07 – 08 May 2015

7.45 AM – Summary and Sign-off

What a night it’s been. We are now signing off, here’s a summary of the key points:

  • With only a handful of seats left to declare, Cameron is close to an overall majority. The Tories are very unlikely to go into coalition with anyone.
  • Clearly this has HUGE implications for Europe. We will definitely have an EU renegotiation followed by an In/Out referendum. We will send out more detail on this later this morning. Stay posted.
  • North of the border, however, the SNP have won 56/59 seats – clearly there are questions over the viability of the Union.
  • Europe will be a clashing point between the SNP and the Tories – especially as the SNP has previously said that it wants Scotland to have its own say under a EU referendum vote.
  • The Liberal Democrats, Labour and the pollsters are the biggest losers of the night. Labour’s lacklustre performance – far worse than polling had suggested – may lead Labour to appraise its EU and migration policies.
  • Huge questions remain on who will lead on Labour EU policy with the electoral defeat of its chief campaign strategist and shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander. Miliband is expected to resign as Labour leader.
  • Heavy soul-searching and post-match analysis to begin for Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.

7.30 AM  – EU referendum not yet source of market fear

With the David Cameron to return to Number 10, the markets are not showing any fears as regards the EU referendum. Both the pound and stock markets are rallying. That said, this may have happened with any relatively certain result just because there has been so much uncertainty in the run-up to the election.

05.46 AM – Tories continue to march towards victory as Brussels wakes up to reality of EU renegotiation and referendum

David Cameron has just held his Whitney seat and with the Tories absolutely hoovering up Lib Dem marginals – they could still just about win an overall majority. Meanwhile, it is starting to dawn on the good folk in Brussels that the EU referendum and renegotiation are for real.

Of course, as we have argued, an ambitious but grounded EU renegotiation ahead of a referendum stands a good chance of keeping the UK in the EU.

Here’s our Nina Schick providing an immediate analysis on Al Jazeera English:

5.00 AM – Clegg holds on but looks to be on his way out

It would have been the biggest scalp of the night, but the Lib Dem leader managed to hold on in Sheffield Hallam. However, he dropped a heavy hint that – given the party’s disastrous performance – he would be standing down as leader imminently. Elsewhere, Anna Soubry, often regarded as one of the Tories’ more pro-EU orientated MPs, has also held on in her marginal seat of Broxbourne.

4.46 AM – Lib Dem bloodbath continues as Vince Cable loses seat

It gets worse and worse for the Lib Dems as they suffer another serious loss: this time, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable falls in Twickenham. David Cameron had been campaigning there earlier this week – so the Conservatives had obviously clocked on.

The Liberal Democrat hierarchy has effectively been decimated. Even if (and that’s a big if), they find themselves in a position where they are called into Coalition, the Lib Dem’s bargaining power will be next to nill. Interestingly, Cable had been a contender to replace Clegg as the party leader – and had recently made rather strong remarks against holding an EU referendum. Now that is no longer of significance. We are still waiting to hear the fate of Danny Alexander in Scotland (another who is expected to bite the dust) and that of Nick Clegg, but there is little the Lib Dems can find solace in tonight.

4.18  AM – UKIP wins its first (and only?) seat

Douglas Carswell, who defected from the Conservatives last year has held his seat in Clacton – albeit with a relatively small majority: the Conservatives were hot on his heels. With Thurrock staying Tory (a key UKIP target seat), it looks like this might be as good as it gets for UKIP. Elsewhere, further Lib Dem seats have fallen, and Alex Salmond (the former leader of the SNP), has also returned victorious to Westminster, where he will lead the SNP contingent in the Commons.

4.00 AM – Who will be the next Labour leader?

Reeling at the hands of their crushing defeat in Scotland – which has seen swings of almost 35% – (and it’s not over yet), speculation is already starting over who will replace Miliband as Labour party leader. Pundits are already asking whether Miliband will last until lunchtime tomorrow – let alone the week.

3.35 AM – Lib Dems lose senior figure Davey in first ministerial scalp

It’s shaping up to be a bad, bad night for the Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey, the former Energy and Climate Change Secretary, has lost in Kingston and Surbiton (-27%) to the Tories. It’s a big hit as the party loses another senior pro-EU Lib Dem figure and its first Cabinet Minister.

If the Conservatives do as well as the exit poll projected, they may not have to rely on a Con-Lib coalition at all, but will rule as a majority (if they get the numbers), or may rule as a minority government with the support of the DUP. In other news, Nick Clegg may scrap through – just. However, there are rumours flying around that he may use the horrific Lib Dem showing to leave politics.

