The Conservative Party led by David Cameron have failed to win a majority in their own right in the 2010 UK election, in a poll marred by sit-ins and protests at polling places where people were unable to vote by the time polls had closed at 10pm.

At the time of writing, around 3am UK time, the Conservatives were on target for around 305 seats, with Labour on 250 and the Lib Dems on around 60. The result confounded polling throughout the campaign, which suggested that the Lib Dems were on track to increase their vote towards 28%, up from 20% of the vote.

The result suggests that the UK will be presented with a hung parliament, with the Conservatives having a strong but not overwhelming claim to be offered a chance to form a government.

However, the major problems with voting difficulties have thrown the legitimacy of the poll always shaky into further uncertainty. Though such problems have long been a feature of US elections, which are managed on a municipality by municipality basis, but are unprecedented in the UK, which prides itself on the smooth running of elections.

As early as 10pm, exit polls had suggested that the enormous upheavals created by the televised debates and the rise of the Lib-Dems had not been borne out in the polls. This seemed to be confirmed as results started to come in.

The first important seat to fall was Battersea, which demonstrated a considerable swing to the Conservatives. However other seats that the Tories needed to win, such as City of Durham, and Vale of Clywd, failed to swing with sufficient force, leading to the forecast that the Tories would fall around 20 to 30 seats short of their goal.

However Labour managed to hang onto seats it was wildly expected to lose, such as Bolton North East.

As the night progressed it became clear that the Lib-Dems were not achieving the breakthrough they had hoped, with colourful figure Lembit Opik losing Montgomeryshire, and the party failing to capture Guildford, a key target.

As the number of seats declaring went into three figures, it became clear that the Tories were unlikely to get the 7.5% swing they required to gain a majority in their own right.

At 3am David Cameron’s seat was declared and he spoke to the nation, saying that while there was nothing certain about what might happen, it was clear that Labour had lost its mandate to govern the country, and that the Tories would be committed to the national interest in the days and weeks ahead. Gulp.

And the count continues towards the morning….

Peter Fray

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