mandelson's schemes, and Blairite hopes of a quick realignment of the left, go from here.  True, Clegg reaffirmed his commitment to PR.  But he didn't demand a referendum - and threaten to bring Cameron down if he didn't get it.

It's extraordinary that Clegg's moved so swiftly.  Whatever happened to the fabled "triple lock" that would apparently bind his hands?  What does his Parliamentary Party think?  Then again, it's extraordinary that Clegg gave a commitment in relation to votes, seats and government in the first place.

It's difficult not to conclude that those who argued that Clegg can't abide Brown were right - and to see his commitment as a way of heading Labour off.  Of course, Clegg's bound to pounce on a Conservative Government in his own time. He may well be able to bring it down when he chooses.

But as I write, it looks as though there's room for an understanding on an emergency budget at least.  Those who doubt it should study the overlapping manifesto commitments from the two parties on where cuts should fall.

Sure, Clegg's in a poor position after last night.  He's little room for manoeuvre. And he's offering Cameron tense co-habitation, not a settled marriage. But David Cameron would be wise to be very gracious to Clegg when he speaks later.

After all, the latter looks to have put him in Downing Street by the end of the day. And to have thrust a spanner into Mandelson's dreams of realignment.  And, let's face it, to have acted in the national interest. Credit should be given when credit is due.

Paul Goodman

7 May 2010 10:33:38

Labour has lost the authority to govern

ConservativeHomeEditorial There are three key points the morning after the night after election day - as we move towards the final counts.

1. Labour has lost the authority to govern - not just Brown, that is, but his Party as a whole.  It's set to lose roughly 100 seats - and its vote share has slumped to its lowest levels since the days of Michael Foot. Brown has shrunk the mighty New Labour coalition to a shrivelled rump, trapped in its northern and urban heartlands. Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary, is out.  So's Vera Baird, the Attorney General.  So are a swathe of middle-ranking Ministers.  Mandelson's plot to do a PR deal with the Liberal Democrats - replacing Brown with Miliband in the process if necessary - is a desperate ploy to cling to power.

2. The Liberal Democrats have no mandate to prop Labour up.  Clegg himself has admitted that the results were "disappointing" for his party.  This is code for "humiliating".  As we write, the Lib Dems have suffered a net loss of seats.  Romsey, Cornwall South-East, Truro and Falmouth, Camborne and Redruth, Harrogate and Knaresborough - all have turned blue.  The frenzy of excitement ignited by Clegg's performance in the first TV election debate is, this morning, a distant and ironic memory.  Furthermore, the Lib Dem leader said during the campaign that the Party with most votes and seats should get the first chance to form a government.

3. David Cameron has the legitimacy to go it alone.  For Conservatives, there's no hiding disappointment that we're not over the winning line.  Nonetheless, the Party's made impressive if erratic gains, driving deep into Labour and Lib Dem territory.  David Cameron is fairly and squarely first both in seats and votes.  He's therefore won the right to demand that Clegg keeps his word.  If Clegg doesn't, Cameron's in a position to say that he's ready to go it alone; and to ask whether, with the pound at risk of sliding and the Greek contagion at risk of spreading, the Lib Dems will dare vote him down - and plunge Britain into the chaos of second election.

Paul Goodman and Jonathan Isaby

7 May 2010 09:41:41

Rolling blog on developments during Friday 7th May 2010

Developments during the course of today will be recorded here.

As at 9.45am, Gordon Brown remains in Downing Street (asleep), David Caremon is at CCHQ and Nick Clegg is preparing to make a statement at 10.30am.

10.10am Con gain Thurrock - Congratulations to Jackie Doyle-Price.

10.18am BBC report that Downing Street will issue a statement from Brown shortly on what happens next.

10.25am The statement from Downing Street has emerged. It says the Cabinet Secretary has been given the necessary authorisation for civil servants to attach themselves to political parties with a view to negotiations for forming a government.

10.35am Channel 4' Gary Gibbon writes: "There are lines of communication open to the Liberal Democrats from the Tories… I understand that Oliver Letwin and Ed Llewellyn are the conduits."

Picture 6 10.40am Nick Clegg arrives at Lib Dem HQ to be welcomed by a mass of media interest. He says last night was a disappointment but says his party got more votes than ever before. He says he still wants "real change" and that we are in a fluid situation. It's vital all leaders act in the national interest. He repeats that the party with most votes and most seats has the right to try and form a government and that party is the Conservaitve Party. It is for them to prove they are capable of governing in the national interest. But he will continue to argue for real reforms "to fix the broken political system".

10.50am ConHome sources suggest Jim Fitzpatrick has held Poplar and Limehouse for Labour and that Labour's Rushanara Ali will gain Bethnal Green and Bow from Respect.

