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Cameron’s Conservatives to be biggest party, close to majority – UK exit poll

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives are on course to win the most seats in parliament but will be just shy of an outright majority, an exit poll showed on Thursday after voting closed in a national election.

The poll put the Conservatives on 316 seats and the opposition Labour Party on 239. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is set to win 58 seats and the centrist Liberal Democrats 10 seats in the 650-seat Westminster parliament, according to the poll, released by national broadcasters.

The combined total of 326 for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who have governed in coalition since 2010, indicated that Cameron should be able to stay in office.

Tory chief whip Michael Gove told the BBC said: “I think it could be right, yes. If it is right it means the Tories have clearly won this election and Labour have clearly lost it.”

Tory environment secretary Liz Truss told Sky News the Conservatives would not get ahead of themselves based on the exit poll.

She said: “It is certainly encouraging to see those results.

“It’s far too early to speculate (on a government) because we don’t know how that is going to translate precisely into a number of seats.

“What we are seeing across the country is different things happening in different parts of the country.”

The Liberal Democrats dismissed the exit poll forecast, insisting it did not tally with the information they had received from their activists.

A party spokesman said: “This exit poll does not reflect any of our intelligence from today or in the run-up to polling day.

“We will wait for the final results.”

The spokesman added: “No opinion poll to date has shown the numbers in this exit poll.”

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon was also cautious about the exit poll.

She tweeted: “I’d treat the exit poll with HUGE caution. I’m hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely!”

If the exit poll proves correct, it would be the first time that a ruling party has increased its tally of seats since 1983, with Conservatives increasing their strength at Westminster by 14.

It would give Mr Cameron the option of attempting to form a Conservative-only minority government without having to offer ministerial posts and a role in framing legislation to coalition parties.

Although a tally of 316 is lower than the 326 threshold for an absolute majority, it is very close to the lower figure of 321-322 needed for all practical purposes, assuming Sinn Fein MPs do not take up their seats.

A minority Tory government may hope to get its legislation through with the support of Northern Irish unionists, who are likely to win around eight or nine seats.

The arithmetic could even hand the balance of power in key votes to a pair of Ukip MPs, who could be expected to use any leverage this gives them to put pressure on the Prime Minister to bring forward his planned in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, currently scheduled for 2017.

If borne out by results, the polling figures would raise large questions over Mr Miliband’s future as Labour leader.

 

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Reuters News Service

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