John Harris

Journalist & Author

Archive for May, 2015

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How Flatpack Democracy beat the old parties in the People’s Republic of Frome

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

On 7 May, a small Somerset town voted against traditional party politics and gave a coalition of independents control of all 17 seats on its council. As the crucible of ‘flatpack democracy’, Frome is leading a small-scale political revolution – and it’s one that is spreading

At this year’s Glastonbury, while some people get excited about the Foo Fighters and others loll around the Healing Field, one of the events in Billy Bragg’s politics-and-music Left Field tent will be devoted to a discussion of “Radical Movements”. The organisers have booked speakers from Greece’s governing party, Syriza, insurgent Spanish rebels Podemos and Scottish leftwing collective Radical Independence, all of whom will presumably give it some about the horrors of neoliberalism and the nitty-gritty of popular revolt. And then there will be the representative from Frome.

Somewhat incongruously, the speaker from the Somerset market town will be there to explain an idea known as “flatpack democracy”, and a small-scale revolution that has turned local politics there, and elsewhere, on its head.

Related: Somerset Share Shop offers a new kind of enterprise | Rachel Williams

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Labour is in deep crisis – and trite guff won’t save it | John Harris

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

The party’s leadership contenders seem unaware of the size of the task ahead of them, and what is required to tackle profound long-term social change

Jonathan Powell, it would seem, is a very clever man. Tony Blair’s chief of staff between 1995 and 2007 poured what he learned into an acclaimed book about statecraft titled The New Machiavelli. He was the government’s chief negotiator in the Northern Ireland peace process, and now serves as the UK’s official envoy to Libya. He has an understanding of politics and diplomacy to die for, and could doubtless run rings around provincial small fry like me.

Strange, then, that he has decided to add his voice to the hurricane of trite guff that currently swirls around the Labour party. In Tuesday’s the Times he put Labour’s defeat down to the simple fact that “we tried to run from the left”, and offered the party a banal vision of hope, which could materialise as quickly as a Pot Noodle. “We can go ahead and lose a third election in 2020 if we choose to do so,” he wrote, “or we can choose a leader who can harry the Tories locked in a miserable government for five years and then win the next election with a substantial majority to change the country as we did in 1997.”

Related: Labour must understand the scale of its defeat. But we can and will rebuild | Tristram Hunt

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‘It was a classic case of naive creatives, not protecting what they’d got’

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Shindig!’s Jon Mills and Andy Morten on the perils of striking a magazine publishing deal without the proper paperwork

Just before Easter, Jon Mills and Andy Morten signed off the 47th issue of Shindig!, the music magazine the two of them have been producing for around 20 years. Although relations with their independent publisher had taken a strained turn, the two of them were gearing up for issues 48 and 49 before going on holiday.

While away, they received some very rum news indeed. Some 80% of the content they had worked on had been redesigned, and folded into a new magazine titled Kaleidoscope. Worse still, this new title’s masthead featured the words “incorporating Shindig!”, apparently serving notice that their publication was now extinct.

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General election: charting the SNP’s political earthquake in Scotland – video

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

In the final video of his Election 2015 series, John Harris experiences election night mayhem in Glasgow, as the SNP wins seat after seat and Labour effectively undergoes total wipe-out. Voters talk about their mood of hope, Nicola Sturgeon tells him about her message for lefties in England, and he ends up in nearby Coatbridge, the constituency snatched from Labour on a 36% swing. Finally, he sets off home with a new mission: in this darkest of moments for England, can he find some political hope of his own? Continue reading…

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Election night 2015 – as it happened

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

This liveblog is closed. Please click here for the latest election live coverage

6.38am BST

We’re closing this blog now, and we will carry on covering the remaining election results, and the reaction – including the likely resignation of Nick Clegg later today – on a new blog which we’ve just launched.

Thanks for the comments.

6.30am BST

The Conservative Claire Perry is happy to see Mark Reckless go.

Hallelujah. Mark Reckless out. Don’t let the door hit your fat arse as you leave.

6.19am BST

This result will give David Cameron particular pleasure, the Tories have defeated Mark Reckless in Rochester and Strood

6.19am BST

According to the BBC, there are the current share of the vote figures, based on the seats that have been counted so far (not full GB projections).

Conservatives: 34%

6.09am BST

And Ed Miliband has been tweeting too.

He says David Cameron has a duty to unite the country.

This has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour party. To every member and supporter, I want to say thank you.

The next government has a huge responsibility to bring our country together. What unites us is much, much more than what divides us.

6.04am BST

David Cameron has been tweeting the core message from his acceptance speech.

One nation, one United Kingdom – that is how I hope to govern if I am fortunate enough to continue as Prime Minister.

6.03am BST

Sinn Féin has lost its first Westminster seat since 1992.

The Ulster Unionist candidate Tom Elliott has triumphed in Fermanagh/South Tyrone – the most marginal constituency in the UK. In 2010 Sinn Féin won the seat by just four votes against another united unionist candidate.

6.03am BST

The Tories have won back Corby from Labour.

6.01am BST

Here are the revised BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll projections.

Conservatives: 325

5.58am BST

This is from Jon Mellon, a member of the BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll team.

Our forecast (updated after the exit poll using the declared results) has the Conservatives right on the edge of a majority #GE2015

5.56am BST

Caroline Flint has held Don Valley for Labour.

5.55am BST

Here’s our latest front page.

Guardian front page 6am edition

5.54am BST

Labour sources admit Ed Balls seat will be "close" but too early to say #GE2015

5.51am BST

Rosie Winterton has held Doncaster Central for Labour.

5.50am BST

Boris Johnson, tired but visibly delighted at the incoming results, has cheekily, and somewhat worryingly, joked it was the Guardian wot won it.

Referring to a direct video appeal he made to Guardian readers to vote Tory 24 hours before the polls opened, he joked: “It was devastating. I met people who had seen it.”

5.49am BST

David Cameron starts by thanking staff at the count and his supporters and Conservative campaigners across the country.

It is a huge honour to be MP here, he says.

5.43am BST

David Cameron has just been re-elected MP for Witney.

5.42am BST

Ed Miliband learned at 5.30am that he had held his safe Labour seat of Doncaster North, just as the scale of his party’s losses were becoming apparent to all around him.

He took to the stage at Doncaster Racecourse after watching one Labour MP after another lose their seats in Scotland to the SNP, and as results from across England and Wales made clear that he had no hope of pulling neck and neck with the Tories.

5.41am BST

The BBC have updated their forecast. They now have the Tories on 325 seats, which is – just – enough for a majority (taking into account the fact that Sinn Fein do not take their seats).

And Labour is heading for just 232 seats, the BBC says.


5.37am BST

Tories gain Portsmouth South

5.36am BST

Gerry Sutcliffe, the former Labour MP, has said that Ed Miliband needs to consider his position.

Former Lab MP,Gerry Sutcliffe,tells @carolynquinncq Ed Miliband"will have to consider his position. It’s time for somebody else to take over

5.29am BST

Peter Kellner on the BBC says that, so far, Labour has made just five gains from the Tories, but that it has lost five seats to the Tories too.

5.28am BST

My colleague Alice Ross has sent this on the fate of the employment minister, Esther McVey.

McVey became one of the only high-profile Tory casualties of the night, narrowly losing her Wirral West seat to Labour’s Margaret Greenwood.

