The first real results are in. No surprise: The Labour candidate in the Sunderland (solidly Labour) constituency has prevailed. The real news is that the percentage change in the share of the vote for the major parties indicates that, at least so far, the exit poll is correct. Now, what will happen if the exit poll proves correct and Britain has a hung parliament? The political convention is clear: Gordon Brown remains Prime Minister until it is absolutely clear that he cannot form a majority. So the first thing that will happen is that Brown will attempt to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Such a coalition would give Labour the largest number of seats, but still more than ten votes short of a majority. If a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition is not possible (and it likely will not be if Gordon Brown is not replaced as Labour leader), then Brown must resign and Cameron will have a chance to try a make a majority. The Conservatives will also look to the Liberal Democrats and try to make a deal, but the support that the Tories need is more likely to come from the small minority parties, including the unionists from Northern Ireland. With 20 of those 29 seats, Cameron and the Conservatives would have a working majority. It’s still too soon to tell. Buckingham Palace clearly hopes that the actual returns indicate a more decisive result then the exit polls. The Queen would rather not get involved in the muck of party politics.
UK Election Update 3