11.15am David Cameron will make a statement at 2.30pm outlining how he would seek to form "a Government that is strong and stable with broad support, that acts in the national interest.form a strong and stable government".

11.45am BBC reporting that Brown would not talk to anyone until all seat results are in.

11.50am Andrew Neil on the BBC says that some senior Tories are considering going public in voicing criticism about how the campaign was handled and to make it clear that they would not countenance voting reform as part of a deal with the Lib Dems.

Noon A senior shadow cabinet source posits the view to ConHome that a referendum on PR is "undeliverable" since very few Conservative MPs would be willing to vote for it in the Commons.

12.10pm BBC reporting that Tories in Norwich North looking confident that Chloe Smith will be returned, although in Cheltenham the Lib Dems may have held on.

12.25pm ConHome sources suggest Lib Dems have held Berwick-upon-Tweed with a "massively reduced" majority.

12.27pm Conservatives gain Warwick and Leamington from Labour - Congratulations to Chris White.

12.50pm Anne-Marie Trevelayan fails to win Berwick-upon-Tweed, but reduces Alan Beith's Lib Dem majority from over 8,500 to a touch over 2,500.

1pm Three safe Tory seats have returned sitting MPs to the Commons over the last couple of hours: Jeremy Wright in Kenilworth and Southam, Sir Alan Haselhurst in Saffron Walden, and James Arbuthnot in Hampshire North East.

1.05pm Chloe Smith retains by-election gain of Norwich North with a majority of nearly 4,000- Congratulations!


1.38pm Reports claim that Brown will suggest that a new Labour leader would offer the Liberals a deal on PR - but that he won't announce his resignation.

Picture 10 1.50pm Brown has just made a statement on the steps of Downing Street, where he effectively said  "I'm still Prime Minister, and the business of government is ongoing." On the important matter at hand, he said (not verbatim):

I respect the position of Mr Clegg. We already have mechanisms in place for talks between parties. Cameron and Clegg  should take as much time as they feel necessary for talks. I would be happy to meet any of the party leaders and would be prepared to meet for discussions with Clegg if his discussions are not successful with Cameron. Any discussion with Clegg would focus on two key areas of common ground: financial stability and the need for political reform, including changing the voting system. Immediate legislation on this is needed. A fairer voting system is central and there is a need for a referendum on the system. We also need strong and stable government. The outcome has been delivered by the electorate - we must make it work for the national good.

1.58pm Latest results in:

  • John Bercow holds Buckingham and Nigel Farage comes third, after John Stevens in second place.
  • Julian Smith holds Skipton and Ripon for the Conservatives, Guy Opperman holds Hexham, Jonathan Djanogly holds Huntingdon and Keith Simpson holds the newly drawn Broadland seat.
  • Labour hold Copeland and Lib Dems hold Argyll and Bute

2.05pm Very sad to see Lib Dems retaining Cheltenham. Mark Coote would have been a superb MP for his home town.

2.20pm Lib Dems hold Westmorland and Lonsdale.

Jonathan Isaby

6 May 2010 21:16:00

Rolling blog of all election developments

Click here for the major developments blog. Click here for news of how we are doing in target seats.

8.29am: Poor Chris Philip. Glenda Jackson beat him by just 42 votes after a recount. Angie Bray wins Ealing C and Acton on a 5% swing.

8am: We are now into a full blooded attempt by senior Labour politicians to build a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Peter Mandelson has told the BBC that Brown going was one of "a number of permutations".

7.16am The Tories have gained two, possibly three, seats in Cornwall but the LibDems have kept Solihull.

6.46am Conservatives have gained Camborne & Redruth from LDs (George Eustice) but have lost Wells to LDs (David Heathcoat Amory).

6.15am Eric Pickles: "Well given that Labour has just suffered an historic defeat in terms of the number of seats that it lost…I think really it’s time to go for Gordon Brown, no one every elected him, no one wanted him and that nation hasn’t taken to him."

6.09am: BBC forecasting Con 37%, Lab 30%, LD 23%, Others 10%.

6.01am: Sky forecast: Con 309, Lab 259, LD 54, Others 28.

5.55am Two Green MPs elected. Brighton Pavilion elect Caroline Lucas. Richmond Park elects Zac Goldsmith. Many congrats to Zac. He won easily with a majority of over 4,000.

5.29am: So sorry for Shaun Bailey not winning Hammersmith. The Tories have underperformed in London. Two of Project Cameron's most compassionate individuals - Shaun and Philippa Stroud won't be in the Commons.

5.14am: ConservativeHome no longer believes a Tory majority is possible. ConHome sources are talking of 310 seats.

5.03am On BBCTV Lord Ashcroft blames Tory agreement to debates for likely failure to win majority.