5.28am BST

Ed Miliband has been re-elected in Doncaster.

In his acceptance speech he thanks Labour members for their work.

5.25am BST

Lib Dem stalwart Vince Cable was unseated in Twickenham by the Conservative candidate, Tania Mathias, who overturned a 12,000 majority to take the seat Cable, 72 on Saturday, had held for nearly two decades.

Mathias, an NHS doctor and local councillor, admitted she was “very surprised”, though polling a few weeks ago put the Tory ahead – prompting David Cameron to visit the constituency earlier this week. Liberal Democrats had hoped that in the final weeks of the campaign the presence of Cable, a popular MP locally, would sway undecided voters to back him.

5.24am BST

Charles Kennedy, the former Lib Dem leader, has lost his seat.

Charles Kennedy is gone – the one Lib MP not to vote for the coalition loses his seat in a post coalition demolition

5.21am BST

Conservatives HOLD Cannock Chase #GE2015

Last month an Ashcroft poll suggested Labour had a six-point lead here.

5.18am BST

BREAK: Ulster Unionists gain, Sinn Fein lose Fermanagh and South Tyrone, the most marginal constituency in the UK. #GE2015 @SkyDavidBlevins

5.17am BST

Prof Curtice says now with more than half the results, Tories look 7pts ahead in popular vote, and still possible to get an overall majority

5.17am BST

Rob Booth has some more on Boris Johnson’s victory speech.

The new MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip said he wanted to see “further devolution to the component parts” of Britain and called for a debate on a federal solution.

I don’t think that the people who voted SNP last night are going to want to split up the UK. I think they are going to want to keep us together. We are going to need to work on that, we are going to need to be sensitive, to take time and come up with a solution. It is there to be done.

5.16am BST

And the average turnout so far is 65.3%, the Press Association reports.

5.15am BST

This is what Labour’s Keir Starmer – the former director of public prosecutions – is promising voters of Holborn and St Pancras where he beat the Tories’ Will Blair and the Greens’ Natalie Bennett.

Time for an inclusive future based on values of equality, fairness and dignity for all #VoteLabour @CamdenLabour

5.14am BST

According to the Press Association, after the first 340 results, here are the average swings:

C to Lab 0.08%
LD to C 7.05%
LD to Lab 7.13%

5.12am BST

With more than half the results in, the Greens have sent out a note about some of their successes. They say they have retained 47 deposits, which is more than they have ever done before, and they have beaten the Lib Dems in 60 seats.

And here is their list of their best results so far.

Hackney North: 14.6% (7,281 votes)

Isle of Wight: 13.8% (9,404 votes)

5.08am BST

Paddy Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader and head of the party’s election campaign, has written an email to Lib Dem members. Here’s an extract.

Last night was a bitter night for Liberal Democrats. Perhaps most bitter of all, the results do not do justice to your hard work, dedication or passion.

You have fought the campaign of your lives, and I am incredibly proud of you.

5.06am BST

The Conservatives’ Anna Soubry holds her Broxtowe seat.

5.02am BST

Esther McVey loses seat to Labour’s Margaret Greenwood.

4.56am BST

In his acceptance speech Nick Clegg thanks his “outstanding” campaign team.

For 10 years he has been involved in the “sometimes brutal” world of British politics, he says.

4.52am BST

Nick Clegg has held his seat in Sheffield.

4.51am BST

It is even worse for the Lib Dems in Eastleigh than expected. The Tories have taken the Hampshire constituency with a majority just shy of 10,000.

The Lib Dem’s Mike Thornton said it was going to be “very difficult” for Nick Clegg. He said: “We’re getting punished by people who used to vote for us for taking a responsible decision five years ago, which was country before party.”

4.51am BST

Echoing what he told the Evening Standard yesterday, Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor of London and new MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, has told the BBC that we should move towards a federal structure.

4.49am BST

Boris Johnson has been re-elected to parliament with a landslide victory in the safe Conservative seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.

The London mayor received 22,511 votes, beating his nearest challenger, Labour’s Chris Summers, on 11,816.

4.46am BST

Incredible – Labour HOLD a seat in Scotland. Ian Murray in Edinburgh South. #GE2015

4.45am BST

All seven Glasgow results have now officially declared, and Nicola Sturgeon is taking a photo call with the successful candidates.

The city – were it was once said that you could put a red rosette on a monkey and people would vote for it – saw some extraordinary swings from Labour to the SNP, including 30.6% in Glasgow East.

4.45am BST

From Wirral West, Alice Ross reports that Tory employment minister Esther McVey’s re-election chances are on a knife-edge as the returning officer declares a recount in her seat.

For Labour, it’s a sliver of hope that they may claim at least one high-profile scalp on an otherwise dismal night. Arriving at the count earlier accompanied by her father, McVey said: “Of course I’m nervous – it’s a human emotion.”

4.43am BST

More from Vince Cable: “Unfortunately it’s been a terrible night for our party all
over, though I’m absolutely sure we’re going to bounce back, both
nationally and locally.”

4.42am BST

The Lib Dems hoped they might win in Watford, where the Lib Dem mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, was the candidate. It was described as a three-way marginal. But Thornhill came third, more than 14,000 votes behind the Conservative Richard Harrington, who was reelected.

4.40am BST

Nick Hurd, son of Margaret Thatcher’s foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, has romped home for the Conservatives in Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner with 30,521 votes – an increased majority of 20,224 over Labour.

The Eton and Oxford-educated former minister for civil society beat Labour’s Michael Borio who recorded 10,297 votes, a slight increase for his party, and Joshua Dixon for the Liberal Democrats whose vote collapsed from 8,345 in 2010 to 2,537.

4.38am BST

John Denham warned Labour it was suffering from "southern discomfort". Labour has just lost his Southampton seat.

4.37am BST

Jack Straw’s son Will fails to win Rossendale and Darwen from the Tories

4.36am BST

Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, has lost his seat in Twickenham.

4.35am BST

In a big win for Labour on an otherwise bleak night, Neil Coyle beat Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat who has held the south London seat of Bermondsey and Old Southwark for over three decades.

Hughes, the justice minister, survived two previous close races; one in 1997 when he resisted the Labour landslide that swept Tony Blair to No 10. But this time he succumbed to a resurgent Labour party determined to claw back the seat it lost to Hughes in 1983.

4.34am BST

Boris Johnson has just been elected in Uxbridge. In his acceptance speech, he thanks his wife Marina for her help with his campaign and he tells her that he has not forgotten that today is their wedding anniversary.

He says people have voted for a programme of economic common sense to take the country forward.

4.32am BST

It has been a bad night for pollsters. But Lord Ashcroft has argued that his constituency polls have turned out be to fairly reliable.

Not a great night for any of the pollsters or forecasters. Post-mortem needed. But keeping track of my marginal polls against the results…

…and the right winner in 31 of 37 (84%) snapshots so far in all polls over the last year. Average error on all parties’ vote shares of 3.4%.

4.29am BST

Conservative Bob Blackman has held on to Harrow East, a critical bellwether constituency that has gone with the winning party in every election for the past 36 years.

This was another seat where polling was proved wrong; a poll by Lord Ashcroft put the Labour candidate, Uma Kumaran, ahead by four points less than a month ago.

