Labour has to get over its Tony Blair problem | Jonathan Freedland

Until the party makes its peace with the three-time election winner, it is doomed to be out of power

For at least two decades Margaret Thatcher haunted the Conservative party. The guilt over her regicide, the fear that they would never find a leader to match her, the urge to do her will by distancing Britain from the hated European enterprise – one way or another, the Thatcher ghost refused to rest. Perhaps David Cameron’s unexpected success on 7 May will allow an exorcism of sorts, but her shade still lingers. The coming referendum on Europe will, for many Tories, carry a spectral echo of her famous battle cry: “No. No. No.”

Labour is similarly haunted by its own three-time election winner. But there’s a big difference. While Tories feel a collective guilt at getting rid of Thatcher, Labour can’t quite accept that it ever made Tony Blair its leader. It’s not the 2007 toppling of Blair that preys on its mind, but his 13 years at the top. The Labour tribe doesn’t know what to make of Blair, whether to revere him for scaling the electoral mountain three times or to revile him for what he did once he got there.

Labour needs to separate what Blair got right from what he got wrong, to hold on to the one while discarding the other

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Ukip looks hilarious. But soon we won’t be laughing | Jonathan Freedland

The party now poses a direct threat to Labour in its traditional heartlands. This should send a chill through the left

There are times when you have to remind yourself that Ukip is not a branch of the light entertainment industry. The delights the UK Independence party served up on Thursday would have qualified for a Bafta in the comedy category, at the very least.

Dawn brought a newspaper interview, in which the party’s campaign director denounced his own leader as a “snarling, thin-skinned, aggressive” man. Come the late evening, Nigel Farage was in his regular seat on Question Time fending off that charge, defending his unresignation that week, and insisting that a leadership contest was pointless because it would obviously result in victory for him.

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Damned by his own words

Twice in 10 years, the British people have had the chance to elect a Jewish prime minister - and twice they've said no. Michael Howard took on Tony Blair in 2005 and failed. And, last week, Ed Miliband followed Howard into the pantheon of electoral losers.

Chances are the same factors that doomed the party with the wider UK public alienated it from the Jewish electorate: namely, anxiety over Labour's economic competence and the low estimation of the party leader. The two E's - the economy and Ed - would have resonated with Jews as much as they did other Britons.

Still, it seems likely Jews had reasons of their own to reject Miliband. Generally, Labour did well in London. Yet look at the constituencies of Hendon and Finchley and Golders Green, two strongly Jewish areas where the Labour candidates were popular with local Jewish communities. Labour were soundly defeated in both places, with a substantial swing to the Tories.

That suggests Jewish misgivings about Labour and its leader that even well-liked individuals could not overcome. This is the irony that I struggled to explain to curious observers from abroad: Labour's first Jewish leader had a Jewish problem. Jews liked him less than they had liked either of his predecessors. Why?

I suspect the problem went back to the beginning. Some have suggested that his run for the leadership against his older brother offended an ancient Jewish sensibility. I doubt that. You can make a decent case that, on the contrary, Judaism is the religion of the younger brother: think of how Jacob edged out Esau, how Moses took precedence over Aaron.

No, the die was cast within a few days of Ed's victory. In his first speech as leader, Ed mentioned only one foreign policy issue. Not Iraq, not Afghanistan, not Iran - but the Gaza flotilla affair. Even those who might have shared his criticism felt uncomfortable at the implied notion that Israel was the most troublesome trouble-spot in the world. They felt singled out. That worry deepened during his five years at the top.

Plenty of Jews didn't like the hard line Miliband took during Operation Protective Edge, Israel's 2014 offensive against Gaza. Others chafed when he whipped Labour MPs to vote for recognition of a Palestinian state in the same year. To many Jews, this felt like an unhappy contrast with the effusive pro-Zionism of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

More deeply, I think many Jews saw in Ed Miliband a type they recognised and didn't much like: the leftie Jewish anti-Zionist. Never mind that Miliband himself insisted that he had a deep attachment to Israel, where he has close family, and even once described himself as a Zionist (though that statement was hastily walked back). Somehow, he made Jews suspicious that, when it came to Israel, his heart was not in the same place as theirs.