3.30 AM – Key UKIP seats to watch – will Farage have to resign?

Nigel Farage (Contender, South Thanet, England): Nigel Farage, the leader of UKIP party (and long a scourge to ‘federalists’ during his tenure as an MEP in Brussels), has announced that he will be standing down if he fails in his bid to become an MP. The last polls for South Thanet before the election closed suggested the race is close with UKIP, the Tories and Labour neck and neck. However, as we noted earlier, it now looks as though Farage may not win.

Mark Reckless (Incumbent, Rochester and Strood, England): Mark Reckless, infamous for his defection from the Conservative party to UKIP in September last year, is another who may lose the battle in his constituency (results expected at 5 AM)). Importantly, a Reckless defeat may discourage other Eurosceptic Conservatives MPs from defecting to UKIP in future. If he wins, however, and Farage doesn’t – he will be a contender to become the next leader of UKIP.

02.55 -3.10 AM – The SNP surge continues -Scottish Labour leader loses seat

The SNP surge continues with some huge swings – they take Gordon Brown’s former seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath with a 35% swing. Lib Dem minister Jo Swinson also loses her seat albeit by a relatively narrow margin of just over 2,000 votes (Labour and the Tories got over 10,000 between them, so much for pro-unionist tactical voting).

Scotland’s leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, has just lost his seat to the SNP in another blow to Labour. See our post from 12.00 AM for more on the implications.

2.38 AM – Castle Point: Not looking good for UKIP

The Essex seat of Castle Point was a seat heavily targeted by UKIP – the party launched its manifesto there – but despite a decent showing, the Tories won comfortably. It could confirm rumours Nigel Farage may fail in his bid to win South Thanet in nearby Kent.

2.22 AM – Douglas Alexander loses seat to 20 year old student

This is extraordinary. There’s been a 27% swing from Labour to the SNP. See our post from 12.00 AM to see why Alexander’s departure is important for the EU dimension.

Thinking of the election results across Europe over the last few years – where we’ve seen big political re-alignments – it’s hard to think of any swing as crazy as the one from Labour to SNP currently unfolding. Perhaps the swing from Pasok to Syriza in Greece, between 2009 and 2015, where the two effectively switched places can compare.

In the 2015 election, Pasok got 4.7% – down from 44% in 2009, whilst Syriza has gone from 4.6% to 36.3%  during the same time period (and is now polling even higher). The differences there are, of course, proportional representation and one election being in between (in 2012). The phenomenon is now known as Pasofikation….

2.15 AM – Lib Dems hold seat as SNP decimate Labour in first Scotland seat

As sigh of relief for the Lib Dems as their hold their first incumbent seat (in Ceredigion, Wales) though their night is still looking grim – especially if that exit poll continues to look right.

Meanwhile, the first result has come in from Scotland (Kilmarmock and Loudoun) and sees Labour down 26% at the expense of the SNP, who won 56% of the overall vote. All the SNP needed to win was a swing of 13.3%. If this is anything to go by, the SNP will be wiping the floor with Labour. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has accused Labour for not being able compete with the Conservatives in England.

1.55 AM – Tories win key battleground – could they win a majority?

A Tory marginal seat, Labour was leading in the polls in Nuneaton in the run-up to the election. In the last minute, the public voted voted blue. The Tories have retained the seat with an increased majority, the biggest indication yet that Labour is in for a very rough ride, and that the exit poll could be on the mark. The Tories could outperform all expectations – and are potentially even on course for a majority.

1.50 AM  – SNP poised for landslide victory

We’re still awaiting the results from Scotland, but SNP look on track to sweep across the board. One of the big stories of the night will be England vs Scotland, and what the meteoric rise of the SNP means for British politics. (For one, the rise of ‘anti-establishment’ parties such as the SNP and UKIP will make UK politics more European.)

 

1.40 AM –  Key seats to watch: The Liberal Democrats

So far the Lib Dems have had an awful night. They stand to lose key seats, and the question is if they will even have the numbers to make a difference in a coalition game. The party and its supporters will be hoping that it can perform better in held-seats. Here’s our hitlist for which ones to watch out for – and why they matter to the EU.

Nick Clegg (Incumbent, Sheffield Hallam, England): Leader of the pro-European Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg’s constituency will be one of the most important contests of the night (The result is due at 4 AM). If Clegg loses his seat, it may make less likely that the party will re-enter coalition with the Tories. However, given the Tories’ performance *thus far* that might be a moot point. If Clegg is out – the probable interim leader, Vince Cable (the Lib Dem Business Secretary), has adopted more critical stance towards the EU referendum.  (Sidenote, Cable’s South London Twickenham seat could be vulnerable as well.)