4.29am BST

In his acceptance speech Douglas Carswell, who has been re-elected as Ukip’s MP for Clacton, said around 5m people had either voted for Ukip or the Green party. Those 5m people will be lucky to get “tiny handful” of MPs, he said.

That failure to translate those 5m votes into seats is less a translation of how my party or the Green party campaigned. Rather, it tells us how dysfunctional our political system has now become. Approximately four times more people voted either for the Greens or for Ukip than the SNP, yet the SNP is expected to get many more times the representation.

4.24am BST

Looks like the first we will hear from Cameron will be between 4.30am and 5am, which is the best estimate for when Witney will declare.

One interesting question for Labour activists here will be how the Liberal Democrats fare. The Lib Dems were second last time with 11,233 or a 19.4% share. Turnout in Witney is 73.57%, exactly the same as five years ago. Cameron has not been drawn on the results so far.

4.23am BST

The Conservatives have held Thurrock. It was one of Ukip’s best hopes.

4.21am BST

Nick Clegg has arrived at his Sheffied count.

#LibDems leader @nick_clegg arrives at #Sheffield Hallam count #GE2015

4.20am BST

With his future hanging in the balance, Ed Miliband has arrived at the count for his Doncaster North constituency with his wife Justine. He was greeted by cheering party members, but said nothing to waiting reporters.

4.19am BST

There were europhic scenes inside the Kings Hall in Belfast as Nigel Dodds, the Democratic Unionist leader at Westminster, won back his North Belfast seat.

Dodds polled 19,006 votes against his closest rival Gerry Kelly, of Sinn Féin, on 13,770.

4.18am BST

Alex Salmond, the former SNP leader, has just been elected in Gordon. And here is his victory speech:

4.17am BST

The Conservatives have held Cardiff North.

CARDIFF NORTH: Conservative hold

4.14am BST

The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, arrives in Sheffield as his party sustains heavy losses.

4.13am BST

Labour have taken Ilford North from the Conservatives.

I’m the new MP for Ilford North and I owe this man – @mattgoddin my agent, organised and friend – everything

Labour people have been telling me how good Wes Streeting is for weeks. Winner against the swing. Tipped as a future leader already

4.11am BST

And Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem justice minister, has lost his Bermondsey seat, after 32 years as an MP.

4.10am BST

We’ve had more than 200 results in now.

4.09am BST

As Ed Miliband becomes more embattled, Jonathan Freedland has put together some reasons for why he should stay as Labour leader.

4.07am BST

Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem Home Office minister, has lost her Hornsey and Wood Green seat.

4.06am BST

Labour’s John McDonnell has retained Hayes and Harlington, the west London constituency which includes Heathrow airport, with an increased majority of 15,700.

McDonnell secured his fifth term beating Pearl Lewis for the Conservatives who polled 11,144, down for the party from 12,553 in 2010.

4.04am BST

No official results in Gordon, Aberdeenshire, yet, but Alex Salmond’s election agent said he reckons his share of vote is 47-48% based on what he’s seen so far.

Salmond, when asked if he had won his Westminster seat, said: “The winds are blowing across Scotland and they are blowing particularly strongly in the North East of Scotland.”

Salmond’s election agent says his vote looks like 47/48 per cent. Christine Jardine disappointed but says her vote – 36 5 in 2010 – held up

4.00am BST

Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem Scottish secretary, has held his seat, Orkney and Shetland.

But it’s not really Scottish, Andrew Marr jokes on the BBC; it’s Danish.

3.59am BST

Some of the sharpest commentary on the BBC election programme is coming from Andrew Marr, who is effectively back in his old political editor role. He has just made the point that electoral reform has traditionally been a leftwing cause. Now, in the light of what has happened to Ukip, it is set to become a rightwing cause, he says.

Ukip has been racking up the votes quite successfully in England. Just look at some of the big swings – see 3.44pm. But it might only gain one seat.

UKIP will only win one seat, party official predicts

3.58am BST

Ed Miliband has left his home in his Doncaster North constituency and
is now making his way to the count at Doncaster Racecourse.

3.54am BST

Two years ago the Lib Dems were cock-a-hoop at hanging on to Eastleigh in a fiercely contested byelection brought about by the Chris Huhne speeding ticket disgrace.

Despair tonight as the man who replaced him, Mike Thornton concedes he has lost his seat to the Tories. This is Lib Dem heartland. The party dominates the council (40 out of 44 seats) and has a long history of brilliant, grassroots campaigning.

3.54am BST

Labours’ Willie Bain had a majority of almost 16,000 at the last election, but he has been beaten by the SNP.

It just gets worse for Labour – safest Scottish seat lost to SNP – Willie Bain gone.

3.52am BST

Meanwhile in South Thanet a result seems hours away, writes Ben Quinn:

A result could potentially be as late as 8am in the seat where Nigel Farage is now expected to fail in his bid to win, but already there appears to be a growing clamour in his party for him to stay on as leader.

.@sundersays Ukippers are suggesting he could tender his resignation and the party could refuse to accept it.

3.49am BST

This is from Newsnight’s Laura Kuenssberg.

Labour source ‘every Labour person still awake is texting about the leadership contest, which starts tmrw’

Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna, Andy Burnham, and Dan Jarvis might all be in the frame

Another Labour source – ‘they want Ed M gone by Monday and a blood letting leadership battle asap’

I would say Liz Kendall will get support for Labour leadership bid, perhaps with Tom Watson alongside.

Talk that Tristram Hunt, Rachel Reeves + Chuka Umunna a team. Gloria de Piero v strong but not sure she wants it. Think it skips generation.

Labour folk want to end Blair-Brown rift so wary of backing Burnham or Cooper. Liz Kendall or Umunna instead. Tories fear Dan Jarvis.

3.45am BST

A video recap of the moment Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy lost his seat to the SNP.

3.44am BST

The Press Association has just sent out this list of the 30 largest swings in the first 124 constituencies to declare.

Glenrothes 34.90% swing Lab to SNP
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath 34.55% swing Lab to SNP
Dunbartonshire West 34.45% swing Lab to SNP
Motherwell & Wishaw 33.81% swing Lab to SNP
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East 31.65% swing Lab to SNP
Inverclyde 31.63% swing Lab to SNP
Rutherglen & Hamilton West 31.01% swing Lab to SNP

3.41am BST

A senior advisor to Farage has said that UKIP might only get one seat – Clacton. #ge2015

3.39am BST

The odds were heavily stacked against the SNP’s Mhairi Black winning the Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat to become Westminster’s youngest MP since 1667.

3.35am BST

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, has lost his seat.

Energy Sec Ed Davey loses seat but Tim Farron holds on #GE2015

3.33am BST

Guardian front page 3.30am

3.33am BST

Lib Dem source says Simon Hughes has lost, reports @rosschawkins

3.32am BST

Boris Johnson has just rolled back into the count at Uxbridge with his wife Marina and is talking to activists ahead of an expected victory announcement in his seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip in the coming half an hour or so.

He’s predictably “very bouyant”, according to an aide (he’s not talking to reporters yet), and spent the evening after polls closed having dinner at the Uxbridge Conservative Club where Cameron curry and Boris burger were on the menu. Like the loyalist he has been telling us he is, Johnson had the Cameron curry, although his wife had the burger, I learn.

