The exit poll will be out very shortly, and then we’ll have a good idea (or a false one). But first, here’s the game. No one is going to win an overall majority, so it’s all about who can cobble together 323 seats – the number needed for a majority – by banding together with other parties.
Second, Labour seem the most likely to win that game. May2015’s Poll of Polls, which has averaged all the latest polls since September, has finally finished adding numbers up. It’s conclusion? The Tories are going to win 33.8 per cent of the vote, and Labour are going to win 33.7.
This election is as close as everyone has long advertised. And it will close on seats too. May2015’s model predicts the Tories will win 273 seats, with Labour on 268. But, remember, that isn’t the game. Who can rely on other parties to vote with them, and get to 323 seats?
David Cameron’s problem is that his most likely partners, the Lib Dems and DUP, seem unlikely to get him to 323 seats. Even though the PM may win the most votes and most seats, he has a very difficult path to 323 seats unless the Tories can win at least 285 seats by themselves, and they may need closer to 290.
Ed Miliband has a much easier route because he can rely on the SNP to vote against Cameron, even though he’s adamant he won’t do a deal with them, along with nearly ten minor MPs who are also ‘anti-Tory’.
In other words, there is likely to be an ‘anti-Tory’ majority in the House. This is the argument we made three weeks ago. We then reiterated it twice, before offering an explanation of how Cameron could survive earlier this week. We said he had four paths to power: key seats just break improbably in his favour on the tonight; the polls are wrong; the polls change late; or fears over ‘legitimacy’ make Labour wary of making Miliband PM with SNP support.
The polls may be wrong, but they are no longer divided. After a significant divide opened up between phone and online pollsters, they are now all agreed: the Big Two are tied. And any late change hasn’t been in the Tories’ favour. Cameron’s paths to power have dwindled.
We remain confident in our prediction: there will be an anti-Tory majority in the House. Cameron not only needs to do better than polls suggest, but significantly better. This is possible but isn’t likely.
To work out whether this is happening as results are released tonight (with key seats starting to be declared from 2am), we’ve launched a very basic results page on May2015.com. There are 650 seats, but we think the election comes down to a key 50, all of which the Tories won in 2010 and Labour are now trying to take back.
We have run through the maths for the other 600 seats, and we think that if Ed Miliband wins 33 of these 50 Tory seats, he will be PM. As other results come in tonight, that ‘magic number’ of 33 may change. It will update live on May2015, as will results from all our key seats.
The first of these to announce is expected to be Nuneaton at 1.30am. We will have more on the times of key seats later tonight.
The seats on our results page are ordered by how likely we think there are to vote Tory or Labour. 27 are in Labour’s column, meaning Miliband will only need to win half a dozen of the ‘too close to call’ or likely Tory seats if he wins all of these.
We think that is likely. But we think it will be very close. Here is our final seat prediction:
Tory — 281
Labour — 264
SNP — 55
Lib Dem — 24
Ukip — 2
DUP — 9
Sinn Fein — 5
Plaid Cymru — 3
SDLP — 3
Green — 1
Independent — 1
Respect — 1
Speaker — 1