Richard North, 08/05/2015  

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And with the BBC prattling on in the background, we'll leave you with this thought ... or even this. We'll do a "wash-up" post later today.

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UPDATE: 10:40 Hrs:
Thanet South declares: Farage fails to win ... a margin of nearly 3,000 - not even close. Now we see whether he resigns. "An enormous weight has been lifted from my shoulders - I've never felt happier", he says.

UPDATE: 10:26 Hrs: The Mail says Ukip has secured 3.5million votes but only one MP. So far, in Scotland the SNP grabbed 56 seats with 1.5million votes. Outside his election count in Thanet South (result due shortly), Mr Farage says: "The system is bust. It's strange that a party (the SNP) can get a minority of the vote but get almost 100 per cent of the seats … You've got a first past the post system where we clearly become the third party in Britain but get hardly any seats'".

This is classic Farage, blaming anything but his own incompetence. Now it is "the system", with the focus on first past the post. He still doesn't get it.

UPDATE: 10:02 Hrs: Back in harness - sort of - whence I discover Reckless has lost his seat. Short of an (unlikely) miracle, that leaves Ukip with one MP, and a strong deterrent against any other MPs defecting. This signal is now lodged that moving to Ukip is not a career-enhancing move. I don't think we'll see any more Tory MPs defecting in this Parliament, and certainly not with the increasing likelihood of a referendum.

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The news also percolates a soggy brain - Ed Balls is out.  This is the seat that Ukip gave to Labour in 2010 - one of the "Ukip effect" seats, where the Ukip vote was greater than the difference between the winner and the Conservatives.

UPDATE: 05:04 Hrs:Tories certain to be the biggest party and could even win a majority as Miliband and Clegg face political extinction, says the Mail.

Apart from the Labour and the Lib-Dems, this represents a crushing defeat for the pollsters, and most of the political pundits - and especially the likes of Matthew Goodwin and Rob Ford, who were so taken in by the hype over Ukip. On the broader political picture, all of them have got it wrong, yet in the nature of things, they will carry on as before, without so much as a blush. For those of us with a better grasp of the issues and closer links with the real world, the result comes as absolutely no surprise.

We predicted it, on the basis of experience and careful analysis of the political runes. And we got it right, because that was the sense of things that was coming back to us. 

As to Ukip, I've long said that a political party without ideology, without substance, and with incompetent leadership, was never going to achieve a breakthrough. That was the opinion of a seasoned political analyst, who had the additional benefit of working closely with Farage for four years. Yet the fruits of that experience have been dismissed by so many as a "grudge", and ignored by the media who prefer airheads like Goodwin.

Well, the die is cast.  Those who thought Ukip was going to achieve anything of substance got it wrong, and they are going to have to live with their broken fantasies. Now I need to go to bed. I'll resume when I've has some sleep, whence we may well be considering how we are going to win that referendum.

UPDATE: 04:47 Hrs: Simon Hughes loses to Labour - 17,657 to 22,146. Lynne Featherstone also loses. Aker has failed to win Thurrock. He gained 15,718 votes, Labour 16,156 and the Conservatives 16,692. Eastleigh goes to the Conservatives with 23,464 votes, beating the Lib-Dems on 14,317 votes. UKIP comes third with 8,783 votes, Labour get 7,181 and the Greens 1,513.

Carswell keeps Clacton for Ukip with 19,642 votes, down from 21,113. He was fighting the Conservative who pulled 16,205, against 8,709 votes in the 2014 by-election. Reckless, however, is said to be at risk and if Farage, as expected, fails in Thanet South, Ukip could well end up (as we predicted) with just one MP. An online poll for the Daily Telegraph had seven percent of respondents opting for one Ukip MP (now increased to 16 percent), with 47 percent predicting between two and ten.

Boris Johnson is now an MP. Vince Cable is defeated in Twickenham. Conservatives take Eastbourne from the Lib-Dems. Bath regained by the Conservatives, wresting it from the Lib-Dems.

UPDATE: 03:42 Hrs: Galloway is out at West Bradford, or so it is claimed - a rare Labour gain, if true - but the talk is now of a Labour leadership contest. Miliband may be toast.

UPDATE: 03:05 Hrs: Castle Point, slated as number three on Ukip's list of winnable seats – and the place picked by Farage to launch the Ukip manifesto – has been retained by the Conservatives. Rebecca Harris actually increases her vote to 23,112 (up from 19,806 in 2010), on a reduced turnout, down to 66 percent – a drop of 0.9 percent.

In 2010, Bob Spink stood as an independent, taking 12,174 votes. Add 2,205 votes to BNP and, arguable, that is the transfer to Ukip's Jamie Huntman, who polls 14,178. Labour more or less holds up its vote, with 6,283 (6,609), while the Lib-Dems are massacred, plummeting from 4,232 to a pathetic 80 … yes, 80 votes.

In February, Ukip was said to be within striking distance of taking the seat, with the Conservatives ahead by just a point, according to an Ashcroft poll. This is also a seat that great sage, Iain Dale, thought might go to Ukip. Responding to the news of a Tory "hold", Diane James, Ukip MEP, says this is "disappointing".

UPDATE: 02:28 Hrs: Douglas Alexander loses Paisley and Renfrewshire to the SNP and Marie Black, a 20-year-old student - the youngest MP since forever. The swing is 34 percent. In Falkirk, the swing is 24 percent. SNP is on track to become the UK's third biggest party.