But I wonder if it went deeper still. Plenty of analysts say Ed's real problem was not that he was a geek, but that he seemed somehow fake, carrying himself and speaking in a way that suggested strenuous media training and which didn't quite ring true. I suspect Jews detected a version of that in Ed early on: that, Jewishly, he just didn't seem comfortable in his own skin.

That's hardly his fault: he's spoken about the limited Jewish upbringing his parents gave him. But it left an unexpected legacy. It meant he was never fully trusted - even by those who might have been expected to embrace one of their own.

Read our full Election 2015 coverage here

Damned by his own words

Twice in 10 years, the British people have had the chance to elect a Jewish prime minister - and twice they've said no. Michael Howard took on Tony Blair in 2005 and failed. And, last week, Ed Miliband followed Howard into the pantheon of electoral losers.

Chances are the same factors that doomed the party with the wider UK public alienated it from the Jewish electorate: namely, anxiety over Labour's economic competence and the low estimation of the party leader. The two E's - the economy and Ed - would have resonated with Jews as much as they did other Britons.

Still, it seems likely Jews had reasons of their own to reject Miliband. Generally, Labour did well in London. Yet look at the constituencies of Hendon and Finchley and Golders Green, two strongly Jewish areas where the Labour candidates were popular with local Jewish communities. Labour were soundly defeated in both places, with a substantial swing to the Tories.

That suggests Jewish misgivings about Labour and its leader that even well-liked individuals could not overcome. This is the irony that I struggled to explain to curious observers from abroad: Labour's first Jewish leader had a Jewish problem. Jews liked him less than they had liked either of his predecessors. Why?

I suspect the problem went back to the beginning. Some have suggested that his run for the leadership against his older brother offended an ancient Jewish sensibility. I doubt that. You can make a decent case that, on the contrary, Judaism is the religion of the younger brother: think of how Jacob edged out Esau, how Moses took precedence over Aaron.

No, the die was cast within a few days of Ed's victory. In his first speech as leader, Ed mentioned only one foreign policy issue. Not Iraq, not Afghanistan, not Iran - but the Gaza flotilla affair. Even those who might have shared his criticism felt uncomfortable at the implied notion that Israel was the most troublesome trouble-spot in the world. They felt singled out. That worry deepened during his five years at the top.

Plenty of Jews didn't like the hard line Miliband took during Operation Protective Edge, Israel's 2014 offensive against Gaza. Others chafed when he whipped Labour MPs to vote for recognition of a Palestinian state in the same year. To many Jews, this felt like an unhappy contrast with the effusive pro-Zionism of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

More deeply, I think many Jews saw in Ed Miliband a type they recognised and didn't much like: the leftie Jewish anti-Zionist. Never mind that Miliband himself insisted that he had a deep attachment to Israel, where he has close family, and even once described himself as a Zionist (though that statement was hastily walked back). Somehow, he made Jews suspicious that, when it came to Israel, his heart was not in the same place as theirs.

But I wonder if it went deeper still. Plenty of analysts say Ed's real problem was not that he was a geek, but that he seemed somehow fake, carrying himself and speaking in a way that suggested strenuous media training and which didn't quite ring true. I suspect Jews detected a version of that in Ed early on: that, Jewishly, he just didn't seem comfortable in his own skin.

That's hardly his fault: he's spoken about the limited Jewish upbringing his parents gave him. But it left an unexpected legacy. It meant he was never fully trusted - even by those who might have been expected to embrace one of their own.

Read our full Election 2015 coverage here

Guardian live: election results special – video highlights

Hosted by Jonathan Freedland with a rotating panel featuring Polly Toynbee, Hugh Muir and Owen Jones, Guardian political analysts take stock after a dramatic day for British politics - three political leaders resigned after the Conservative party won an overall majority in the general election. Labour won far fewer seats than expected, the Liberal Democrats were nearly obliterated and the SNP dominated in Scotland Continue reading...

