Final polls of the campaign point to a hung parliament

Final pre-election polls show the Tories around 30 seats short of a majority.

New Statesman - Polls Guide_1273093737947

Latest poll (ComRes/Independent) Conservatives 27 seats short of a majority.

22:05 UPDATE: The final poll of the night, a ComRes survey for the Independent, has the Tories unchanged on 37 per cent, Labour down one to 28 per cent and the Lib Dems up two to 28 per cent.

So, assuming a uniform swing, all of the polls published tonight point to a hung parliament. There's no sign of a late Tory surge but I expect the Conservatives will be fairly satisfied. They are confident that their strength in the marginals will give them more seats than national polls suggest.

The Tories are all but certain to emerge as the single largest party on Friday but unless, against expectations, they perform well in the Lib Dem marginals, I can't see them winning an overall majority.

If Cameron ends up around 20 seats short of a majority, I expect him to attempt to lead a minority government with the support of the DUP and other minority parties. If the shortfall is more like 30-40 then he will have no choice but to negotiate with the Lib Dems.

21:50 UPDATE: ICM for the Guardian has the Tories up three to 36 per cent, Labour unchanged on 28 per cent and the Lib Dems down two to 26 per cent.

20:06 UPDATE: It looks as if last night's YouGov poll, which had the Lib Dems way down on 24 per cent, was an outlier. Tonight's has them back up fourpoints to 28 per cent, with Labour down two to 28 per cent and the Tories unchanged on 35 per cent.

There's no sign of a late Conservative surge tonight but these polls are far from encouraging for Labour. Most show them level-pegging with the Lib Dems and two put Nick Clegg's party in front.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

New Statesman - Polls Guide_1273093992405

Hung parliament, Conservatives 27 seats short of a majority.

UPDATE: The latest Angus Reid/PoliticalBetting poll has the Tories up 1 to 36 per cent, the Lib Dems unchanged on 29 per cent and Labour up 1 to just 24 per cent. As ever, Gordon Brown will be hoping that Mike Smithson's golden rule -- that the poll with Labour in the worst position is normally the most accurate -- does not hold this time.

UPDATE: Populus for the Times has topline figures of Con 37 per cent (+1), Lab 28 per cent (+1) and Lib Dems 27 per cent (-1). On a uniform swing, that result would leave Cameron 24 seats short, a legislative handicap he would hope to overcome with the help of the DUP and others.

The first two polls of the night are out and both point to a hung parliament. An Opinium poll for the Daily Express has the Tories on 35 per cent (+2), Labour on 27 per cent (+1) and the Lib Dems on 26 per cent (-1). If repeated at the election on a uniform swing, that result would leave David Cameron 38 seats short of a majority.

Meanwhile, a new TNS BRMB poll puts the Tories down one to 33 per cent, with the Lib Dems also down one to 29 per cent and Labour unchanged on 27 per cent. On a uniform swing, the figures would leave Cameron 57 seats short of a majority.

So, like other recent polls, both suggest that the yellow tide is receding. That said, it's worth remembering how few expected to see any poll put the Lib Dems ahead of Labour the day before the election.

I'm expecting a glut of polls tonight, so stay tuned for updates throughout the evening.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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