GE10 Live: Who's going to win the election
Posted by Ian at 12 26 AM on Thursday, May 6
Before the polls open, candidates from all political parties will have woken up hours before dawn, staring at the alarm clock and half-dreading the day they have worked towards for years.It's the moment where the opinion polls no longer matter, where the TV debates are a distant memory but the moment they had a bad tempered row over immigration with the woman at number 74 will be replayed in their minds endlessly.
Did they deliver enough leaflets? Did they spend enough time trying to win over the undecided voters?
Will those things matter? Former Tory MP Michael Brown believes all the shoe leather he used between 1979 and 1997 did not win over a single voter.
In fact, before he lost his seat in 1997 he thinks he put off more voters by actually talking to them on the street.
The fact he was implicated in the cash for questions scandal that torpedoed John Major may have had more to do with it.
Rumours are starting to emerge that something seismic will happen today.
In Newcastle East, there are rumours that Labour chief whip Nick Brown is in trouble, despite his 7,600 majority.
Gordon Brown spent his final afternoon campaigning trying to shore up support in a seat that is a lowly number 170 on the Conservatives' target list.
In Cornwall, the Conservatives may have succeeded in turning the Lib Dem tide against Nick Clegg's highly rated Treasury spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy after voters were reminded she claimed for a pink rocking chair on expenses.
But in London, Tory superstar Zac Goldsmith seems to have failed dismally in his bid to take Richmond from the Lib Dems, despite deploying his delectable sister Jemima in the final days of the campaign.
And in the Midlands it looks as though energetic Labour campaigns have managed to hold on to several key seats.
Across the country, independent candidates like Esther Rantzen look like they are going to lose their deposits.
UKIP and the BNP have been obliterated by a lively campaign by the mainstream parties.
But the Greens seem to be on the verge of victory in Brighton.
As Tony Blair once remarked "the kaleidoscope has been shaken, the pieces are in flux."
The final opinion polls are all over the place. It seems certain the Lib Dem surge has not faded away, but no-one knows whether that has blunted the Tory advance or neutered the Labour Party.
In 2001, I watched Tony Blair cast his vote in Sedgefield and then went for a long lunch. We had known he was headed for a second landslide 2 years before. In 2005, the exit polls showed that Labour were heading for serious losses, and a 66 seat majority. They were right.
It was a shocking wake up call after the polls said he was going to win by 100 plus seats.This year, none of us can say what will happen.
Labour have fought a campaign based on fear. Weeks ago, party leaders decided they would only stand any chance of avoiding a wipe-out if they scared voters witless.
That meant ruthlessly targeting cancer patients, families with disabled children, young families on tax credits and pensioners.
It wasn't a campaign based upon winning, but upon inflicting maximum damage on the Tories.
David Cameron's media advisers, meanwhile, decided to ensure their boss disappeared beneath the radar between October and March in case there was a gaffe.
That tactic now seems an appalling blunder, which made it almost impossible for their boss to build any momentum when the proper campaign started after Easter.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems had no proper national strategy at all. But they knew their man, Nick Clegg, was going to get equal billing in a national TV debate. And they had just enough bright and talented people in place to work out how to capitalise on that.
Today, it is clear that almost 250 seats are up for grabs, rather than the 100 or so "marginals" predicted before the election.
In the last election, 52% of voters backed candidates who lost.
This time, that number could be far higher and it's clear there will be many more so-called "marginal" seats, where an MP has a tiny majority.
Across the country, the News of the World team has been visiting some of those seats and the picture is now mixed.
In Dover, the Tories seem to be on course for a 10 to 12 per cent swing.
In Bristol, Lancashire and Northumbria they could lose seats they won in 2005.
Throughout the campaign, Anthony Wells' UK Polling Report has done the best job at analysing the opinion polls, but even here his final analysis is at best unclear.
He writes: "On a uniform swing a split of 36/28/27 would translate into a seat distribution of Conservatives 297, Labour 245 and Lib Dems 76.
"There are a couple of departures from that we can be pretty confident of though – firstly, Scotland will not follow this pattern.
"The polling suggests Labour’s support in Scotland is pretty solid and there is no Conservative advance (and the SNP surge we were seeing a year or two back has also gone.)
"I also expect the Conservatives to outperform the national swing in Labour held marginals – the seven percent swing we’ve seen in the YouGov, MORI and Crosby/Textor polls would take the Conservatives over 300 and close to a majority.
"What is much more difficult to do is predict what will happen in Lib Dem marginals.
"It seems likely the Conservative advance will be slightly offset by losing seats to the Liberal Democrats, but there have been a couple of straws in the wind like that ICM poll of Lib Dem marginals that suggest the Lib Dems are advancing more in Labour held marginals than Conservative ones.
"We don’t have the polling evidence to judge that – but whether the Lib Dems advance evenly, or do better against Labour, will be the difference between the Conservatives getting about 300 seats and getting up to 310 or more.
"Anyway, I can’t delay it any longer: My guess is we are going to see the Conservatives between 300-310, Labour between 220-230, the Liberal Democrats between 80-90 (though I warn you, I may be a pollster, but my personal powers of election prediction are notoriously poor!)"
During tonight's Election telethons, there will be lots of instant projections, rapid analysis and back biting. It will be gripping telly.
My tip is to watch the ten o'clock news for the exit polls, go straight to bed and set the alarm for about 2.30am.
That is when we will be able to watch the electoral map redrawn in front of our eyes.
Stay logged on to our website as we will all be keping you up to date on the latest twists and turns. None of us will be going to bed.In truth, this morning no-one really knows what is going to happen.