An extraordinary election night

It’s been an extraordinary night.

By 08:50am and with 627 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives are way out in front and are comfortably the largest party in the new Parliament. In the end the Tories’ key messages on the economy, and of the dangers of a Labour-SNP alliance, seem to have resonated with voters.

Remarkably, the Conservatives are likely to have (just) enough seats to be able to govern alone. Evidently the pollsters have collectively misread the public mood on a grand scale. Whether this is more down to a return of the “shy Tories” syndrome last seen at the 1992 election, or a late swing towards the Conservatives, will be hotly debated in the coming days and weeks.

Returning to the results themselves, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both suffered significant losses. In Scotland, big beasts like the Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy and former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy have lost their jobs.

The SNP has all but wiped out both parties, and is now the third largest party in the Commons. Scottish issues will now be central to UK politics, and there’ll be renewed pressure for another independence referendum.

In England and Wales, Labour’s seat tally is down on 2010, and the Liberal Democrats have collapsed to single figures. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is out of Parliament. Nick Clegg has managed to hang on, but many senior Lib Dems and potential future party leaders like Vince Cable, Ed Davey, and Simon Hughes are no more.

David Cameron has signalled his intention to form a government and bring the nation together by focussing on more devolution for Wales and Scotland. “I want to bring our country together….I want my party…to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost – the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom.”

Ed Miliband has acknowledged it’s been a “very disappointing and difficult night” and that there’s been a “surge of nationalism” in Scotland. He will now come under huge pressure to resign as Labour leader.

Nick Clegg, meanwhile, has all but signalled his intention to resign as Lib Dem leader after speaking to colleagues in Westminster later today. He said the result has been “cruel and punishing” for the Lib Dems, and has profound implications for the country as a whole. With so few Lib Dems left in Parliament, it will be fascinating to see how takes over from him, and what direction they take the party.

There’s been no news yet on whether Nigel Farage has won in Thanet South, if he fails to we’ll be likely to see three new party leaders (Labour, Lib Dem, and UKIP) in the coming days and weeks.

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