4.58am: Tories do not take Westminster North. The Association was badly divided by the whole Joanne Cash affair.

4.55am The 51 Tory gains so far.

4.40am Tories win Dewsbury. LibDems hold Chippenham and Sutton & Cheam.

4.36am Jacqui Smith loses Redditch to Karen Lumley on 9.2% swing.

4.22am The best result of the evening so far. The secular priest Evan Harris has lost Oxford West. There is a God.

4.17am Conservatives gain Stroud and Dudley South.

4.06am Mark Garnier has won Wyre Forest from the independent MP, Dr Richard Taylor. Over at Seats and candidates Jonathan Isaby is recording all Tory gains.

3.58am: Conservatives gain Stockton South.

3.51am: David Mundell keeps his seat. No Scottish wipeout.

3.48am: Tories gain Carlisle, Carmarthen West from Labour and Romsey from LibDems.

3.39am: A list of the 26 Tory gains so far.

3.32am: Conservatives gain Dartford and Bedford from Labour.

3.24am: Conservatives make another gain from the Liberal Democrats. Newton Abbott.

3.16am: Robert Halfon has won Harlow. Wonderful. He's given everything over three elections.

3.09am Iain Martin: "Labour is doing brilliantly in Scotland in this election. It is turning into a car crash for the Tories. If the Conservatives were breaking through north of the border then they would have come closer in Stirling -- but there was a 3.5% swing to Labour. And what about Renfrewshire East? It seems that Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy -- who had been fearing defeat -- has thumped his Tory opponent and ended up with a 10,420 majority. These developments have huge significance if David Cameron is headed for Number 10. It will be said he has zero legitimacy in Scotland and the campaign for more powers for the Scottish parliament will restart within hours. On top of the economic crisis, you can add a crisis in the Union to the list of problems facing Cameron if he is PM."

3.06am: Charlie Elphicke gains Dover - suggesting clean sweep of all Kent seats for Conservative Party.

3.03am: David Cameron at his count: "I believe it is already clear that the Labour government has lost its mandate to govern our country." He claims Tories have largest number of gains for eighty years.

2.47am: Tories lose Eastbourne to LibDems but gain Harrogate.

2.39am: Great results for Douglas Carswell and Adam Holloway. Douglas got a 17% swing. Adam an 18% swing. Wow.

2.24am: Lembit Opik loses Montgomeryshire to Conservatives on 13.2% swing. Surprise and very welcome pick up.

2.19am: Tories hold Eastbourne - against expectations. The LibDems are not breaking through.

2.15am: Tories hold Crewe and Nantwich.

2.15am: Oliver Letwin beats off LibDem challenge in West Dorset.

2.15am: Tories gain Aberconwy on 7.6% swing.

2.09am: Zac Goldsmith looks set to win Richmond Park.

2am: Big congratulations to Richard Benyon. 7% swing from LibDems to Conservative.

1.56am: Tories gain Loughborough. Congratulations to Nicky Morgan.

1.52am: Failing to win Telford, Tooting and Gedling is worrying for the Tory chances of winning a majority.

1.46am: Reg Empey, leader of the UUP - Conservative alliance falls 1,400 short in South Antrim.

1.42am: Tories hold the super-marginal seat of Guildford from the Liberal Democrats (unconfirmed).

1.40am: David Dimbleby described Gordon Brown's speech as valedictory. Nonsense. It sounded like he has no intention of giving up. He wants a LibLab coalition.

1.36am As expected, the Conservatives have gained Battersea.

1.30am ConHome's sources now suggesting Labour have just held on in Tooting.

1.15am Swing of 9.9% in Putney suggests Tories on course to gain neighbouring Battersea and Tooting

1.09am Paddy Ashdown says exit poll is rubbish; he's expecting Tory majority.

1.05am: First Tory gain of night. Chris Skidmore is new Tory MP for Kingswood on a 9.4% swing.

12.58am Swing of 4.3% LD to Con in Lib Dem stronghold of Thornbury and Yate; Swing of 9.1% Lab to Con in what used to be Alan Milburn's seat of Darlington .

12.53am ConHome sources say that things are "not looking good in Somerset", while in Blackpool we are edging ahead in Blackpool North and Cleveleys and things are neck and neck in the more difficult Blackpool South.

12.50am: On a 22.9% swing Peter Robinson, DUP leader, has lost his seat. If the Conservatives need Northern Irish MPs this will make things more difficult.

12.38am The first sign of internal Labour trouble: Kate Hoey @ WSJ Party: if the results are as they look tonight, Gordon will go very, very quickly

12.32am Nick Robinson, BBC Political Editor, says Tory campaign "failed utterly to take off".

