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Britain's first hung parliament for 36 years

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 06 May 2010

The Conservatives win the most seats, but fail to secure an overall Commons majority in an election result that produces Britain's first hung parliament for 36 years.

Britain's first hung parliament for 36 years (Image: Getty)

With just a few seats left to declare - the Tories are short of the 326 needed to have a majority. It means the voters have elected their first hung parliament since 1974.

Hung parliament: what does it mean and what are the Cabinet office guidelines?

Turnout across the country was 65 per cent, although it was higher in marginal seats.

As the results came in, the concept of "uniform national swing" in all the opinion polls gave way to a bewildering variety of swings.

The hung parliament in 60 seconds - watch it here.

The Tories made big gains in some areas, matched by a failure to make inroads in other key constituencies.

The biggest Labour scalps of the night were two of its former home secretaries, Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke. Smith lost her Redditch seat around 4.30am, after suffering a 9 per cent swing to the Conservatives, amid speculation that the expenses scandal had helped turn voters against her.

Clarke, recently a central figure in opposition to Gordon Brown's leadership, followed half an hour later, the Lib Dems taking Norwich South by just 300 votes.

Other ministers to go included the Armed Forces minister Bill Rammell and the Treasury Minister Angela Smith.

But the result that the Conservatives hoped would bring their "Portillo moment" failed to materialise when the Schools Secretary Ed Balls survived, albeit with a greatly reduced majority.

The Tories made him a target of their "decapitation strategy", leading some to rename it a "castration strategy".

The night began well for Cameron with a victory at Kingswood, 135th on the Conservative target list and regarded by many as a benchmark seat.

The result was announced around 1am - the sitting MP Roger Berry ousted by the Conservative candidate Chris Skidmore, suggesting that the Conservative swing could be bigger in marginal seats.   

Labour also lost Battersea in south London, which was fourth on the Tory target list, so less of a surprise. The swing was 6.5 per cent. But Labour held neighbouring Tooting (112th) where the swing was half the size.

There was evidence of tactical voting in some seats - Labour held threatened London seats Islington South and Westminster North by increasing its share of the vote at the expense of the Liberal Democrats.

For more Channel 4 News election results coverage
- Clegg: Tories have 'first right' to govern
- Hung Parliament - what happens now?
- Voter eyewitness: 'polling station shambles'
- Vote 2010: the high profile losers

Other Tory gains as the night wore on included Basildon South and Thurrock, where the Treasury Minister Angela Smith lost her seat. This was seen as significant as Basildon, on slightly different boundaries, was the major harbinger of Labour's big victory in 1997. 

But they failed to gain other target seats such as Bolton North East, where a meagre 1.3 swing made little dent on Labour's majority. 

Signs soon emerged the Tories might not be performing so well in the South West against the Liberal Democrats, who held Torbay with only a small swing from the Conservative Party.

Annunziata Rees-Mogg also failed to capture the Liberal Democrat seat of Somerton and Frome.

Conservative David Heathcoat-Amory also lost his Wells seat to the Lib Dems.

On the south coast, Chris Huhne held off the Conservative challenge and increased his share of the vote, while Eastbourne went the other way - a Liberal Democrat gain from the Tories. 

And the swings also looked to be lower in Scotland and Wales - in Vale of Clwyd, 138th on their list of targets, Labour held on with only a 3.5 per cent swing to the Tories.

However, the Tories did take Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales, with a 6 per cent swing. The party also took Cardiff North from Julie Morgan, the wife of former Welsh first minister Rhodri Morgan.

And in a shock result, they also snatched Montgomeryshire from the Liberal Democrats, defeating the colourful MP Lembit Opik, famed for dating one of the Cheeky Girls. 

In Scotland the Labour vote overall was up. The party won back Glasgow East, lost to the Scottish National Party in a byelection in 2008.

And Gordon Brown held on to his Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat with an increased majority.

Speaking after the result, Brown said he was proud of his government's achievements. Although he did not refer to Labour's chances of victory nationally, he did say that it was his duty to help provide a stable government.  

Even the anticipated "Bigotgate" backlash failed to hurt Labour in Rochdale, where the party actually gained a seat from the Lib Dems. Boundary changes had given the old seat a new nominal Labour majority, but nonetheless there was a small swing in Labour's direction.

But elsewhere Labour lost to the Liberal Democrats on some of the biggest swings of the night. The solicitor-general, Vera Baird, lost her Redcar seat - where the Corus plant was a major casualty of the recession - on a 21 per cent swing. 

But overall it was not what Nick Clegg had hoped for.

The Lib Dem leader won his Sheffield Hallam constituency with an increased majority - but described the party's overall performance as "disappointing" after the anticipated surge of support failed to materialise.

Mr Clegg said: "I don't think anyone should rush into making claims or taking decisions, which don't stand the test of time.

"I think it would be best if everybody were to take a little time so people get the good government they deserve in these very difficult and uncertain times.

It was a good night for the Greens, as Caroline Lucas was elected the party's first MP, taking Brighton Pavilion in a close-fought four-way contest.  

However George Galloway failed to win the east London constituency of Poplar and Limehouse for Respect.

The British National Party surge failed to materialise.

The party's best result was in Barking, where party leader Nick Griffin's 6,620 votes amounted to 15 per cent, but left him in third place behind the Conservatives.

Margaret Hodge held the seat comfortably for Labour. In the three Stoke seats that the BNP had been targeted, their vote was between 7 and 9 per cent.  

The speaker John Bercow also fought off an attempt to unseat him in his Buckingham constituency.

He had faced a challenge from the former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. 

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