AN exit poll last night predicted a hung parliament with a Tory minority as the outcome of the election.
Tories gained 305 seats in the poll, up 95 on the last general election, Labour were on 255, down 94, and the Lib Dems languishing with just 61, a loss of one. Other parties took 29, level with 2005.
It means Cameron falls 21 seats short of the outright majority he would need to lead parliament outright. If the result translated into votes, it would represent a 5.5 per cent swing from Labour to the Tories – well under the seven per cent swing needed to secure a majority.
However, it also means a majority coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems alone is impossible as the Tories and “others” still hold 22 more seats. The Lib Dems appeared to be the biggest losers. Their 61 seats would be well below the 100 or more they hoped to capture after leader Nick Clegg performed well in the series of televised debates.
The result raises a number of intriguing possibilities. A Tory deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, for example, would bring Cameron tantalisingly close to the majority he craves.
The figure is probably too low for David Cameron’s Tory party to limp on alone for long. A source close to pollster Ipsos/Mori said that, based on these results, another election within six months would be likely. He added the results were terrible for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
The exit poll is notoriously unreliable. In 1992 it indicated a Labour win before John Major snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
The poll also excludes postal votes, which are usually comprised of older voters who are more likely to put their cross next to the Tories.
But the prospect of uncounted postal votes spells more bad news for the Lib Dems as their young core voter base almost always turn up to the polling station.
NOP and Mori surveyed 17,607 voters at 130 polling stations across the UK for the BBC/ ITV/Sky exit poll.