Election earthquake has opened chasms David Cameron will struggle to bridge

With Labour and Lib Dems decimated, coming battles over two unions – the EU and the UK – have taken on a dramatically different complexion

Those who stayed awake saw the earthquake for themselves. Those that slept through the night arose on Friday to glimpse a landscape changed utterly. Its contours were redrawn, its borders painted in newly vivid colours. And, most spectacularly, some of the most familiar human landmarks were suddenly gone, toppled like statues in a street revolution.

By lunchtime, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage – household names for several years, one a deputy prime minister, another a man who until 10pm on Thursday believed he was within reach of Downing Street – had all resigned, their names to be attached forevermore to the words “former leader”. It was as if they had all fallen victim not to an act of nature or a rampaging mob but a military plan hatched at Conservative headquarters: a decapitation strategy.

The SNP won with a clear message of anti-austerity. Yet the Tory promise of fiscal rectitude prevailed in England

With politics this different in England and Scotland, for how much longer can we speak of the UK as a single entity?

Related: What will the new Tory government do?

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Three-minute election: How did David Cameron and the Tories do it? And what happens now? – video

Columnists Jonathan Freedland and Matthew d'Ancona discuss the general election result: a bloody night for Labour and the Lib Dems and a stunning victory for David Cameron. How were the media and political class beguiled into believing that Labour could get away with being behind on the economy? And are the Conservatives as surprised at the result as everyone else? Continue reading...

Election 2015 results live: exit poll puts Tories on 316 seats with Labour on 239

Rolling coverage of the results of the UK general election 2015, including parties urging caution over first numbers putting the Conservatives ahead and Sunderland becoming first constituency to declare

The ConservativeHome journalist Peter Franklin has been speculating on what the Lib Dem parliamentary party might look like, if the exit poll turns out to be true.

If only 10 Lib Dem survivors I'd guess: Carmichael, Clegg, Farron, Lamb, Laws, Hughes, Cable, Russell, Webb, Davey

The BBC/Sky/ITV exit polls gets revised as the night goes on.

According to Sky’s Faisal Islam, the data that came in after 9pm did not alter the calculations.

Exit poll final interviews from 9-10pm haven't changed this projection... Still Con ahead Lab by 77 seats, SNP sweeping all. #GE2015

Hear that ballot boxes only recently arrived at @edballsmp count so rumour re losing his seat seems to be just that - a rumour

At one point it was assumed that the rise of Ukip would harm the Conservatives more than any other party. Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, thinks it will turn out the other way round.

My prediction for tonight is that #UKIP vote will prove to be a huge boost to Conservative Party, not that it was our intention. #GE2015

Ed Balls on ITV: the exit poll jars with all the pols we have seen in recent days. Even if it's right the Con/LD majority has been wiped out

Senior Scottish Labour source tells @Telegraph: "We are in contention in a lot more seats than the BBC exit poll shows."

Nigel Farage is set to lose in South Thanet, according to Labour sources.

Labour source at South Thanet count reckons ukip third, with Tory/labour fighting it out for win. #GE2015

Andrew Neil is now interviewing Michael Gove on the BBC. If the poll is right, David Cameron will have won a remarkable victory, Gove says. But it is not a victory if you did not win a majority, says Neil.

Here is a picture of one of those sixth-form runners who helped Sunderland hold on to its first-to-declare record.

Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spin doctors, is telling the BBC that if David Cameron cannot form a government that gains a majority, then Ed Miliband will have the right to form a government.

He won’t eat his hat, but he will eat his kilt if the SNP gain 58 seats in Scotland.

Sunderland has held on to its crown as the fastest-declaring city in every UK general election since 1992.

Bridget Phillipson was announced as the Labour MP for Houghton & Sunderland South at 10.48pm – four minutes faster than in 2010.

