“This has been a disappointing and difficult night” said Ed Miliband as he regained his seat in Doncaster North. Indeed, a night when the Labour Party were quietly confident of gaining 35 seats from the Conservatives has so far seen them lose as many seats to the Tories as they have gained from them.
The sheer disbelief of an exit poll that forecast 316 seats for David Cameron’s party and which confounded all pollsters and political commentators alike, remarkably, seems to have underestimated the strength of Conservative support. It all seems so reminiscent of the 1992 general election.
This election will no doubt also go down in the history books for having all but erased a mainstream political party from the electoral map. The Liberal Democrats, who were confident of retaining around 30 seats, are on course to achieve less than half this number. It would therefore be no surprise if the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg were to resign his post in the coming hours.
It would not be right to discuss the results so far without briefly touching upon the predictable, yet still remarkable, performance of the Scottish National Party. The party has witnessed swings from Labour that have not been seen in the history of British electoral politics. The 17% swing that saw Michael Portillo thrown out of the House of Commons in the 1997 general election pales into insignificance when compared with the gains made by the nationalists.
Perhaps the most telling prediction was made by Labour’s most electorally successful party leader, Tony Blair, who pointed out back in January that an election in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party ends in the traditional result: a Tory win.