Labour loses the election but Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister at least for now as Britain heads towards a hung parliament, after the most dramatic and surprising general election in a generation. With the Conservatives currently at 304 Seats, Labour at 258 and the Liberal Democrats at 57
, David Cameron’s Conservatives win the most seats in the general election – but not enough to secure an overall majority.
As a party needs to secure 326 seats to win, David Cameron has almost certainly failed to secure a majority, although his party came first in the popular vote and in the number of seats.
Gordon Brown saw Labour categorically defeated by the Conservatives, although many seats which had been expected to fall to the Tories, such as Hammersmith, fought off the Tory threat.
The promised Liberal Democrat surge failed to materialise.
Congratulations to Chi Onwurah [Lab], Helen Grant[Con] and Chuka Ummunah[Lab] for doing Nigerians proud by getting into Parliament. Even bigger congratulations to Kemi Adegoke [Con] for fighting a good fight.
…37 0.5 +0.5
The 2010 election has now ended in a hung parliament. But what is a hung parliament, and what does it mean?
A hung parliament occurs when no party wins an outright majority of seats. It is very common in countries like Germany or Italy, which operate under the proportional representation system, but far less common in the UK, because of the constituency link and the relative weakness of fringe parties.
What will happen in the short term? The prime minister retains his role, in what is basically a caretaker capacity. He is under no obligation to resign. Constitutionally, Brown gets first dibs on forming an administration. But politically, voters will probably expect Cameron to lead the way, given he won more votes.
It’s hard to predict how Brown will deal with this situation. He may try to make a deal with another party – presumably the Liberal Democrats. Alternatively, he could recognise the ‘moral right’ of the Conservatives to form a government and step aside to let that happen. This would require that the Tories secure at least 300 seats, however. Not for constitutional reasons – but because of political sentiment. Given the statements of Cabinet ministers through the evening, it seems Labour may try to secure a deal with the Liberal Democrats.
For his part, David Cameron must prove he can command the support of the Commons. He could lead a minority government, if he believes he can get enough support from opposition parties to get the Queen’s Speech through. Or he could try to get a majority through a coalition with smaller parties, such as the DUP, although this seems less likely now that the unionists have had such a torrid evening. Alternatively, Cameron could go for a coalition with the Lib Dems, but the policies of the two parties are so different one struggles to see how it would survive for long.
The Lib Dem policy agenda is far closer to Labour. But Clegg will struggle with that option given he said during the campaign that the party with the most votes and the most seats had the right to seek to form a coalition. The Lib Dem leader could become the most powerful man in the country over the next few hours, despite his disappointing election results.
There is, by the way, no statutory time limit on how long this process can take. The historical precedent is 1974 when Tory incumbent Edward Heath stayed on as caretaker and tried to secure a deal with the Liberals. He failed, and Harold Wilson took over as prime minister for Labour. But the historical comparison is, in some ways, weak. Technology has changed the political face of Britain since the 70s, and the pressure from 24-hour news channels and the internet will massively impact on how this process takes place.
With so few constitutional precedents, the public mood will be the dominant factor in party leaders’ minds as they negotiate. The markets will also play a role. Any sudden panic in the markets would hurry up the process and feed media and public pressure for a quick, politically convincing resolution. A run on sterling, a loss of the UK’s AAA credit rating or a collapse in the share market could force a quick decision.
This is not an entirely welcome factor. It would be better for the government to be formed wisely and sustainably, rather than quickly. There is no constitutional reason for this process to be rushed – it is all well within the remit of Britain’s constitutional arrangements.
The British electorate behaves just like the English weather, INDECISIVE: They like the Conservatives, just not enough to trust them; they lost faith in Labour – but feared the alternative; they flirted with a third-party choice, the Liberal Democrats, but didn’t go all the way!
UPDATE: Cameron offers deal to Lib Dems
David Cameron has reached out to the Liberal Democrats in an effort to form a government – after the UK general election resulted in a hung parliament.
The Tory leader, whose party won most seats but was short of a majority, said he wanted to make a “big open and comprehensive offer” to the Lib Dems.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said there could be Lib Dems in cabinet.
Labour leader Gordon Brown has already stressed his party’s “common ground” with the third biggest party.
The Tories now have 304 seats, short of the 326 needed for an outright majority.
Past practice under Britain’s unwritten constitution sees the sitting prime minister in a hung parliament having the right to make the first attempt at forming a ruling coalition.
‘Measure of agreement’
But Mr Cameron said Mr Brown has “lost his mandate to govern” after the Conservatives won the most votes and the most seats and Nick Clegg, leader of the third biggest party the Lib Dems, said he believed the result gave the Tories the right to seek to govern first.
Mr Brown said he would be “willing to see any of the party leaders” adding: “I understand and completely respect the position of Mr Clegg in stating that he wishes first to make contact with the leader of the Conservative Party.”
But he added “should the discussions between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg come to nothing… I would be prepared to discuss with Mr Clegg the areas where there may be some measure of agreement between our two parties”.
He said there were areas of “substantial common ground” – including reforming the voting system and plans to ensure economic stability, he said.
He also said he did not expect a swift conclusion to the uncertainty surrounding the election result, stating that negotiations between the parties could be “prolonged”.
“I understand as I know my fellow party leaders do that people do not like the uncertainty or want it to be prolonged. We live, however, in a parliamentary democracy, the outcome has been delivered by the electorate. It is our responsibility now to make it work for the national good.”
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said Mr Brown’s message was directed at Lib Dem supporters – spelling out what a Labour government would offer them in the hope of getting them to put pressure on Mr Clegg not to do a deal with the Conservatives.
The BBC projection suggests David Cameron’s Conservatives will have 305 seats. There are currently eight Unionists elected in Northern Ireland with one seat left to declare – if they backed Mr Cameron, he could command 313 seats – probably still slightly too few for him to be sure of winning a Queen’s Speech.
Labour currently have 258 seats and the Lib Dems projected number is 61, together they would have 318 votes, which even with three SDLP MPs would still leave them at 319 – again a few votes short of a majority.
In Mr Cameron’s upcoming statement he is expected to spell out how he would try to form an administration which is “strong and stable with broad support, that acts in the national interest”.
It follows comments from Mr Clegg – whose party has done worse than in 2005 despite favourable opinion polls – that he believed the Tories had gained the “first right” to attempt to form a government in the “national interest”.
Speaking outside Lib Dem headquarters in London, Nick Clegg said: “It is vital that all parties, all political leaders, act in the national interest and not out of narrow party political advantage.”
He admitted it had been a “disappointing night” for the Lib Dems.
Labour sources told the BBC they believed Mr Clegg had left the door open to a deal with them – as he had also reiterated his belief that the current first-past-the-post voting system was “broken”.
BBC political correspondent Carole Walker said Conservative sources were not ruling out electoral reform and could agree to Lib Dem demands for a referendum on voting reform, although they would then campaign for a “no” answer.
Downing Street has authorised the civil service to support other parties in hung parliament negotiations – essentially giving the go-ahead for talks to begin.