In Belfast, Henry McDonald analyses the DUP’s chances of influencing a new government:

If the national exit poll is correct and the election outcome marks the return of the Con-Lib Dem coalition then this may lessen the chance of the Democratic Unionist party exerting influence on the new government. David Cameron may not need the votes of the eight or possibly nine DUP MPs. But DUP sources at the Kings Hall count in Belfast insist that a coalition government with 326 seats is unstable and Cameron may still have to call on Nigel Dodds for further backing.

Here are the Houghton and Sunderland South results in full.

Bridget Phillipson (Lab) 21,218 (55.13%, +4.79%)
Richard Elvin (UKIP) 8,280 (21.51%, +18.82%)
Stewart Hay (C) 7,105 (18.46%, -2.97%)
Alan Robinson (Green) 1,095 (2.84%)
Jim Murray (LD) 791 (2.06%, -11.86%)
Lab maj 12,938 (33.61%)
7.01% swing Lab to Ukip
Electorate 68,316; Turnout 38,489 (56.34%, +1.02%)

Labour has held Houghton & Sunderland South. Ukip has come second.

Labour is on 55%, up 5 percentage points. Ukip was on 22%, up 19%.

John Curtice, the psephologist in charge of the BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll, says 22,000 people have been interviewed for it.

The SNP has done at least as well as the poll suggests, he says.

The YouGov figures reflect polling carried out today, but it is not a proper exit poll.

YouGov has not done an exit poll. A re-contact survey today simply gave us no reason to change our final numbers from yesterday.

Jonathan Freedland has posted a snap analysis of the exit poll. Here is an excerpt:

If this one turns out to be similarly accurate, there will be inquests aplenty. Labour will surely spend the coming hours contemplating the fate of its leader, who – this poll says – was roundly rejected in both England and Scotland. The Lib Dems will spend the night contemplating the bizarre prospect of having been simultaneously wiped out – and looking forward to a return to government. Their projected tally of 10 seats should be a disaster of epic proportions – and yet, on the exit polls, it would almost be enough to see them renew their coalition vows with the Conservatives.

As for Scotland, the exit polls confirmed that this was the revolution some had foretold – in which Scotland turned collectively yellow, becoming the land of the Scottish National party.

If you missed the moment the exit poll from the BBC, ITV and Sky News was announced, here it is again:

This is from Sam Freedman, a former adviser to Michael Gove. His tweets are normally quite sensible.

Extraordinary rumours swirling - most incredible is that Tories think they might have got Balls in Morley and Outwood. Surely not.

As dramatic exit polls suggest that the SNP could sweep to power in all but one of Scotland’s 59 constituencies, Dr Murray Stewart Leith, senior lecturer in politics at the University of the West of Scotland, has urged parties to treat the results with caution.

I’m dubious about it because it deviates so strongly from all of the other polls we’ve had,” he said. “We’ve had more polls taken over the course of this campaign than any previous election.

Of course, polling has been wrong in the past, but as a science it’s become more exact. It’s a social science, so we’re always going to be slightly off, but even given the most extreme margin of error this poll is giving a significant gain to the Conservatives across the UK that not even their most ardent supporters thought was possible.

Senior Welsh Labour source says if exit poll is right it could mean an ‘English’ swing & thus spell bad news for the future of the Union.

This is the line from Labour:

It has been close all the way through – and exit polls have been wrong in the past. YouGov figures are very different from the BBC’s. The coalition came into the election with a majority of 73 and even if the BBC exit poll is right, that has all but been wiped out. Who forms the next government is who can carry the confidence of the House of Commons.

The Guardian’s data editor gives us his reaction to the exit poll.

YouGov has released a new poll that has given very different figures from the exit polls.

YouGov Exit Poll: CON - 284 LAB - 263 SNP - 48 LDEM - 31 UKIP - 2 GRN - 1 #TheVote

Exit polls comparison (BBC vs. YouGov) Cons: 316 vs. 284 Lab: 239 vs. 263 Lib Dem: 10 vs. 31 SNP: 58 vs. 48 UKIP: 2 vs. 2”

Caroline Davies is in Witney, David Cameron’s constituency, where counters are getting ready for a long night. She sends this report:

The first of the ballot boxes arrived at 10.15pm at the Windrush leisure centre in Witney, David Cameron’s West Oxfordshire constituency. In the last general election, he polled 33,973 – 58% – and a majority of 22,740. The Liberal Democrats were second with 19.4%.