3.31am BST

Jack Staw tells Sky News its a "pretty depressing" situation & "it’s up to Mr Miliband to decide his own future" #GE2015

3.30am BST

The results keep rolling in for the SNP. Jo Swinson, the first UK minister to lose her seat, was trounced by the SNP’s first-time candidate, former broadcaster John Nicholson.

In Kirkcaldy, where former Labour leader Gordon Brown grew up as son of the manse, there was an extraordinary 35% swing to the SNP.

3.29am BST

Within the Lib Dems, a public debate about what has gone wrong has also started. Gareth Epps, a member of the federal policy executive, has written a blog saying “if the leadership does not smell the coffee immediately, the Liberal Democrats will die.”

The identity of the party has been at best blurred; the leadership’s addiction to a toxic and fundamentally Tory austerity regime flawed; and the complete failure to articulate a positive constitutional future for the UK hit home not by the AV referendum farce but by Cameron’s ignorant reaction to last September’s election result. The campaign without a strategy or direction has resulted in the old truism that if you stay in the middle of the road, you get run over by a truck.

3.25am BST

Margaret Curran, the shadow Scottish secretary, has lost her Glasgow East seat to the SNP.

3.24am BST

John Harris reflects on what could possibly be the worst election result for the English left since 1983.

3.23am BST

Labour have a bit of good news. The party has taken Ealing Central and Acton, 46 on the its target list, from the Tories. It required a swing of just under 4% to turn over a majority of around 3,500. But it was close with new MP Rupa Huq winning by less than 300 votes.

3.22am BST

Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, has paid a generous tribute to Jim Murphy.

We’ve had more than our share of differences, but I have to say, that was a wonderfully dignified speech from @JimForScotland

3.21am BST

A warning from Boris …

3.20am BST

Jim Murphy, the Scottish Labour leader, has lost his East Renfrewshire seat to the SNP.

In his concession speech, he congratulates the SNP, but says that with victory comes responsibility. Patriotism does not just belong to one party, he says.

3.20am BST

On the south coast, an update from Brighton.

It looks increasingly as if the new parliament will still have at least one Green MP. People from both Labour – when pressed – and Greens in Brighton predict – in the former case – that Caroline Lucas is likely to be re-elected in Brighton Pavilion, very possibly with an increased majority.

3.16am BST

The Labour anti-Miliband backlash is starting to go public. John Mann has taken to Twitter to say, effectively, “I told you so”.

Can’t say that Labour leadership weren’t warned repeatedly-those who even bothered to meet that is. Never hurts to listen.

In1983 immediately after election I wrote’ the left that listens is the left that wins’ it remains true today.

3.15am BST

The leftwing People Before Profit party has done considerably well in West Belfast, the stronghold of Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey, as expected, won the seat with 19,163 votes, an increase of 3,000 votes in the last byelection in the constituency. “This is a vote against austerity,” Maskey told the audience.

3.12am BST

Here’s Nicola Sturgeon talking more about what the SNP ‘tsunami’ will mean.

3.07am BST

Turnout in Sheffield Hallam is 76.85%. In 2010 turnout was 74.51%. Declaration running slightly behind- now expected 0430.

3.06am BST

Every Labour figure being interviewed is being asked if Ed Miliband should stay as leader. They have all either sidestepped the question, or said yes, but in private Labour figures are saying something different.

Labour MPs and party sources are telling me they can’t see how Ed Miliband can stay on as leader… #GE2015

3.00am BST

Next up is our own Alberto Nardelli talking about how the Conservatives may exceed poll predictions and why the polls were so wrong.

3.00am BST

Mike O’Brien, the former Labour minister, has failed to take North Warwickshire back from the Conservatives. The Tories’ majority in 2010 was just 54, and this was Labour’s top target.

2.58am BST

Sour faces among the Ukip faithful here in East Kent at the news that its candidate Jamie Huntman had failed to win in Castle Point. It’s a result that bodes ill for Nigel Farage, given that both it and South Thanet were south eastern Ukip target seats.
Castle Point was significant for a number of reasons. Huntman had been tipped by some in the party as a potential future leader, but not now being an MP potentially makes it impossible for him to lead the party should Farage step down as promised in the even of failing to enter parliament.

I spent some time with Huntman two weeks ago and while he was benefiting from the efforts of a large team of local Ukip activists and enthusiastic youngsters from elsewhere, it seemed at that point that the wind was starting to come back in to the sails of the Rebecca Harris, the sitting Tory MP.

2.55am BST

The SNP have taken Kirkcaldy, Gordon Brown’s old seat.

2.54am BST

Labour sources are now admitting that the results in Scotland are “very difficult” and they are blaming the SNP for David Cameron’s likely return to Number 10.

If the exit poll is right, the seats the SNP are taking off Labour will turn out to be crucial if David Cameron ends up back in No 10. The next government will have huge task uniting country.

2.54am BST

The Democratic Unionist Party has recaptured East Belfast. Gavin Robinson won the seat with 19,575 votes, with the former MP, Naomi Long of the Alliance party, polling 16,974 votes. The DUP will now definitely go back to the Commons with eight seats.

2.47am BST

David Cameron has arrived at the Witney count. He came on to the floor shortly after 2.30am and has spent his time here chatting to counters. As far as the media goes, though, it seems he has nothing to say, at present anyway. He walked past the waiting cameras making no comment as broadcasters shouted: “How is it going?”

2.44am BST

George Galloway expects to lose in his Bradford West constituency, sources in the Galloway camp are conceding.

2.42am BST

Alex Salmond, the former SNP leader, tells the BBC that the SNP will still try to form a progressive alliance in the Commons. Asked what he would do if David Cameron were to offer the SNP full fiscal autonomy, he sidesteps the question.

He recalls that the SNP were able to cause disruption in the Commons in the 1980s when they only had a small number of MPs, and Margaret Thatcher had a huge majority. In the next parliament it will be much easier for the SNP to cause trouble, he says.

2.41am BST

John Harris has sent this video from Nicola Sturgeon’s highly anticipated arrival in Glasgow.

2.38am BST

Neil Coyle looked pretty confident as he arrived at Southwark council headquarters. No wonder. Moments later the BBC’s Jeremy Vine predicted that Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader until last year, would lose.

That would be a big win for a resurgent Labour party in the area. Hughes won here back in 1983, when he beat Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner in a famously dirty campaign. The Liberal campaign at the time said it was a “straight choice” between the two candidates.

2.37am BST

Nicola Sturgeon has arrived at the Emirates stadium in Glasgow to a reception line of jubilant SNP candidates, before the first Glasgow result has even been officially announced.

Sturgeon told waiting press that the results were “historic”, and that she was “immensely proud” of the SNP candidates and campaign regardless of the results.

I think the results we may be about to see unfold in Scotland tonight show that the anti-austerity message that the SNP put at the heart of this campaign has resonated across Scotland.”

We’ll wait and see the extent of the SNP victories tonight. Regardless of the results tonight, I’m immensely proud of our candidates and campaign team.

2.37am BST

The defeat of Douglas Alexander, Labour’s UK campaign coordinator and shadow foreign secretary, was the SNP’s biggest scalp of the night in Scotland.

2.32am BST

Kevin Maguire, the Daily Mirror columnist, thinks Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg will both have to resign.

Taxis for Miliband and Clegg

2.30am BST

Lib Dem source says Salmond has taken Gordon #GE2015

2.29am BST

Mhairi Black, a third-year politics student at Glasgow University, has prepared for her finals next month in the most extraordinary way – by defeating the man who planned the party’s entire election campaign, Douglas Alexander.

