We’ve only had results from a couple of dozen seats and there’s still a long way to go, but a few things are becoming apparent. The first is that the exit poll that put the Tories just short of an overall majority is being borne out so far. In fact the Tories appear to be performing slightly better than the exit poll suggested, and Labour slightly worse.
A leading pollster has just said we should “take seriously the possibility” that the Conservatives could win an overall majority. It looks as if either the opinion polls got something badly wrong, or pretty much every undecided voter broke for the Tories. You can follow that action on the BBC here.
The Conservatives have already held on to a couple of seats that were high on Labour’s target list. In London, where Labour expected to make big gains from the Tories, one senior Labour figure held his seat, but with the same share of the vote as in 2010. Meanwhile a Conservative minister held her seat with an increased majority. It doesn’t look like Labour will be making a breakthrough in the capital, or anywhere else.
Another pattern that’s emerging is the collapse of the Liberal Democrats, who have been in coalition with the Conservatives since 2010, with much of its support going to UKIP. The Lib Dems have overperformed in recent elections, and being in government, albeit as the junior partner, has done nothing to temper their insufferable smugness. But it’s now clear that much of their support was simply a protest vote against Labour and the Conservatives, and that protest vote has switched to UKIP. Nick Clegg may not survive as leader.
As for UKIP, it seems that in Tory marginal seats, UKIP supporters who defected from the Conservatives have returned to the Tories, spooked by the prospect of a left-and-lefter coalition between Labour and the Scottish Nationalists (SNP). Meanwhile ex-Labour voters who switched to UKIP have stuck with UKIP, cutting into the Labour vote in its northern heartlands. It’s the dream scenario for the Conservatives — UKIP doing more damage to Labour than to them.
In Scotland, the Scottish National Party is on course to virtually wipe out Labour, as predicted. With Scotland led by the far-left SNP but the Tories set to remain in power in the UK as a whole, there will be enormous pressure for a new referendum on Scottish independence which Cameron will have to address, perhaps with some kind of proposal for a federalized UK.
On the subject of referendums, we’ll also be getting one on Britain’s membership in the European Union if Cameron does indeed continue as prime minister, whether it’s with a majority or at the head of another coalition.
As for Labour leader Ed Miliband, it looks, almost unbelievably, as if he’ll do worse than Gordon Brown, who became the least popular prime minister in modern British history before losing the 2010 election. Miliband, too, looks unlikely to survive as his party’s leader, and he may well soon be spending more time with his kitchens.