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, also told the BBC that, if the exit poll was right, it meant the coalition goverment had lost its majority.

Phoebe Greenwood is in Uxbridge, the seat Boris Johnson is contesting for the Tories, as the ballot boxes arrive for the count.

Here is more from what Michael Gove told David Dimbleby earlier.

I believe it could be right. If it is right, the Conservatives have clearly won this election, and Labour have clearly lost it. We have not had an incumbent government increase its majority like this since 1983 and it would be an unprecedented vote of confidence in David Cameron’s leadership and in particular in the message that we have reinforced throught this campaign, which is that if people want to secure our economic recovery, they have to make sure that David is in Downing Street ...

If this exit poll is correct, that gives the prime minister considerable authority. He would have clearly won. And we should all wait for the prime minister to say tomorrow on what basis he proceeds and on what basis he wants to ensure that we have a strong, stable and secure government that we argued for and that it seems the country has backed.

The pound surged by 1% against the US dollar to $1.54 after the exit poll was published.

Chris Beauchamp, a senior market analyst at IG, said the much better-than-expected performance by the Tories electrified markets, sending sterling 150 points up against the US dollar to $1.54 – and pushing up FTSE futures.

The exit poll certainly comes as a surprise, putting the Conservatives well ahead on 316. IG’s market had the Conservatives at 291 in the minutes before the poll was released, so it appears the ‘incumbency effect’ is playing its part as people weigh up their choices in the privacy of the voting booth. Crucially, Mr Cameron is expected to still be short of a majority, but it looks like any putative anti-Tory coalition will have a harder job on its hands blocking any Queen’s speech authored largely by the Conservatives.

A strong Conservative element to the next government sends the message that the economic policies of the past five years will continue, removing concerns about an early end to austerity.

Pound surges 1% against the US dollar to $1.54 after exit poll shows Conservatives are largest party #GE2015 pic.twitter.com/2NdbUn6Ans

Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, says even if the exit poll is correct, there would still be a question as to whether the Tories could form a majority.

She won’t go as far as Paddy Ashdown, she says, but she has known exit polls to be wrong before.

The exit poll commissioned by the BBC, ITV and Sky News, and carried out by Gfk-NOP and Ipsos Mori, has the Conservatives on 316 seats, by far the largest party. Labour are predicted to win 239 seats.

The numbers are in stark contrast to pre-election polls. And based on these numbers, the current Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government would have the numbers to continue in office.

V senior @UKIP sources in Thanet south tell BBC turnout high but worried about tactical voters out to block @Nigel_Farage ie labour #ge2015

Senior @Conservatives sources in Thanet south tell BBC it's 'too close to call', but confident vote 'holding up' #ge2015

Paddy Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader and head of the party’s election campaign, has just told the BBC that he would “publicly eat [his] hat” if this poll turns out to be true.

Here is my colleague James Ball’s reaction to the exit poll.

Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader, says the exit poll should be treated with “huge caution”.

I'd treat the exit poll with HUGE caution. I'm hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely! #GE15

A senior Lib Dem source in Nick Clegg’s camp said:

Our initial thoughts on the exit poll are that it doesn’t match any of our internal intelligence and we find it quite extraordinary that not a single bit of evidence has pointed to this so far. Labour losses and Tory gains seem extraordinary. For the SNP to take all but one seat in Scotland would also be extraordinary. We are going to take a loss, we’ve always known that and it’s not going to be an easy night but we think 10 is right at the bottom end of our expectations.

Pound surges 1% against the US dollar to $1.54 after exit poll shows Conservatives are largest party #GE2015 pic.twitter.com/2NdbUn6Ans

Michael Gove, the Conservative chief whip, tells the BBC that if this poll is correct, “the Conservatives have clearly won this election, and Labour has clearly lost it”.