In doing so Black, who is 20, has become the youngest MP since 1667. When she was born in 1994, Alexander was already working for Gordon Brown, as a speechwriter. Her youngest political memory is of being taken to the anti-Iraq rally as a child and given a large lollipop.

2.25am BST

Earlier this evening Labour figures were arguing on TV that David Cameron had lost his majority, and even that Ed Miliband could end up as prime minister.

But that line now seems to have been dropped, and, if George Eaton is right, the mood is turning against Miliband.

Labour HQ source: "Ed has to resign tomorrow. Everyone here accepts that."

2.25am BST

Alex Salmond gives his take on the SNP’s election night, saying: ‘This looks like an electorial tsunami.’

2.21am BST

Results for South Thanet are expected to be held up, says my colleague Ben Quinn in Margate.

We’re being told now that there will be a delay due to the late arrival of boxes of postal votes. It mean the expected declaration time will be more like 7am than the scheduled time of 6am.

2.20am BST

The SNP are on course for a landslide in Scotland. As these journalists, and no doubt others, are pointing out, that will make repairing the union a key priority for the next prime minister.

This is from the Independent’s Steve Richards

Union more vulnerable tonight than it appeared to be in days leading up to referendum. England opts for Thatcherism and SNP rules Scotland

This can’t be said enough, David Cameron has to now embrace federalism ASAP as without that the Union is in dire trouble

Cameron will need to make another of his big bold offers. This time to the Scots and his backbenchers. Graham Brady for leader of commons?

2.19am BST

There has been a huge upset in South Antrim with Ulster Unionist Danny Kinahan winning the seat off the DUP’s Rev William McCrea by just under 1,000 votes. This is highly significant because even if the DUP wins back East Belfast, it will return with eight seats at most to the Commons, although the DUP could still play the role of kingmaker.

Not surprisingly Ian Paisley Junior has romped home with 18,107 votes in the constituency of North Antrim dominated for four decades.

2.15am BST

Jubilation is gripping Glasgow, with Nicola Sturgeon arriving at the count to huge cheers and enthusiastic hugs.

Nicola Sturgeon arrives at a euphoric Glasgow count. #GE15

2.14am BST

When the exit poll dropped at 10pm the numbers seemed unbelievable.

Three hours later and – and based on the first results – if anything the exit poll may well have underestimated the number of seats the Tories will win and overestimated Labour’s share. It’s not even out of the question that Cameron may get an overall majority.

2.14am BST

"There’s going to be a Scottish lion roaring tonight, which no Westminster government can ignore," Alex Salmond tells BBC Scotland.

2.12am BST

The Ulster Unionist Party are back in the House of Commons. Danny Kinahan takes South Antrim from DUP’s William McCrea.

2.12am BST

Senior Tories now suggesting that an overall Tory majority might be on the cards

2.10am BST

Two tweets about the biggest losers tonight.

From Newsnight’s Ian Katz

Not sure if Labour and Lib Dems or the polling industry are biggest losers tonight. #GE2015

Wrong so far #GE2015: forecasters, polls, influence of social media and you vote, claims of decline of newspaper industry, what else?

2.06am BST

Lord Kinnock, the former Labour leader, told the BBC that the Tories could do well tonight because “there are enough people who are willing to accept that myth and then think they are voting for their own security by voting for Conservative candidates”. He went on:

The awful thing is, it’s not simply those people who, relatively innocently, are working against their own interests. The real price will be paid by those who truly are innocent.

2.04am BST

Here is some more intelligence from the Press Association from seats that have not declared yet.

Lib Dem losses

Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood says it is likely that he has lost his Cheltenham seat to the Conservatives.

Conservative sources say the result in Hampstead and Kilburn, Britain’s most marginal seat, is too close to call. Labour is defending a majority of 42.

Conservative sources say the party is set to gain Walsall South from Labour.

Conservative sources say they are “quietly confident” they will gain Devon North from the Liberal Democrats.

The DUP’s Gavin Robinson is set to recapture Belfast East from the Alliance, according to sources from both parties.

Labour sources say they expect to take Thurrock from the Conservatives by as many as 2,000 votes. The Tories had a majority of 92 over Labour in 2010.

Labour sources are predicting “an easy win” at Brent Central, where the Liberal Democrats had a majority of 1,345 in 2010.

Tory candidate Finlay Carson is predicting a runaway win for the SNP in Dumfries and Galloway. He is hoping to beat Labour into second place.

Both Conservative and Labour sources are claiming they could win the key marginal seat of Lincoln. Labour says there is “not more than 600 votes in it”.

2.01am BST

In Margate, the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, has made some more comments to the press before disappearing into a hotel.

Responding to the exit poll, he said: “The most likely outcome is a lot of Ukip votes and a lot of angry Ukip voters. They are going to feel unrepresented.”

2.00am BST

As we await SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s imminent arrival, the mood in the Emirates arena here in Glasgow has changed from stunned silence to barely suppressed jubilation, as candidates and their entourages hugged and let out muffled squeals of excitement.

One longtime SNP activist had tears in his eyes as he said: “I never thought I’d see the day.” It is now clear that the unthinkable has happened: Labour has lost all seven seats in Scotland’s largest city, previously a rock-solid party stronghold.

2.00am BST

The nationalist SDLP has retaken Foyle, one of its remaining strongholds in Northern Ireland. Mark Durkan increased his majority by more than 1,002 votes with an overall 17,725. It is now almost certain that the SDLP will return its three MPs to Westminster but will have no influence on a new government given its historic allegiance to Labour.

1.59am BST

Here are the Nuneaton results in full.

Marcus Jones (C) 20,827 (45.52%, +4.01%)
Vicky Fowler (Lab) 15,945 (34.85%, -2.03%)
Alwyn Waine (UKIP) 6,582 (14.39%)
Keith Kondakor (Green) 1,281 (2.80%)
Christina Jebb (LD) 816 (1.78%, -13.55%)
Paul Reilly (TUSC) 194 (0.42%)
Stephen Paxton (Eng Dem) 104 (0.23%)
C maj 4,882 (10.67%)
3.02% swing Lab to C

1.56am BST

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, has lost his seat, my colleague Ewan MacAskill reports.

SNP sources in Paisley say SNP student Mhairi Black has defeated Labour’s incumbent, Douglas Alexander, who is the party campaign chief.

1.48am BST

Douglas Carswell, who is set to be re-elected as Ukip MP for Clacton, has always said he did not want to lead Ukip. But that might be changing.

Carswell doesn’t rule out making leadership bid if Farage loses

1.46am BST

.@jrfearnley, Lib Dem in Croydon Central, says ‘questions will be asked’ of Nick Clegg’s position if exit poll accurate #croydondecides

1.46am BST

Sinn Féin’s Pat Doherty returned comfortably in West Tyrone. Doherty polled 16,805 votes and retained his more than 10,000 majority from the previous election.

1.46am BST

Senior Tory sources now saying the exit poll is "very solid" and even think they might do slightly better.

1.45am BST

Police are investigating allegations of electoral fraud in Glasgow East after a report of a person voting under a false identity. My colleague Kevin Rawlinson has the details.

