Union looking more fragile
Cameron heading back to Number 10 without majority
The poll by NOP/Mori and analysed by five experts shows Tory: 316 Lab 239 SNP 58 LibDem 10 UKIP 2 Green 2. The number needed to form a majority is 326.
The LibDems could lose 46 seats including party leader Nick Clegg’s Sheffield constituency. Former LibDem leader Paddy Ashdown said he believed the exit poll to be “nowhere near right”. But former Treasury Minister Danny Alexander looked like being among the party’s casualties.
Indications pointed to a number of high profile losses among Labour candidates including former shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander and Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy.
The figures, if confirmed, reflect a massive difference in political loyalties north and south of the border and would probably hasten the break up of the UK or at least accelerate constitutional reform.
It will also create some soul-searching in Labour if the party is routed in Scotland and loses badly across the UK. By tomorrow it could be seeking a new leader north and south of the border.
A poll by YouGov, issued yesterday, puts a different complexion on the vote, predicting: Con 284 Lab 263 SNP 48 LibDem at 31.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that the exit poll should be treated with caution and believes 58 seats in “unlikely”.
The SNP’s deputy leader Stewart Hosie said he was treating the poll with “a huge pinch of salt”.
Business looking for early settlement
Markets and business leaders will now be hoping that a period of horse-trading among the parties is kept short in order to bring stability and allow a government to be formed.
The pound has risen on the back of the exit poll predicting a Conservative victory.
A legislative agenda has to be pulled together by 27 May in readiness for the Queen’s Speech.
Peter Cameron, assistant fund manager at Ecclesiastical Investment Management says: “If a stable coalition is not in place by then and if the speech is voted down, this has the potential to spark panic on the market and trigger a flight out of UK assets.
“The gap in policy between the manifestoes of the two main parties is as great as it has been for decades. Perhaps not since Thatcher vs Foot have we seen such a difference in the direction the parties want the country to head.
“Throw in a larger than ever share of the vote for the smaller parties and this election has the potential to trigger all manner of unpredictable market reactions.”