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UK Election Returns: Overnight Blog

9:25 AM [Nate]. And what do the Liberal Democrats do? I’m afraid that I don’t really see a good option for them. I don’t know that they want a new election to be called quickly, because what has usually happens in these cases in the UK — when a party comes just short of a majority and calls a new election to try and secure an actual one — is that the votes for third (and fourth, etc.) parties get squeezed, and the LibDems definitely remained the third party in this election having emerged with no real gain in seats or votes and having been a massive disappointment. But if Cameron knows this (as he surely will), he’ll know that they have no real bargaining power and therefore won’t give very much up for their support. LibDems could still formulate a coalition, but it would only seem to marginalize them as Labour, having done slightly better than expected in this election and presumably under new leadership, would return to their traditional role as the opposition party.

9:10 AM [Nate]. If Conservatives absolutely ran the table the rest of the way, they could finish with perhaps 315 seats and could get to 323 if they formed an alliance with the Democratic Unionists, who have 8 seats (having lost one today). 323 might technically be enough to form a coalition, but it would be manifestly tenuous and it relies on a scenario in which Conservatives have their coin come up heads 10 times in a row in the remaining, uncalled constituencies.

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The bottom line is that Cameron is very likely to be the next prime minister, either in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats or (more likely IMO) as the head of a minority government.

8:47 AM [Nate]. What I don’t see is how Gordon Brown expects to remain Prime Minister. If Labour and LibDems absolutely ran the table the rest of the way and Conservatives lost all the remaining competitive seats, they’d collectively finish with about 320 seats. I suppose if they solicited the help of some minor parties they might be able to form a multi-way coalition, but it would presumably be extremely unstable, and it’s more likely that Labour and LibDems will collectively finish with about 310, or perhaps 315, seats between them.

8:45 AM [Nate] Signing off shortly. The final vote share looks as though it should be very close to Conservatives 37.0, Labour 29.6, LibDems 23.5. That works out to a seat count of Conservatives 326, Labour 232, LibDems 63 under our model or Conservatives 293, Labour 262, LibDems 62 under uniform swing.

At the end of the day, this whole debate looks to be a bit of an anti-climax. Some combination of uniform and proportional swing — or some version of uniform swing that accounts differential voting patterns in marginal constituencies and perhaps regional effects, looks to be the most prudent approach. Because LibDems did not wind up improving their vote share, we didn’t really strain the models as much as we otherwise might have.

8:18 AM [Nate]. Note that the initial exit poll should actually do quite well! (Although we don’t know for sure if it actually did well or if it had errors which cancelled one another out.)

8:16 AM [Nate]. Counting up the remaining seats: Labour should finish between 250-260, Conservatives between 300-315, LibDems between 54-62.

7:16 AM [Nate]. One place where a proportional swing model clearly seems to be faulty is in assuming that a party will lose an especially large amount of votes in VERY safe seats. That happened in some safe Labour seats but not most where there was no real alternative party.

6:58 AM [Nate]. Conservaties take back a seat from LibDems in Camborne & Redruth. Interesting seat — Conservatives were in third place last time and leapfrogged both parties.

6:48 AM [Nate]. Conservatives failed to pick up Halifax, a set that looked like a good opportunity for them.

6:46 AM [Nate]. LibDems take Wells in Southeast England from Conservatives — a bit of an upset given how things have gone for them tonight, as they had lost by 6 points in 2005.

6:36 AM [Nate]. At least Nick Clegg won his own seat!

6:24 AM [Nate]. To be frank, while the results are a long way from uniform, our model also doesn’t seem to have demonstrated any particular skill!

6:20 AM [Nate]. The national vote is now tracking to Conservatives 37.1, Labour 29.3, Liberal Democrats 23.6, little changed from before. On those numbers, our model would have projected Conservatives 332, Labour 226, LibDems 63; uniform swing would project to Conservatives 295, Labour 260, LibDems 63.

6:11 AM [Nate]. The BBC forecasts that Conservatives will finish with 308 seats. That’s an awkward number — perhaps not quite enough for them to form a coalition with some of the smaller parties, but likely also not enough for Labour and LibDems to form a coalition. These last few seats could matter quite a lot.

6:10 AM [Daniel]. Well Nick Griffin lost in Barking, fairly comfortably as well. The BNP actually lost 2% of the vote from last time when Nick Griffin was not their candidate.

6:07 AM. From the BBC: “0547: There seems to have been a sharp difference in the swing from Labour to Conservative depending on the ethnic minority population of the constituency, says our analyst Prof John Curtice. On average, where the ethnic population is less than 2%, the swing from Labour to Conservative has on average been 5.1%. In contrast, where more than 25% belong to an ethnic minority, the average swing is just 1.7%.”

5:55 AM [Nate]. Labour are generally holding their own in working-class cities like Liverpool and Manchester.

5:54 AM [Nate]. Conservatives are performing quite well in some of these LibDem margnials — just days ago, LibDems would have expected to make some inroads against Conservatives.

5:51 AM [Nate]. Greens win their first ever seat in Parliament, flipping a Labour seat in Brighton Pavilion.

5:44 AM [Nate]. So, here’s where we stand right now. The national vote is tracking to Conservatives 37.1, Labour 29.1, Liberal Democrats 23.7.

On those figures, a uniform swing model would predict Conservatives 296, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 64; our model would predict Conservatives 333, Labour 224, LibDems 64. It appears that the actual results will be somewhere in between the two figures, with Conservatives short of a majority but north of 300 seats, perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of 310-315. Liberal Democrats, which took a number of tough defeats, also appear although as though they will underperform both numbers.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.

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