1.44am BST

A senior Ukip source says the party has certainly not given up on Nigel Farage winning his South Thanet target seat and points out the predictions so far are based on the results of Tory-leaning Broadstairs wards not the more Ukip-friendly Ramsgate.

“We’re still hopeful. But it is very, very, very tight. Tighter than we would like,” the source says. Farage is said to be holding his nerve and having a few drinks before the final result is called at around 6.30am.

1.43am BST

Some estimates circulating at the East Renfrewshire count suggest Jim Murphy has lost to SNP candidate Kirsten Oswald by about 5,000 votes.

1.40am BST

The Green party said it had received 4.4% of vote in the first six constituencies to declare, up from 1% in 2010, the Press Association reports. The party saved its deposit in a North-East seat for the first time ever in Newcastle Upon Tyne East, where candidate Andrew Gray’s tally of 8.7% was a 7.1% improvement on the last election.

1.40am BST

This is from the BBC’s James Cook.

Everyone at the Emirates saying Labour have lost all seven Glasgow seats to the SNP. #ge2015

1.39am BST

We’re in glasgow. V serious talk of snp winning all city seats, inc. outlier glasgow North East.

1.37am BST

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has been re-elected in Tooting with 25,263 votes ahead of the Conservatives’ Dan Watkins on 22,421. Watch his acceptance speech after the result was declared.

1.36am BST

In Tooting, where Sadiq Khan was re-elected for Labour, there was a tiny 0.16% swing from the Conservatives to Labour.

1.35am BST

But it was better for Labour in Newcastle upon Tyne Central. Chi Onwurah held it for Labour, with a 4.76% swing from Conservative to Labour.

1.34am BST

Jane Ellison held Battersea for the Conservatives. There was a 1.65% swing from Labour to the Conservatives.

1.32am BST

Jeffrey Donaldson is the first MP elected in Northern Ireland. The Democratic Unionist party candidate was reelected to Westminster with a majority of 13,000 votes – an increase of 2,500 from 2010.

1.30am BST

There’s still no sign of Ukip leader Nigel Farage here at the Thanet count, where he is now expected to arrive at around 4am.

However, there is growing expectation here that he will fail to win in this East Kent seat despite the party throwing a king’s ransom at the effort to capture it.

Al Murray now at the Thanet count. Had a gentle pop at Russell Brand +Willing to let Farage drown sorrows in his pub

1.28am BST

If the exit poll turns out to be correct, Ed Miliband’s future as Labour leader will be in the balance, my colleague Rowena Mason reports.

1.26am BST

In Twickenham, where Vince Cable is seeking re-election, a recount seems likely.

Officials & politicians talking of possible recount here in Twickenham, where outgoing Business Sec Vince Cable defends 12,000 maj #GE2015

1.23am BST

At this stage it it normally clear to party officials at a count who is going to be win. Here are some of the snaps from the Press Association with claims about who is likely to win in some key seats.

Expected SNP gains

SNP sources say the party is set to gain Dunbartonshire West from Labour shadow defence spokeswoman Gemma Doyle.

SNP sources claim the party is set to gain Motherwell and Wishaw, where Labour had an 16,806 majority over the nationalists in 2010.

Conservative sources say that the count at Stroud, where the Tories had a majority of 5,164 at the 2010 election, is too close to call.

Labour party sources say they do not expect to win the Milton Keynes South seat from the Tories, who had a majority of 5,201 at the 2010 election.

Conservative sources say they are “quietly confident” of winning Somerton and Frome from the Liberal Democrats. They need a 1.5% swing to secure the seat.

Labour sources say they expect to gain Morecambe and Lunesdale from the Conservatives.

Labour sources say they expect to gain the Tory marginal of Lancaster and Fleetwood.

Liberal Democrat sources claim they will retain Eastbourne by a narrow margin.

1.19am BST

Could be bad news for the #LibDems Commons’ football team…

1.18am BST

Labour’s Scottish leader, Jim Murphy, looks like he will be a victim of the Scottish National party surge. He is involved in an extremely tight contest in Renfrewshire East. And the Conservative tactical voting he hoped for, which might have seen support for him to keep the SNP at bay, has failed to emerge.

Murphy attracted a lot of publicity, taking his campaign out into the streets, regularly attracting hecklers during the referendum and in the general election campaign.

1.14am BST

And here is my colleague Jonathan Freedland giving us an idea of the political future should the exit poll prove accurate.

1.14am BST

SNP sources claim the party is set to gain Motherwell and Wishaw, where Labour had an 16,806 majority over the nationalists in 2010, the Press Association reports.

1.13am BST

This is what the Lord Mandelson told the BBC earlier.

What seems to have happened is that all the three main parties have lost this election. Some have lost it more than others – the Lib Dems in particular – but we seem to be heading to an outcome in which no party has achieved a majority …

The Labour Party has been squeezed by two nationalisms. Obviously in Scotland with the SNP, very severely indeed, but also in England by the nationalist frenzy whipped up by David Cameron and the Conservative party. The Labour Party has found itself very uncomfortably between those two.

1.11am BST

Labour sources claim the count is “neck and neck” in Harrow East where the Conservatives are defending a majority of 3,403, the Press Association reports.

1.11am BST

Back on TV watch, and on Channel 4’s Alternative Election, I’m still not warming to scripted comedy Paxman – his Charlie Brooker-style ranting is quite hard going. That said, I’m guessing that Dimbleby isn’t currently yelling at guests to stop taking the piss, so the true spirit of Jeremy is still with us.

Most meta moment of the evening: sofa-bound TV viewers watching Paxman introducing the next instalment of election Gogglebox, where sofa-bound TV viewers watch Paxman interviewing David Cameron. My head hurts.

We know it’s late, but do try to remain focused – we’re on until 6am! #AltElection

1.08am BST

Al Murray, the TV comedian standing in South Thanet – the seat Nigel Farage is contesting – says coming second would be a miracle.

1.07am BST

My colleague Holly Watt is at Nuneaton. It was billed as the first key result of the night – it was 38th on Labour’s list of target seats – but the Tories are set to hold it, it seems.

Just walked round the room in Nuneaton. Don’t think I can see a single table where the red pile is bigger than blue

1.07am BST

There was shock on the faces of Labour supporters at the North Swindon count – even though the Tories were expected to hold the seat, the huge swing of 4.3% to Conservative from Labour compared with 2010 was outside predictions.

For the first Conservative victory of the night it was a stunning result – and even the Tories themselves didn’t quite seem to believe it.

1.05am BST

This is from the Sunday Times’s Tim Shipman.

Lib Dem sources telling me Simon Hughes has probably lost and even David Laws in fight for survival. Which makes exit poll look accurate

1.04am BST

Putney has declared. Justine Greening, the Conservative international development secretary, has been re-elected, with her share of the vote marginally up. The swing was a tiny 0.44% from the Conservatives to Labour.

12.59am BST

Our results table does not feature swings. So, here are the swings from the first three seats to declare. All three were Labour holds.

Houghton and Sunderland South

12.58am BST

My colleague Holly Watt has sent this update from Nuneaton:

Definite smiles are starting to appear on Conservatives’ faces, as the blue votes pile up on the tables in the middle of the room.

12.55am BST

There is a recount in Bradford West, George Galloway’s constituency, the BBC reports.

12.53am BST

Philip Cowley, the psephologist, says the Swindon North seat suggests the Tories are doing better than the exit poll suggested.

