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6 things you need to know after a stunning UK election

The opinion polls were wrong and David Cameron is almost certainly continuing his stint in Downing Street.

General Election 2015 declaration - May 7th David Cameron walks past a man dressed as Elmo at the election count in his constituency of Witney.

IT’S BEEN AN extraordinary night in the UK as the general election has turned out remarkably different to what opinion polls had been telling us for many weeks.

David Cameron is set to remain in Downing Street with significant Conservative gains all over England. There have been big losses for Ed Miliband’s Labour and even bigger losses for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

But the biggest story may be in Scotland where SNP smashed Labour and took 56 out of the 59 available seats north of the border. Meanwhile, the expected rise of UKIP has not materialised and the unionist pact in Northern Ireland appears to have paid off.

It was a long night but here’s what you need to know as you wake up this morning…

1. Tory triumph 

The Conservatives were always expected to be the largest party in Westminster but no one thought they would win more than 300 seats. David Cameron’s party is now tantalisingly close to an overall majority and he looks certain to remain in Number 10.

It’s a stunning result given none of the polls in the weeks before the campaign had indicated this was the likely outcome. On current projections, the Tories will have sufficient numbers to be able to govern without the sort of coalition deal it needed with the Lib Dems in 2010.

Among the 300 plus Tory MPs is Boris Johnson, who took a safe Conservative seat in Uxbridge.

2. Lousy Labour 

Ed Miliband tanked and his party has ended up with a worse result than in 2010 under the hugely unpopular Gordon Brown. This is actually Labour’s worst general election showing since 1987 and there will be much soul-searching ahead for the party.


Miliband is almost certainly going to resign in the coming hours having failed to lead his party anywhere close to Downing Street.

One of the main reasons for this was that Labour was completely smashed all over Scotland with even its leader there, Jim Murphy, losing his seat. Former ministers and members of the shadow cabinet also lost out, including the party’s election chief Douglas Alexander (below) who relinquished his seat to a 20-year-old student who ran for the SNP.

3. Surging Sturgeon

There is a lion roaring in Scotland tonight, a Scottish lion. I don’t think there is any government, of any political complexion, who is going to be able to ignore it.

The words of former SNP leader Alex Salmond just after 2.30am this morning as it became clear his party was about to achieve something unprecedented north of the border.

When the exit polls showed the Scots Nats sweeping Labour aside and taking all but one seat in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon tweeted cautiously…

But she was mostly wrong and her party now holds a considerable voice in Westminster that will prove hugely problematic for a battered Labour.

Not only that, the Conservative-led government will have to grapple with the Scottish question once more. Boris Johnson told the BBC that ”some kind of federal structure” is in the offing, while Cameron has already spoken of his desire to “bring our UK together”. Expect to hear more on this later today.

4. Calamitous Clegg 

He may have held his seat but how much longer can Nick Clegg hold onto the leadership of the Liberal Democrats?

The party has been nearly wiped out with many of its ministers losing their seats, including the number two at the Treasury, Danny Alexander, and the widely-respected Business Secretary Vince Cable. Party stalwarts like Charles Kennedy Simon Hughes were also dumped out.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 04.36.44

While they always expected that the price of going into coalition would be the loss of support and seats, few Lib Dems expected that the vast majority of their parliamentarians would be wiped out as they have been overnight.

Unless it joins forces with the Tories in government once more (which appears unlikely) it’s difficult to see where the party goes from here other than to join the ranks of near-irrelevancy in Westminster.

5. Farage foul-up 

Despite growing support for UKIP (it’s share of the vote in Britain jumped by 9 per cent), the party was never expected to make a huge breakthrough in terms of seats because of the first-past-the-post electoral system.

But Nigel Farage’s apparent failure to secure a Westminster seat in South Thanet raises questions about his future and that of the party he spearheads. There are several potential successors but none with his sort of profile.


6. Sinn Féin undone by unionist pact 

The controversial pact between unionists in Northern Ireland dealt a blow to Sinn Féin as Michelle Gildernew lost out to the UUP’s Tom Elliot in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, a seat she won by just four votes in 2010.

The same pact also delivered East Belfast for the DUP which ousted the Alliance Party’s Naomi Long after five tumultuous years. If we learned one thing from the North overnight it was that more of these pacts are likely.

As it happened: Tories on top, SNP storm Scotland, Clegg clings on, but Miliband faces resignation call

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell in Britain

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