General election result: Hung Parliament, Tories largest party

The result of yesterday’s General Election is a hung Parliament in which the Conservatives are the largest party.

The Conservatives had secured 291 seats, significantly short of the 326 needed for the Parliamentary majority that would give them the keys to 10 Downing Street.Labour were trailing with 248 seats, while the Liberal Democrats had a disappointing night which saw them return 51 MPs.

The results have been marred by news that some voters were actually prevented from voting as returning officers closed the doors of polling station while queues of voters were still waiting outside as voting officially closed at 10pm.

The Conservatives have gained a net 91 seats and secured 36 per cent of the vote, while Labour lost a net 85 seats and had a 29 per cent share of the vote.

Speaking to supporters in his Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath constituency, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that he was "proud of much of what the Labour government has achieved" and said that "the outcome of this election is not yet known".

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats had a bad night, considering all the talk of “Cleggmania” and hopes that the party would even replace Labour as the main force on the left of British politics. Rather than reaping the 80 to 100 seats they hoped for, their number of seats actually fell by six to 51.

Any hopes of a historic win for the Lib Dems were dashed as the surge in support for Mr Clegg in the final few weeks failed to translate into votes. Mr Clegg admitted it had been a “disappointing night”.

According to the constitution the government will be formed by whichever party can get a parliamentary majority for the Queen’s speech, due in less than two weeks. All the focus is now on whether the Lib Dems will support Labour or the Conservatives, or whether the Tories will be able to form a minority government, perhaps with help from the DUP in Northern Ireland.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has signalled his support for the Tories to form the next Government.

He was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: "I have said that whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties and I stick to that view," said the Lib Dem leader.

"I think it is now for the Conservative Party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest."

Conservative leader David Cameron has already told Gordon Brown that he should step aside.

In his acceptance speech in his constituency of Witney, Mr Cameron said: “I believe it is already clear that the Labour government has lost its mandate to govern our country.

“What is clear from these results is that our country wants change. That change requires new leadership. Strong, stable, decisive and good government. What will guide me is the national interest.”

The uncertainty following the election is also darkened by news that an investigation will be held by the Electoral Commission into events at polling stations where polling officers closed the doors to queuing voters once the closing time of 10:00pm was reached.

In Sheffield students not bringing their polling cards were blamed for slowing down the voting procedure. However in other places people could not vote due to polling stations not even having enough ballot papers. In addition while some polling officers closed the doors to voters at 10:00pm in accordance with the rules, others allowed voters in and closed the doors to prevent them from being influenced by exit polls.

The night saw a few big names lose their seats. Former Labour Education Secretary Charles Clarke lost his seat, as did Shahid Malik and Jacqui Smith, the first woman Home Secretary who also became notorious for her expenses claim.

The Liberal Democrats also lost one of their few well known MP’s when Lembit Opik lost his Montgomeryshire seat to the Tories. Some Christians may also be relieved to hear that Dr Evan Harris of Oxford West, lost his seat. Dr Harris' strong support for liberal laws on abortion and euthanasia have earned him the name “Dr Death”.

The evening also saw upsets for and by smaller parties. Peter Robinson, the First Minister of Northern Ireland and leader of the DUP lost his seat to the non-sectarian Alliance Party. Mr Robinson was rocked by scandal last year when it emerged that his wife was found to have had an affair and misused public money.

In the seat of Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas, leader of the Greens, became the first MP for the party in its history, after a highly focused campaign there.

Meanwhile there will have been sighs of relief in Barking where Labour minister Margaret Hodge easily defeated Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Ms Hodge secured 24,600 votes, while Mr Griffin came third behind the Tories with only 8,000 votes.