According to the exit poll, there should have been a 1% swing to Labour in Swindon N. There was a 4.3% swing to the Conservatives.

12.49am BST

Boris Johnson, the London mayor and Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and Ruislip South, leaves the counting centre in Uxbridge, west London – the seat he is hoping to win.

12.49am BST

The Tories have held Swindon North. That was 102nd on Labour’s target list, according to the Progress briefing from last year (pdf).

Here are the figures in detail:

12.45am BST

Barry Norton, Cameron’s election agent for 20 years until last December, has fought enough elections with him to know the Tory leader’s mindset at such times, Caroline Davies writes.

He said the prime minister would be cautious about the exit polls. Norton, Tory leader of West Oxfordshire district council, said he had spoken to Cameron three times today.

What’s important is not just what we get, but what others get. I’m sure he is thinking of everything. He’s just that type of person. His mind capacity is tremendous, his memory is brilliant.

12.42am BST

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, is in trouble in his Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat, it is being reported.

Senior @scottishlabour source: looking bad for shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander #GE2015

turnout in Douglas Alexander’s seat over 75% apparently. @kdugdalemsp said earlier turnout of more than73% could be problematical for Labour

12.40am BST

Very good source tells me Farage *has* lost South Thanet. I’d be surprised if they were wrong. But we’ll see.

12.37am BST

The Greens privately don’t think Norwich South possible this time – Bristol West only seat they *could* gain @georgeeaton

12.37am BST

Lord Mandelson tells the BBC that all three parties have lost in the election.

12.34am BST

In South Swindon, the exit poll news quickly took the wind out of Labour’s sails, and confident predictions of a close result requiring a recount have been replaced with glum pessimism that – in the words of one Labour organiser – “maybe the Tories have run away with it”.

Labour had hopes of retaking a seat it had lost in 2010 with a swing of 3.8% but the Conservatives appear to have run a targeted ground operation in a south-west barometer seat.

12.34am BST

One @LibDems source: we will do better than 10 but not looking good. We can repaint @HarrietHarman minibus yellow + fit in our MPs

A colleague who has been on the pink minibus says it seats about 16, including the driver.

12.32am BST

Labour are saying that the BBC suggestion that the Greens will win Norwich South (see 12.24am) is “well wide of the mark”.

12.31am BST

If you can drag yourself away from the horrors currently unfolding in front of you, I’d suggest flicking over to Sky Arts. They’re running a live fixed-camera show set behind the scenes of the Sky newsroom. It’s hard to explain – half of it is a fascinating insight into the operations of a vast newsgathering operation, and the other half is essentially the sort of dry, trumpet-blowing guff that only Sky investors could get excited about. I’d keep watching it until someone said “synergy”, if this didn’t seem like the sort of thing where someone says “synergy” every 15 seconds.

12.30am BST

On the BBC, Jeremy Vine is running through some individual seat projections, based on the exit polls.

He says there are several seats very high up on the Labour list of target seats that the Conservatives are set to hold, including Sherwood (5th on Labour’s list of target seats), Broxtowe (8th), Amber Valley (11th), Carlisle (15th), Stroud (16th), Weaver Vale (17th) and Lincoln (18th).

12.24am BST

The BBC says the seat it expects the Greens to gain in Norwich South.

12.20am BST

The difference in heights of the piles of ballot papers tell their own tale – with Labour sources in at least three Glasgow seats already privately admitting defeat and others lowering expectations to “very bleak”, is it possible that the unthinkable might happen – Labour could lose every seat in Glasgow?

Of course one must exercise caution, but the early sampling for the SNP, in particular in Glasgow East and Glasgow South-West, has been, I’m told, spectacular.

12.15am BST

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, says she is “very puzzled” by the exit poll. It does not fit her experience, she says.

12.15am BST

Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, does not seem to be a happy man tonight.

V v odd interview with Nigel Farage on ITV at election night party in Margate – walks off camera after saying Sun + Mail wrong about Ukip

@BethRigby Farage didn’t look like a man who’d won his seat on TV just now…

12.14am BST

Nigel Farage is blasting the Sun and the Daily Mail over their impact on Ukip’s election fortunes.

12.11am BST

In David Cameron’s Witney constituency, Caroline Davies talks to Wessex Regionalist candidate Colin Bex:

12.08am BST

This is from the Independent on Sunday’s Jane Merrick.

It is actually possible that Nick Clegg will have more red lines than he has MPs.

12.08am BST

Holly Watt sends this from Nuneaton:

One Conservative in the hall saying they are now “quietly confident”
of holding Nuneaton. Should be getting turnout figures soon.

12.07am BST

DUP leader at Westminster Nigel Dodds has arrived at the Kings Hall count in Belfast. He looks pleased, perhaps due to the knowledge that his party could yet wield some influence on the formation of the next government given the national exit poll.

Dodds has told the Guardian he is confident “the DUP will play a pivotal role in this next parliament”. While cautious about the national exit poll and the projection of seats, Dodds said his party would play a key role after all the votes are counted. He also expressed confidence that he will hold on to his North Belfast seat despite a strong challenge from Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly.

12.03am BST

Labour’s general secretary, Ian McNicol, is also taking to Twitter to dismiss the exit poll.

Exit polls have been wrong in the past. I think this one is too. Read @SpenceLivermore’s blog →

12.02am BST

Adam Boulton points out that, with just three results in, the Lib Dems have lost three deposits already.

LibDems lose 3/3 £500 deposits so far, under 5% of vote. Didn’t lose any in 2010.

12.02am BST

As the night wears on, Channel 4’s Alternative Election Night raises some interesting questions. Is it the contrast on my TV, or has Paxman been spray tanned? Why do the outside broadcasts have a five second delay, like Doncaster is on the moon? When will they bring out a hapless, blibbering idiot for Paxman to yell at? Did David Mitchell choose that shirt/tie combo in the dark? Where has Richard Osman been all these years?

My favourite Osman fact of the evening so far – if the electorate was made up entirely of people who like steak and kidney pudding (or dogging), UKIP would have a massive majority. You won’t get that kind of cutting-edge insight with Dimbleby. Most random moment so far: Blur’s drummer Dave Rowntree talking us through the methodology of exit polling. Assume later we’ll be hearing Graham Coxon’s insights on the long term fiscal implication of Tory cuts, whilst Alex James wangs on about cheese.

12.02am BST

BBC report: "Rumours coming in that George Galloway has lost his seat."

11.58pm BST

11.57pm BST

This is from the Scottish Daily Mail’s political editor.

Senior LibDem source: Danny Alexander has lost. #ge2015

11.54pm BST

Asked on ITV if Ed Miliband should resign if the exit poll proves correct, David Blunkett, the Labour former cabinet minister, said he hoped not.

He also offered what might be the first public contribution to the Labour post-mortem.

If we have lost this election, we have lost it from 2010, when in the six months after 201o we failed to nail the lie that Labour, the Labour government, had been responsible for the global meltdown, and everything that happened in the US, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, was the Labour government’s fault. It was such a nonsense. But the coalition got away with peddling that. I think we’ve got to think seriously about about avoiding a situation where we rush into something that might damage us in the long term.

11.52pm BST

With the Lib Dems projected to win just 10 seats, one Twitter account is tallying up how many deposits the party could lose. It currently stands at £1,500. A poll suggested last week Nick Clegg’s party could lose as much as £26,000 in deposits.