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Strong and persistent rumours (and claims) that Farage is running behind the Conservatives at Thanet South. He shows his mettle in a bad-tempered interview with ITN. Meanwhile, as the results trickle in, the exit poll looks more and more secure, while we remind ourselves of Farage and last November ...
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UPDATE: 01:09 Hrs:North Swindon has given us the fourth result, and a Conservative win in a fairly safe seat, with a seven thousand majority last time. But here again, we see the same pattern that was established in the Sunderland seats where the incumbent increases the vote. Thus, we see Justin Tomlinson increasing his vote to 26,295 (from 22,408).

Labour, as second runner drops to 14,509 votes (from 15,348) and the Lib-Dems collapse, pulling in a mere 1,704 votes (from 8,668). Ukip pulls in 8,011 votes, up from 1,842 (or a combined Ukip-BNP total of 3,384). Once again, turnout barely moves, standing at 64.5 percent from 64.2. Again, if the People's Army is on the move, there is no sign of it in North Swindon.

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UPDATE 23:58 Hrs: We're getting exactly the same picture with Washington and Sunderland West. Once again, Labour increases its vote to 20,478 (from 19,615), Ukip takes 7,321 (1,267), the Conservatives are down to 7,033 (1,267) and the Lib-Dems collapse to 993 (7,191). Turnout here is also low. Only 54.6 percent of the electorate votes, up marginally from 53.2. This means that 70 percent of the electorate did not vote for the winning candidate.

UPDATE 23:38 Hrs: The two Sunderland results are interesting. In Houghton & Sunderland South, Labour won the seat with 21,218, up from 19,137 in 2010. The Conservative candidate lost some ground, taking 7,105 votes – down from 8,147 in 2010. Ukip is way up, increasing from 1,022 to 8,280. But this does not look quite so dramatic if we add last election's BNP vote, which brought the combined total to just short of 3,000.

The news of the moment, though, is the collapse of the Lib-Dem vote. This time, they have taken a mere 791 votes, losing their deposit. Last time, they got 5,292 votes.

In Sunderland Central, again Labour gets more votes - 20,959 as against 19,495 votes in 2010. The Conservatives lose nearly three thousand votes, down from 12,770 to 9,780. Ukip again is up, soaring to 7,997 from 1,094 in 2010. And again, the combined BNP-Ukip vote was about 3,000. The Lib-Dems collapse, getting 1,105 as against 7,191 in 2010.

The turnouts  are relatively low (against reports of high turnovers elsewhere). In Houghton & Sunderland South, it stands at 56.3 percent compared with 55.3 percent in 2010. In Sunderland Central, the turnout is static, as 57 percent. There is no indication that either campaign has enthused any great tranche of new voters, and no evidence to indicate that Ukip is pulling votes away from Labour.

UPDATE 23:01 Hrs: "It's fair to say no one was expecting that", says Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian, "not the political parties, not the punditocracy and – least of all – the pollsters".

And there is the typical arrogance of the legacy media. On 21 March, we said: "My 'gut feeling' is that the 'Miliband effect' will create a last minute surge towards the Conservatives, with the two-party squeeze pushing Ukip out of the picture, leaving Cameron with a small but workable majority".

Of course, to the legacy media, we don't exist. We're "no one" – we don't count. But, checking up on our own posts, we've been talking about the possibility of a two-party squeeze since forever, writing in September 2012 that, "The next election is shaping up to be a Tory-Labour contest and, if the result looks close, the other parties won't get a look in".

The thing is, political dynamics tend to be unchanging – more biology than politics. If things look close, the "squeeze" takes effect. That's the way things work.

UPDATE 22:08 Hrs: Exit poll gives us the following projected seats - Conservatives 316; Labour 239; SNP 58; Lib-Dem 10; PC 4; Green 2; Ukip 2; Other 19. The exit poll last year was stunningly accurate, so it looks as if the pundits might have got it wrong. The "gut feeling" has it so far  - we might be on our way to a referendum.

Gloat mode - on (partial). Kellner, one should be reminded, suggested that the Conservatives would get 284 seats.

UPDATE 19:43 Hrs: a final Populus poll (via Reuters) has Conservatives and Labour tied on 33 percent. Lib-Dems get 10 percent, Ukip 14 and the Greens five. The pundits are reporting a modest swing to Labour, with it edging ahead in the very latest polls. 

Last election -  the BBC/ITN exit poll from NOP/Mori suggested a hung parliament. Cons 307 (short 19 of a majority), Lab 255, Lib-Dems 59 (down 3) and others on 29. Kellner's prediction, therefore (see previous post) would have it that the Conservatives are doing worse this time round - they actually took 306 seats.

And just a reminder: more than 9,000 council seats (9,243 to be exact) are being contested in 279 English local authorities. There are also mayoral elections in Bedford, Copeland, Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough and Torbay. in the nationals, we have 650 seats contested: 533 in England; 59 in Scotland; 40 in Wales and 18 in Northern Ireland

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The latest Guardian/ICM poll (graphic above) also effectively has Labour and the Conservatives neck-and-neck. Ukip makes third place with 11 percent. That, then, is the prediction to beat (for the moment), the narrative firmly fixed on a hung parliament.

On his own blog, Complete Bastard is favouring a Conservative majority, and he's not on his own. White Wednesday reminds us of a piece from the Mail on 2 May, which also has the Tories ahead on 291 seats to Labour's 265.

Picking up from what Complete Bastard has written, though – whether Mr Cameron is able to form a majority government or not, we should make this election the turning point for Euroscepticism. The movement has stalled intellectually, and we're hearing the some of the same arguments that were being trotted out in 1975 – and they're about as unconvincing now as they were then.

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