Charles Kennedy (Incumbent, Ross, Skye and Lochharbour, Scotland) and Danny Alexander (Incumbent, Inverness,  Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland): Charles Kennedy, ardent pro-European and former leader of the Liberal Democrats may also lose his seat alongside Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (both seats are in Scotland and results are due at 7AM and 5 AM respectively). The loss of Kennedy and Alexander could weaken opposition to the EU referendum in what’s left of the party.

However, Alexander, Nick Clegg’s de-facto right hand man, has also played an important role in keeping the Con-Lib coalition on the road – his departure may make talks more difficult. Again, if the Tories outperform expectations – as looks likely – this might be a moot point.

0.29 AM – Labour performs worse than expected in early London seats

The Conservatives have just won their second seat in Putney, South West London. While the Tories were expected to hold this constituency, the margin of victory (some 20%) is important as Labour was on track to do very well in London. Labour has meanwhile held onto its seat in Tooting, but only with a swing of 0.2% from the Tories, whilst another Conservative-held London seat, Battersea, which was being targeted by Labour, has seen a 1.7% swing to the Conservatives.

00.49 AM- Conservatives win first seat

The Tories win their first seat in Swindon North. It’s a healthy majority for the Conservatives in a seat they won from Labour in 2010. This was the first ‘vaguely’ marginal seat – suggesting that the exit poll could be broadly accurate.

The key point to make regarding the Conservatives, however, is that all the Tory ‘big beasts’ important in the Europe debate, and those will be leading any potential future EU renegotiation are in safe seats.

12.00 AM – Marginal labour seats to watch: Alexander and Murphy

As we flagged up earlier, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy’s seats in Scotland are ones to watch.  The results for both constituencies are both due at 3.00 AM.

Douglas Alexander (Incumbent, Paisley and Renfrewshire South): In theory, this should be one of Labour’s safest seats in Scotland. This time, however, Labour’s campaign strategist and Shadow Foreign Secretary may be ousted by a 20-year old student: none other than the SNP’s Mhairi Black. If she wins, she will become the youngest-ever MP elected since 1667.

A key Labour figure, Alexander is instrumental in setting the party’s EU policy – and is specifically known for his opposition to the EU referendum. Incidentally, Alexander helped to negotiate part of the UK’s EU rebate as the then-Europe minister in 2005. His departure would present Miliband with a huge headache.

Jim Murphy (Incumbent, Renfrewshire East): Another big Labour name possibly heading to the exit door is Jim Murphy, the party’s leader party in Scotland, and also a former Europe Minister under Tony Blair. His defeat, and/or that of Alexander, would be one of the biggest stories of the night – and would speak of the wipeout that Labour is expected to suffer at the hands of the SNP in Scotland. Here’s Murphy heading to the polls yesterday morning:

11.58 PM –  Could UKIP vote force Labour u-turn on EU policy?

As we noted earlier, a big part of the story tonight will be where UKIP voters come from. If the below is true, this could put Labour under pressure to change course on its EU policy, including on the referendum.

 

 

23.40 PM – Balls says Miliband could still be PM

Speaking to the BBC, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls says that even if the exit poll is roughly correct, Ed Miliband could still become Prime Minister if David Cameron fails to put together a parliamentary majority for the Queen’s Speech.

 

23.00 PM – First seat goes to Labour, UKIP in second

As expected, the first seat of Houghton & Sunderland South goes to Labour. However, UKIP leapfrogged the Tories to come second with 21.5%. UKIP will be hoping that they can establish themselves as the main alternative to Labour in the North of England, which could have long-term implications on UK politics. See our pre-election briefing for a more in-depth discussion.

 

10.45 PM – UKIP’s Nuttall – Red line to support Tories on vote-by-vote basis: EU Referendum by end of 2015

Speaking on BBC One, Paul Nuttall MEP, the deputy leader of UKIP, says they will not enter coalition with the Tories, nor have a pact with them – but they could support them on a vote-by-vote basis. The red line he adds, would be holding an EU referendum by the end of the year.

 

10.25 PM – YouGov poll sees things differently

Cons 284
Lab 263
SNP 48
Lib Dems 31
Plaid Cymru 3
UKIP 2
Greens 1
A second poll, this time from YouGov, has things looking a bit different.

Conservatives still do well, but not quite as well. However, the Lib Dems are doing slightly better  – so the prospect of Con-Lib coalition remains open, albeit probably slightly short of majority. Labour is still doing poorly, while the SNP is doing very well but in line with expectations. Of course, we once again want to caveat all of this: it’s important to take polls with a pinch of salt – they are not always accurate and miss some background movements.

The fact we have two polls which are quite different once confirms that we have to be cautious. It’s possible that the Tories will win less seats than the projected 316 from the exit poll – in which case an EU renegotiation and a referendum remains in the balance.

