Peter Hoskin

Let the recriminations begin

Let the recriminations begin
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Let's rewind to 10pm yesterday evening, when the exit poll was released.  Most politicos - myself included - were incredulous.  We could just about believe that there might be a hung Parliament with the Tories as the largest party, but a reduced number of Lib Dem seats?  After Cleggmania and all those recent opinion polls?  Gedouttahere.

But, this morning, that exit poll is looking a good deal more prescient.  After an evening of erratic results, Sky's projection matches it almost exactly: 309 seats for the Tories, 259 for Labour, and 54 for the Lib Dems.  So we're on for a hung parliament, and all the backroom discussion and subterfuge that that entails.

Already, the dividing lines have been traced across Westminster.  The Tories are saying that Labour have lost their mandate to govern, while Labour are pushing the idea of a "progressive consensus" with the Lib Dems.  Where we go next is anyone's guess.  Although the likelihood is that Cameron will strive towards a minority government, of sorts.  And Brown will try to hug Nick Clegg as closely as he can.

The problem for the party leaders is that they are not plotting their courses in calm waters.  There will be plenty of anger in Tory circles that they didn't manage to achieve a majority.  Labour can hardly be pleased that they've sunk close to Michael Foot levels of support - and many will argue that a different leader will be better placed to organise a coalition with Clegg.  And the Lib Dems will, I imagine, be completely shellshocked.  Nothing has really gone to plan for anyone.

In the end, Clegg's words from last week have taken on a fresh significance: "...the party that has more votes and seats, but doesn’t get an absolute majority — I support them.”  We shall see.

P.S. Our live blog is continuing here.