Belfast Telegraph

General Election exit poll: Tories lead with 316 seats - Labour face demolition at hands of SNP

'If the exit poll is correct, I will eat my hat'

Exit polls have predicted a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives the largest party in the tightest general election in more than 30 years.

The survey of how roughly 20,000 voted shows David Cameron on 316 seats ahead of Labour, but 10 short of a majority.

The Liberal Democrats are set to lose all but 10 of their MPs, according to the poll for BBC, ITN and Sky. If the prediction is correct, it would leave Nick Clegg’s party with just 10 MPs, but that would just about be enough to form a second Coalition with the Tories - taking the two parties to the slimmest of majorities of 326 seats.

Support for the SNP looks to have prevented Ed Miliband from winning the election outright after winning 58 seats, cutting Labour’s seat share in Scotland to just one MP.

The poll predicts Ukip is on course to win just two seats, despite the party expected to win around 13 per cent of the vote.

Liberal Democrat MEP Paddy Ashdown told the BBC: "If the exit poll is correct, I will eat my hat."

Tony Blair's former director of communications Alastair Campbell said the exit poll was "certainly not what we were hoping for or expecting".

Mr Campbell told the BBC: "I have to say it just doesn't feel right . I think there is a lot of scepticism about the poll. If this poll is right, there is going to have to be a pretty big look at the polling industry."

He added: "David Cameron set out to win a majority. It looks like he hasn't. I don't know what he is going to do in relation to the Liberal Democrats."

Tory chief whip Michael Gove told the BBC: "If it is the case that the exit poll is right, then David Cameron has won a very handsome victory in this election. He will have secured both an advance on seats and outperformed the expectation of almost every commentator."

This is how the exit poll predicts the election:

Conservatives: 316

Labour: 239

SNP: 58

Liberal Democrats: 10

Ukip: 2

Green party: 2

It is the most accurate poll of the election before the final results are announced in the early hours of Friday morning because it tells us how people have voted rather than how they will vote.

It is conducted by 140 researchers at 140 polling stations across the UK, with venues chosen that are seen to be representative of the constituency they are in.

Results are sent in to a central team of five pollsters, who use the data to generate a national prediction.

In 2010 the exit poll was very accurate, under-predicting Labour’s seat share by three and over-predicting the Liberal Democrats by two.

But in 1992 the two exit polls for ITN and BBC wrongly predicted a hung Parliament - John Major had just about secured a majority for the Conservatives.

It could have been even worse for the BBC, had it not made a last-minute adjustment before David Dimbleby addressed the nation. Minutes before 10pm it was predicting a Labour majority.

This election could see a repeat of 1992 as the rise of smaller parties make it much more complicated to predict how some of the most marginal constituencies will swing.

Stay up to date with all the latest election developments as the results roll in with our live-blog.

Live Election results: Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales - state of the parties, counts and predictions 

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