Fewer than 50 of the UK’s 650 constituencies have declared, but Labour has already all but conceded defeat. The results from Conservative-Labour marginals suggest that, if anything, the exit poll (which put the Tories on 316 seats) underestimated the performance of David Cameron’s party. In too many areas, including in London, Labour has either stood still or gone backwards. A Tory majority, regarded as almost impossible before tonight, is no longer out of the question.
Having initially dismissed the exit poll as “wrong”, Labour has now admitted that it is Cameron, not Ed Miliband, who will likely be prime minister. After a two hour gap, a party spokesman said: “Results in Scotland clearly very difficult – if the exit poll is right, the seats the SNP are taking off Labour will turn out to be crucial if David Cameron ends up back in No 10. Next government will have huge task uniting country.” Rather than contesting the view that the Tories are likely to retain power, Labour is now warning that they will struggle to unite a divided state – a significant shift.
A source at party HQ told me: “Ed has to resign tomorrow. Everyone here accepts that.” The battle to define the defeat will now begin: did Labour lose because it was too left-wing or did it lose because it wasn’t left-wing enough? Andy Burnham and Chuka Umunna will be the main contenders for the leadership, with Yvette Cooper, Dan Jarvis and Liz Kendall among the other possible candidates.