Tory Surge?

The polls closed in the UK at 5:00 EDT, and just a few minutes after that the BBC’s exit poll appeared, making projections of the final results in terms of seats in the House of Commons.

It was a bit of a shocker, showing the Tories at 316 seats, Labour at 239, SNP at 53, the LibDems at 10 (!), the Ulster Unionists at 8, the Welsh nationalists at 4, the Greens at 2, and UKIP at 2.

That means in theory the Tories and the LibDems could reform their coalition government alone, though just barely. The Unionists, however, are likely to support the Tories, too, so that would lift them into a more sizable majority. And in any event, anything like this level of Tory votes would guarantee Cameron a long first shot at forming a government while remaining PM.

Those 239 seats for Labour forecast in the exit poll would, notes one commentator, be that party’s lowest level since 1987.

There’s already incredulity spreading; one LibDem insider told the Guardian the exit poll numbers did not resemble any of their internal polling (being reduced to 10 seats, of course, would be quite the blow to the LibDems, who now hold 56 seats, even though they would presumably remain in government!).

So is the BBC exit poll generally accurate? Yes and no. The 2010 exit poll pretty much nailed the final results. But there’s some evidence the poll can be off in an election with heavy small party voting (as is occuring in this one): in 1992 it erroneously predicted a hung parliament instead of a Tory majority.

We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s not looking good at present for a Miliband government.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.