12.30am BBC saying Greens confident about electing Caroline Lucas as their party's first MP.

11.51pm Paul Goodman tweets: "Turnout climbs. Voters queue at polling stations. Some are turned away after ten o'clock - whatever happened to disillusion with politics?"

11.43pm: 4.8% swing to the Tories in Sunderland Central. The Tories had hoped they might pick this one up but it was always a tall order.

11.35pm: VERY loyal from Benedict Brogan: "Let’s applaud what David Cameron has delivered even on this measurement: a 5.5pc swing is bigger than what the Tories achieved in 1951, 1970, or 1979. It appears to be the biggest gain of seats since 1931 (and for Labour the biggest loss of seats since 1931)."

11.30pm: Second swing of night is 11.6% to Tories in Washington and Sunderland West.

11.15pm: A good source tells us that there is a strong LibDem challenge to the Conservatives in Totnes. Currently neck-and-neck in the seat where the Tories held a ground-breaking open primary ballot.

11pm: From Jonathan Isaby: The Press Association has estimated declaration times for every seat in the country. Here are some seats expected to declare in the first couple of hours (11pm-1am) which will give us indications of how the Conservatives are doing in different kinds of seats :

  • Very early declaration expected new Sunderland Central constituency, where Tory candidate Lee Martin needs a swing of 12.8% to take the seat. Will be an important indicator of how the Conservatives have performed in the north of England and – perhaps even more importantly – whether or not the third-placed Liberal Democrats have made inroads into Labour’s core vote.
  • Birmingham Edgbaston could be the first “must win” Tory target to declare a result, where former minister Gisela Stuart will lose the seat on a swing of just 2% to Conservative challenger, Deirdre Alden.
  • Basildon South and Thurrock East will be regained on a swing of barely 1% - but the scale of the likely victory there will be studied to ascertain how the party will fare in the string of crucial marginals elsewhere in Essex and north Kent.
  • Look out for early results from Wandsworth. Putney will see Justine Greening retain her seat and an easy gain is expected in Battersea for Jane Ellison. Most important there is Tooting, where Tory challenger Mark Clarke must oust transport minister Sadiq Khan (on a 6% swing) if David Cameron is to secure a working Commons majority.
  • There are lots of marginals in West Yorkshire, of which the first to declare are expected to be (Labour-held) Leeds North East and (Lib Dem-held) Leeds North West, where Tory gains or close-run contests will be required if the party can be confident of easier gains elsewhere in the county.
  • If the Conservatives struggle against the Lib Dems, we'll need to go further down the list of vulnerable Labour seats, so would need to be attaining the required swing of 7.5% to gain Labour seats like Telford and Vale of Clwyd.
  • Torbay is 57th on the national Tory target list and will be an early indicator of how things are going in Lib-Con marginals. Second-time candidate Marcus Wood will oust the incumbent Lib Dem MP on a swing of 3%.
  • As for how the party is doing in defending seats against the Lib Dems, look out for the result in New Forest East where Julian Lewis will retain the seat, but any reduction in his margin of victory will be a worry for other Tories facing a Lib Dem threat.

10.55pm: First swing of night equals 8.4%, we need a little over 7% nationally. Encouraging.

10.51pm: The NewStatesman tweets: "Kinnock on ITV News: "today should be last day of FPTP". After Johnson and Mandelson, concerted Lab effort to talk up electoral reform."

10.45pm: An important finding from YouGov if there is a hung parliament;

443810.41pm: Theresa May is Tory spokesman on the BBC; confirming CCHQ's high view of her.

10.40pm: Arnie Schwarzenegger calls DC to congratulate him on victory. ‘Even though results aren't in we know the Conservatives had a great day’

10.38pm Jonathan Isaby: I just don't believe this exit poll is right - I think it underestimates the Conservatives and Lib Dems, and overestimates Labour - not least because it is based on a uniform national swing.  Today more than ever we are seeing different trends in individual seats, even in neighbouring seats, which makes it far harder to translate a national poll across every seat. This is especially true when predicting the outcome for the Lib Dems as they are in contention in far fewer seats nationally. Another issue is that more people than ever before have voted by post and are therefore not included in exit poll interviews conducted today.

10.22pm: Lord Mandelson tells BBC that he would not believe a hung parliament was possible six months ago. He also says the First Past The Post electoral system is on its last legs.

10.18pm Henry Macrory of CCHQ tweets: Labour are on course to lose the most seats since 1931.

10.15pm Paul Goodman: If exit poll's right, LibDems have taken little if anything off Labour. Is this likely?

10.10pm: Michael Gove says don't necessarily trust the exit poll projection. It's based on uniform swing. Hunt says exit poll, if true, would amount to decisive rejection of Gordon Brown.