|CREDIT: BBC News|
Labour's majority has been severely reduced as they currently hold only 353 of the 619 seats declared, a net loss of 46 seats on the 2001 result. The Conservatives have a net gain of 33 seats, and the Liberal Democrats a net gain of 11, giving them their best result in 70 years. At this stage, even if all the remaining 27 seats declared for Labour, the government's majority will be shredded. Since all 27 seats won't return for Labour, it's likely to be lower than this, possibly much lower.
Update: With all seats apart from Staffordshire South, where a by-election will be held in the next few weeks, having returned results the final tally gives Labour 356 seats and an absolute majority of just 67.
However the size of this majority is somewhat misleading, amongst other factors the torturous politics of Northern Ireland will influence it, since as a matter of party policy Sinn Fein candidates elected to Westminster never take up their seats, and the Unionists will always vote with the government.
Additionally while many "rebel" Labour MPs were returned to Parliament, perhaps the size of the government's majority will keep them in line now the consequences of their rebellion are more serious. It will also be interesting to see how the unusually large number of independent MPs, and the presence of a larger than normal third party, will change the dynamics of Parliament.
One thing is certain however, pushing through controversial legislation, such as the introduction of identity cards, will be a lot tougher for the government in this Parliament than it would have been in the last.
Update: The BBC has an interesting article with snippets from the foreign press covering the election results...
Update: The BBC is reporting the predicable consequences of Labour's terrible performance at the polls...