11.48pm BST

Nick Clegg’s close ally and the former Lib Dem leader of Sheffield city council, Paul Scriven, is at the Sheffield count. He says the exit poll “looks completely rogue”.

“You take a look at the YouGov poll and I think that gives a completely different picture,” he said, adding that it went against “everything we’re hearing from our activists around the country”.

11.46pm BST

Nick Clegg is on course to hold his seat, the BBC reports.

Sheffield hallam forecast to stay Lib Dem #justaforecast – exit data suggesting LDs have 38% share – down from 53% #giantouchscreen

11.43pm BST

Here’s Spencer Livermore, Labour’s general election campaign director, on the exit poll.

I’ve been involved in a lot of elections and, I have to say, I am sceptical of this BBC exit poll:

11.42pm BST

Ed Balls reacts to the exit poll, saying it’s early days yet and that much can change as the ballot counts come in throughout the night.

11.41pm BST

This is what Ed Balls said earlier, explaining how Ed Miliband could still become prime minister.

If the exit poll is out by even 10 seats – let alone 20 or 30 – suddenly David Cameron cannot get a majority for a Queen’s Speech. Then constitutionally it would fall to the leader of the opposition to become prime minister and see if he can get a Queen’s Speech through the Commons.

I’m a great fan of Ed Balls but to pretend that Miliband can be PM on 239 seats and 77 seats behind is utterly barking

11.39pm BST

According to the Press Association, Plaid Cymru and Labour sources say the vote is too close to call in Ynys Mon, where Labour had a 2,461 majority in the 2010 election.

11.37pm BST

Natalie Bennett, the Green party leader, said the exit poll should be treated with “extreme caution”. But she would be pleased with gaining a second seat in parliament, she said.

If we have doubled our parliamentary representation and we are sending perhaps Darren Hall in Bristol West to join the brilliant Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion as a strong group of Green MPs in Parliament – then that will be a good result for the Green party.

11.36pm BST

Promising signs so far for Ukip … but have the Tories decapitated the party in East Kent?
In South Thanet, where Nigel Farage hopes to make the personal political breakthrough he has longed for all his life, Tory sources seem quietly confident their man, Craig MacKinlay, has dashed those hopes – possibly with the help of Labour voters eager to keep the Ukip leader out.

Elsewhere in the country though Ukip’s deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, is still keeping his fingers crossed for the man he may replace if Farage fails to win.

11.33pm BST

Lord Mandelson has been speaking to ITV.

Mandelson on whether Ed could be PM if exit poll right: "On these numbers and the exit poll very difficult indeed, I don’t see that" #GE2015

Mandelson says Labour’s been "squeezed by 2 nationalisms" in #GE2015, SNP in Scotland & "English nationalism whipped up" by PM #opinionroom

11.33pm BST

Matthew Taylor writes that Labour is maintaining it will take seats in London despite the shock exit poll. A spokesman for the party in the capital, where Labour had been polling 12% – 14% ahead of the Tories, said: “We’ve had 10,000 volunteers out across London today and we’re confident we’ll make gains across London. Nationally, it’s been close all the way through, exit polls have been wrong in the past.”

11.31pm BST

Social Democratic and Labour party tally men and women are confident
their leader Alasdair McDonnell will hold the South Belfast seat. They say overall turnout is up to around 60% and in three polling stations McDonnell is far ahead of his rivals – in tallies seen by the Guardian.

Privately one senior Ulster Unionist party figure concedes McDonnell is on course for re-election albeit with a reduced majority.

11.29pm BST

Police are investigating an allegation of voter fraud in the Glasgow East constituency. I understand that there has been an allegation of personation, where an individual votes under someone else’s identity. I have asked count officials for further details.

11.25pm BST

11.22pm BST

Labour are firming up their line on the exit poll. A party source says:

We are sceptical of the BBC poll. It looks wrong to us.

11.21pm BST

Results aside, the emerging star so far tonight is easily John Curtice, representing the British Polling Council on BBC1. He’s evidently panicking about the veracity of the exit poll, and it’s paying a heavy toll on his appearance.

At 10pm, he was perfectly presentable. At 10.30pm, he’d started to look a little more ragged. At 11pm, his hair was all over the place, as if – as someone on Twitter put it – he’d brushed it with a balloon. Next time we cut back to him, there’s a very good chance that he’ll be on fire, or curled up in his suit jacket and whispering into his shoes. It’s going to be a long night, John. Pace yourself.

11.21pm BST

On Sky Ed Balls says the exit poll is completely at odds with the polls seen during the campaign.

Even if the exit poll is right, David Cameron would have lost his coalition majority. He would be “clinging on”, he says.

I think this election is still wide open.

11.20pm BST

I’m hearing that the sampling is looking positive for @nataliemcgarry #snp in Glasgow East #GE2015

11.16pm BST

Here is a live stream from the count in Sunderland Central where Labour held the seat. Lab 50%, Con 23, Ukip 19, Grn 4, Lib Dem 3

11.16pm BST

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

11.14pm BST

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

11.12pm BST

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

11.11pm BST

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

11.09pm BST

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

11.08pm BST

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

11.08pm BST

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

11.07pm BST

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.

11.06pm BST

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

11.05pm BST

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.

11.05pm BST

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.

11.03pm BST

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.

11.01pm BST

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%)

10.55pm BST

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

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

10.49pm BST

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.

10.44pm BST

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.

10.43pm BST

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.

10.42pm BST

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

10.39pm BST

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.

10.38pm BST

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.

10.37pm BST

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.

10.36pm BST

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.

10.35pm BST

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

10.33pm BST

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”

10.31pm BST

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%.

10.30pm BST

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.

10.29pm BST

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

10.28pm BST

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.

10.26pm BST

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

10.23pm BST

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.

10.21pm BST

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.

10.20pm BST

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

10.19pm BST

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.

10.19pm BST

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

10.14pm BST

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

10.13pm BST

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.

10.11pm BST

Pound surges 1% against the US dollar to $1.54 after exit poll shows Conservatives are largest party #GE2015

10.10pm BST

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”.

10.08pm BST

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

10.08pm BST

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.

10.04pm BST

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

Conservatives: 316

10.03pm BST

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.

10.02pm BST

Here are the exit poll figures.

Conservatives: 316

9.59pm BST

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.

9.58pm BST

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

9.55pm BST

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.

9.52pm BST

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

9.44pm BST

“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.

9.41pm BST

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

9.37pm BST

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

9.28pm BST

Here are some more reports of polling station queueing.

Large queues form outside of Holy Trinity Church on Boar Lane in Leeds #leeds #electionyorks

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 #GE2015

good lord, a 40 minute queue outside a polling station in Cheetham Hill

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

9.23pm BST

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

9.21pm BST

9.19pm BST

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

9.15pm BST

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.

9.12pm BST

Here is some more background election reading.

8.57pm BST

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

8.52pm BST

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 #GE2015 #ELECTION2015

8.41pm BST

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, 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)

8.35pm BST

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.

Two hours until polling stations close at 10pm. Please get out and vote! #VoteGreen2015

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

There’s just an hour & a half until polls close. Here’s why you should vote #libdems #GE2015

8.31pm BST

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

8.14pm BST

8.10pm BST

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.

8.03pm BST

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

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