21:59 The polls close in one minute's time. Let's find out just how neck and neck this election battle is... 22:00 Bloody hell, what happened there? The exit poll shows the Conservatives on as many as 316 seats, and Labour on only 239, which is miles off the 280-ish each the opinion polls had been predicting. If that's correct then... oh blimey, let's all pick ourselves off the floor and work out what this means. 22:30 "If the exit poll is correct" is swiftly becoming the most used phrase of the night. At this stage it's a big if, and the gap between the main parties may not be so great, but Ed Miliband's hopes for a centre-left coalition appear to be dissolving before our eyes. 23:00 Houghton & Sunderland South, as usual, is the first seat to declare and a big win for Labour. This proves nothing, which leaves plenty of time for the TV pundits to debate lots of unreal results instead. 00:00 There are rumours that sitting ministers may have fallen, that UKIP may be overtaking the Tories in working class areas, and that Paddy Ashdown is looking for a hat to eat. 00:40 We're in for a long morning of TV anchormen switching over to constituency declarations just in time to miss the first results, and then talking over the victor's speech. 01:00 Those of us still up for the results are agog at the unfolding story. The majority of Britons, who actually voted for this, are fast asleep. 01:30 London is not especially swinging to Labour. Or maybe that's just Wandsworth for you. 01:50 Three hours after the first results, only fifteen other seats have declared. But if Labour can't even make a dent in Nuneaton, then the story of the election is set, and you can safely go to bed now. 02:05 There are the first hints that the Conservatives might actually gain a majority of MPs, in which case now'd probably be a good time to read their manifesto again/more carefully/for the first time. Benefit cap reduced, EU referendum introduced, tougher tests for migrants, BBC licence fee frozen, English MPs veto, a free vote on fox hunting ... 02:15 The first Scottish result (in Kilmarnock) shows a 26% swing from Labour to the SNP. A whitewash (or at least yellowwash) north of the border is now a distinct possibility. 02:35 In Castle Point (think Canvey Island) the Liberal Democrats could muster only 80(!) votes, reflecting a nationwide crash for the former coalition partners. After five unpopular years in government, their total number of MPs looks to be back down where it was in the 1970s. 03:00 By this time of the morning, your drink of choice is either champagne, an anaesthetic bottle of gin, or very strong coffee. 03:20 With 100 seats now declared, the big stories are Labour failing to make inroads into Conservative territory (except in London), the SNP's one-party Scotland, and the Lib Dems losing to almost everyone almost everywhere. 03:45 "Long Term Economic Plan, Hard Working Families, Coalition Of Chaos, Long Term Economic Plan, Hard Working Families, Coalition Of Chaos, Long Term Economic Plan, Hard Working Families..." So that worked, then. 04:00 Ed Miliband's resignation is expected later, not that he's definitely lost yet, with a Labour leadership campaign to follow. Look what happens when you stand up to Rupert Murdoch. 04:15 That's now 200 seats declared. So far all the Liberal Democrats in London have lost, including longstanding Simon Hughes, and all three of Labour's gains from the Conservatives have been in the capital. 04:30 The Mayor of London, stood between a Monster Raving Loony and an Eccentric in a top hat, waltzes into a second job as understudy for leader of the national Conservative party. 04:55 Nick Clegg is surprised/relieved to hold his Sheffield seat. Results are flooding through thick and fast now, with 300 seats declared. I'm sure they used to flood earlier. 05:20 A blue dawn, with no hint of golden sunshine. 05:30 I don't think I've ever stayed up for 400 results before. Labour still have more seats than the Conservatives, but that's only because urban is declaring before rural. 05:35 Unnoticed, the BBC's onscreen forecast updates to show the Conservatives on 325 seats, technically only one short of an absolute majority, but in reality victory. 06:05 George Galloway joins Vince Cable, Charles Kennedy, Esther McVey and Douglas Alexander in the electoral dustbin. Ed Balls and Nigel Farage may be queuing up to fall in behind. 06:30 At the 500 declarations mark, only the niceties of the final arithmetic are yet to be clarified. Supporters of the NHS, the EU and the BBC watch the accumulating tally with mounting anxiety. 06:45 Most people went to bed after a surprise exit poll showed the Conservatives the largest party. They'll be waking up (even more surprised) to the likelihood of an outright Conservative victory. 07:00 The next General Election will be on Thursday 7th May 2020. Hold tight.