THE Tories today emerged as the biggest party but with no clear majority.
As City P.M. went to print 622 of the 650 seats had been declared.
The Tories had won 292, Labour 251 and the Lib Dems 52.
The share of seats saw Labour lose 87 while the Tories notched up an extra 92. The Lib Dems ended the night with five fewer seats.
The Tories achieved an overall swing of 5.1 per cent from Labour – well below the seven per cent necessary for them to govern outright.
David Cameron’s party pulled in 36.1 per cent of the public vote, compared to just 29.3 per cent for Labour and 22.9 per cent for the Lib Dems. The smaller parties together polled 11.8 per cent of the vote.
The BBC projected the final result will show the Tories on 308, Labour 260 and the Lib Dems on 53.
A Sky projection was weighted slightly more in favour of the Tories, placing them on 309 seats, Labour on 259and the Lib Dems on 54.
To gain an outright majority a party would technically need to reach 326 seats. However, as Sinn Fein will not sit in a British parliament the number is in effect reduced to 322.
There was no change in Scotland, with Labour, picking up 41 seats. The Lib Dems grabbed 10, and the Scottish National Party six. The Tories lost their only seat but confounded pollsters by picking up another one.
In Northern Ireland the Democratic Unionist Party collected eight seats, losing one. Sinn Fein were on four, with the SLDP on three.
Labour lost four seats in Wales, leaving it with 26. The Tories gained five, giving them eight.
The exit poll, initially derided by commentators for being too bearish about the Lib Dems, came tantalisingly close to the actual poll.
It said the Tories would gain 305 seats, up 95 on the last general election, Labour would be on 255, down 94, and the Lib Dems languishing with just 61, a loss of one.
That translated to 21 seats short of the outright majority Cameron needed to lead parliament outright.
It predicted a 5.5 per cent swing to the Tories, with Labour marginally out performing the poll.