Sorry to be so negative the morning after the election, but here is my initial, sleepy reading of a largely unreadable result: it has been a miserable failure for pretty much everyone.
Labour failed to retain its majority and failed to emerge as the largest single party in this shiny, new, hung parliament of ours -- something some of the polls had suggested, and some Labour strategists had been hoping for, until only a few days ago.
The Liberal Democrats failed to translate their "surge" into seats and failed to "break the mould" of British politics -- more like a medium-sized dent. To win fewer seats than they did in 2005 is embarrassing.
And the Tories failed to win even a small majority, despite Gordon Brown's unpopularity, the worst recession in decades, the biggest financial crash in a hundred years, the expenses scandal, Lord Ashcroft's millions, Bigotgate, the various Labour leadership coups, and the fact that they were up against a party that had been in power for 13 long years. The dawn of Dave? Not quite. (Oh, and when Cameron says that Labour has "lost its mandate to govern our country", he is right. The problem for him is that he hasn't won a mandate to replace it. In the end, four and a half years of "modernising" leadership just wasn't enough . . .)
Another failure, perhaps the biggest failure of all, has been the democratic failure. It is a national disgrace that voters were turned away from polling stations, disenfranchised during the closest general election in 36 years. We have, in the words of the Electoral Commission chair, a voting system that is "Victorian" and "not fit for purpose". In various corners of the country, democracy failed on 6 May 2010. Will we ever again be able to send election monitors abroad with their heads held high?
UPDATE: Actually, it hasn't all been bad. Great to see success for Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion -- and the election of Britain's first Green MP. And I'm delighted to see the humiliating defeat for the neo-fascist Nick Griffin and the BNP in Barking. Perfect!
UPDATE 2: Here also are my predictions from last night, which, I think (!), still hold true:
* No party will gain an overall majority -- parliament will be hung. (Seeing as how I predicted a hung parliament nearly a year ago, it would be odd to pull back from that prediction now.)
* Ed Balls will retain his Morley and Outwood seat.
* Turnout will be higher than 70 per cent -- again, a prediction I made a while ago (on LBC, in an interview with Iain Dale!) and one I'm sticking with.
* The Conservatives will emerge as the largest single party.
* Labour will come second, not third in the popular vote. Its vote share and number of seats will exceed the 1983 totals.
* Gordon Brown will still be PM at 1pm on Friday.