10.15 PM – If exit poll correct: Full steam ahead on EU reform and referendum

Needless to say, if this exit poll is correct, it will have a huge bearing on the future of EU-UK relations. If Cameron becomes Prime Minister, it will mean full steam ahead on EU reform and holding an In/out EU referendum by 2017.

Given that these were not Conservative pledges in 2010, it will be seen as big vote of confidence specifically on the Conservative’s EU strategy. The negotiations will start almost immediately.

Here are seminal pieces of Open Europe Intelligence for background reading: what would UK-EU negotiations could look like, and what are the consequences, challenges and opportunities of a possible Brexit. Our entire body of work on Britain and the EU can be found here.

See also these two guest essays published by Open Europe, the first on how EU renegotiation will happen by David Frost, the CEO of Scotch Whisky Association, and the second by Janan Ganesh of the Financial Times, urging David Cameron to remain in a reformed EU.

If this exit poll is correct, we can expect some major scalps tonight. We will bring in more results and analysis overnight – so stay tuned.

 10.00 PM – Exit Poll Released – Conservatives far outstrip expectations

And the exit poll is now out:

Cons 316
Lab 239
SNP 58
Lib Dems 10
DUP 8
Plaid Cymru 4
UKIP 2
Greens 2
An unbelievable exit poll, completely different from all previous polling.

The Conservatives far outstrip projected seats, while Labour and the Lib Dems disappoint. Meanwhile the SNP is doing even better than expected – taking all but one seat in Scotland. At this early stage then, things are looking good for the Conservatives. Although, the Lib Dems are doing so poorly that it may actually hamper some attempts to form a stable Con-Lib majority coalition.

This is, of course, only a projection based on a sample of results from 140 selected constituencies, and it may not fully reflect complex voting patterns around the country including a high degree of tactical voting. In particular, the poll does not measure the SNP’s vote/seat share which will be a crucial factor in determining the outcome, or the Tory-Lib Dem battle in the South-West. That said, the exit poll in 2010 was virtually spot-on. For more on what an exit poll is, and how it works, see here on the excellent May 2015 election website.

9.45 PM – Elsewhere in Europe: New Finnish government close to forming

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The UK exit poll will be out soon, but in the meantime, a quick update from electoral goings on elsewhere, specifically Finland. Today, it was announced that the Centre Party, the (True) Finns and the National Coalition Party are in talks to form a new government – as we predicted was likely. Why is this important?

  • Another populist party rises to government in the form of the Eurosceptic Finns.
  • Finns leader Timo Soini, who is avowedly anti-euro, is potentially in line to take the Finance Minister post, which could make for some interesting clashes between him and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.
  • The Finnish economy is struggling and needs some serious reforms to get back on track, a strong government will be important here.
  • All this means the new government may be even more hawkish on Eurozone bailouts. Equally it might be open to some of the UK’s EU reform proposals, albeit likely to be a very domestic focused government due to the economy problems.

7.30 PM – Welcome to Open Europe’s GE2015 EU/UK blog

Good evening and welcome to Open Europe’s overnight liveblog covering the UK’s 2015 general election. We know they will play a defining role in the future of UK-EU relations, and may mark how UK politics is becoming more ‘European’. My colleagues Pawel Swidlicki, Raoul Ruparel and I will keep you updated on the results as they come in, analysing key events as seen through the EU dimension. Here are some key points to keep an eye out for:

7.45 PM – GE2015 Themes

1. Exit poll won’t capture key battlefields

  • The exit poll is due at 10 PM UK time. Though it will give a big picture view of overall result, it won’t capture some key battlegrounds: specific seats, the extent of the Scottish Nationalist Party’s (SNP) power in Scotland and the balance of power in the South West of England.

2. The UKIP/SNP factor

  • How well have UKIP done? (Not just in overall seats but also in second places.) Where have UKIP votes come from – is there any sign they are holding the Conservatives back?
  • Have the SNP met the high expectations and predictions?

3. Euroscepticism, immigration & coalition building

  • What role has euroscepticism and immigration played in the vote?
  • Will the Conservatives get close to 290 seats to have a chance of forming a majority coalition, or command some sort of majority in Parliament on European issues, in order to press ahead with their EU policy of reform and referendum by 2017?

4. Key constituencies that matter from the EU dimension*

(* To be explained throughout the night)

Labour

  • 3AM | Jim Murphy (Renfrewshire East, Scotland)
  • 3 AM Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South, Scotland)

Liberal Democrat

  • 4.30 AM| Nick Clegg (Sheffield Hallam, England)
  • 5 AM | Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, Scotland)
  • 7AM | Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Scotland)

UKIP

  • 5AM| Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood, England)
  • 6AM | Nigel Farage (South Thanet, England)