John Curtice: If exit poll is correct predicted Labour tally of 239 seats would represent party’s worst result since 1987 #bbcelections2015

According to these figures, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems together would have 326 seats - just enough for a majority.

The exit poll says the DUP are on course to get 8 seats. So, if they joined up with the Tories and the Lib Dems, that would take the figure to 334.

The BBC has now released the rest of the figures, including Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Conservatives: 316

According to these figures, the Conservatives are on course to gain nine seats. And Labour are on course to lose seats, and end up 77 seats behind the Conservatives.

Here are the exit poll figures.

Conservatives: 316

As we await the exit poll from the main broadcasters, Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night has kicked off, pairing up David Mitchell and Jeremy Paxman for nine hours of hard news, electoral commentary, biting satire and Gogglebox. Paxo left Newsnight for this new foray into awkward autocue stand-up, so we’re tentatively hopeful it will offer some light relief from the joyless election dustbowl on the BBC, particularly in the small hours.

However due to Ofcom rules, Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night can’t talk about the election until the polls close. So the first hour has been mostly laboured gags about not being able to talk about the election. A 10pm start would have been considerably less painful.

David Dimbleby has the exit poll in his hands. But he can’t read it out til 10pm.

Labour says it has had 10,000 volunteers out on the streets of London today in an effort to get its vote out. The party has been consistently ahead of the Tories by 12% – 14% in the capital and hopes that its superior “ground war” will convert that lead into a raft of new seats. Labour currently has 38 of the capital’s 73 MPs, the Tories 28 and the Lib Dems seven.

An early test of this theory will be Battersea, which is due to declare at 2am. The party needs to overturn a near 6,000 majority to oust Conservative MP Jane Ellison. If Labour is anywhere near it will be an ominous sign for the Tories, but if a recent poll from Lord Ashcroft putting the Tories 12 points clear proves accurate, Labour could be in for a long night.

Earlier the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman wrote a blog saying the Tories suspect Ed Miliband could offer the Lib Dems electoral reform to win their support in a hung parliament. But Labour are dismissing this idea, she reports.

Update: Labour sources pouring cold water on idea of PR as an offer to Lib Dems http://t.co/282bOWot8w

“They cling on to it like a chalice but I don’t think anybody else is that arsed, to be honest wi’ ye,” said a Sunderland taxi driver of his city’s proud record of being the first to declare a result in every general election since 1992.

Within three minutes of the polls closing at 10pm, the first ballot boxes are being sprinted into a vast sports complex three miles from Sunderland city centre. A team of 100 sixth-formers have been recruited from two local schools as runners, delivering the boxes from 121 polling stations across Wearside to 200 well-drilled counters, including local bank tellers hand-picked for their speed and accuracy.

We're pumped up, feeling bloody lively in Sunderland. First result in little over 2 hours! https://t.co/vBqDvpTQE3

The Sunderland seats are expected to be the first to declare. In a recent Guardian article Dave Smith, the council’s chief executive, explained why the council was so quick.

UPDATE: Dave McGuinness says Newcastle fancy their chances too.

@AndrewSparrow massive rivalry between Newcastle & Sunderland to try and declare first apparently Newcastle City Council fancy their chances

Nigel Farage is still trying to get the Kippers out.

30 minutes left! Go and #VoteUKIP for a REAL shake up of the political establishment! #GE2015 #IVOTED

Here are some more reports of polling station queueing.

Large queues form outside of Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane in Leeds #leeds #electionyorks http://t.co/KkIJJr4ENT pic.twitter.com/l7vbhhbg8T

Huge queues now outside Spa Rd polling station in Bermondsey. You will be allowed to vote if you're in line before 10pm.

1 hour left to vote, and queues outside some polling stations are 50 minutes long http://t.co/h8WDGNicNH #GE2015 pic.twitter.com/LWCkH8YoS9

good lord, a 40 minute queue outside a polling station in Cheetham Hill http://t.co/PVuHicuH4i

Long queues at polling stations in Hove. Suspect turnout is going to be high this time.

In Norwich some people have been having to wait up to an hour to vote.

Polling station at jessopp road Norwich where people have waited up to an hour to vote pic.twitter.com/0PL2CWds89

Betfair, 9pm: Ed Miliband odds-on favourite at 10/11 for next PM, pulling away slightly from David Cameron 11/10.

Our correspondent Josh Halliday has done a brief video interview with the Sunderland returning officer - the man masterminding the city’s attempt to smash its own declaration record of 10:42pm.

Here is some more background election reading.

Here’s a Guardian/Observer graphic showing what success might look like for the main parties.

Every man and his dog seems to be coming up with an election forecast this time round. This one, from an independent analyst who writes the Number Cruncher Politics blog, may make Labour a little nervous.

NCP final call roundup and prediction: CON 302 LAB 249 SNP 51 LIB 23 http://t.co/Tfknp8cMP1 #GE2015 #ELECTION2015 pic.twitter.com/LfX5K0N6SF

According to ConservativeHome’s Mark Wallace, in some areas the Tories are having problems with VoteSource, their voter contact database.

Hearing from a variety of seats where VoteSource is borked that campaign teams are left relying on old paper canvassing returns.

If, as I wrote this morning http://t.co/LojHIl1o9L, your plan is to win by smart targeting, your database breaking is bad news.

@melindiscott It's the voter contact database. Who we've canvassed, who is a Tory voter and therefore whose door needs knocking on today

@melindiscott Apparently that last part - printing out the sheets so you can knock on supporters' doors to get out the vote - is breaking

I'm told VoteSource is working fine in South Thanet - evidently the problems aren't everywhere. ( cc @LabourList)

Here is a sample of “only two more hours to vote” tweets from the political parties.

This is the closest election for a generation. Make sure your voice is heard. #VoteLabour

Just 2 hours left to make your voice heard and secure a brighter future for Britain. Make sure you #VoteConservative. pic.twitter.com/oIa5VNPRLx

Two hours until polling stations close at 10pm. Please get out and vote! http://t.co/pDMqSEBmYG #VoteGreen2015 pic.twitter.com/ElZd2QEIRb

90 minutes remain to #voteSNP and help us end Westminster austerity cuts. Polls close at 10pm #GE15 pic.twitter.com/YxPwoYFk6G

There's just an hour & a half until polls close. Here's why you should vote #libdems #GE2015 pic.twitter.com/slr2kRMrFD

If you are interested in how the BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll is conducted (see 8.03pm), here is a short reading list.

My colleague Claire Phipps posted earlier a useful guide to what’s happening on election night. It includes her guide to where you can watch the results. Here are the options for UK viewers.

Only two more hours to go.

The polls have been open since 7am and you can follow all the polling day action on our earlier live blog (as well as see some nice pictures of dogs).

It's all gone tits up. Call for Boris

Continue reading...

The exit poll no one expected | Jonathan Freedland

With projections showing the Conservatives only 10 seats short of a majority, Labour is in shock. Exit polls have been wrong before, but if this one holds, there’ll be inquests aplenty

It’s fair to say no one was expecting that. Not the political parties, not the punditocracy and – least of all – the pollsters. The exit poll that came on the stroke at 10pm will have caused ashen faces at Labour headquarters. At Lib Dem towers, the spirits would have crumpled in an instant. At Tory mission control, the joy would have been unconfined.

Related: Election 2015 results live: exit poll puts Tories on 316 seats with Labour on 239

Continue reading...

Three-minute election: When Kirstie Allsopp met Grayson Perry – video

On the day before the general election, columnist Jonathan Freedland discusses the campaign with two special guests: TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp and artist Grayson Perry. Which of them was tempted to shift tribes? Who finds hope a bit depressing? Why are those people in mansions voting Labour, and what makes Allsopp so angry? Is Ed Miliband in touch with ordinary people, and what's David Cameron's biggest fault? And will anyone stop talking after three minutes ... Continue reading...