The British public cast their votes in the closest fought UK general election in years, with polls pointing to a hung parliament.
UK election voting under way
The British public are today casting their votes in the closest fought UK general election in years. Late polls indicate that the Conservative Party is likely to win ? but leader David Cameron may well find himself falling short of an overall majority. If the Tories do win it will end a Labour rule lasting 13 years and push prime minister Gordon Brown from power.
The surprise of the 2010 campaign has been the performance of the UK's third party ? the Liberal Democrats. For the first time in Britain presidential-style televised leadership debates took place and ? based on his performance ? the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg saw his party's support surge. How that translates in the ballot box remains to be seen as the UK's electoral system tends to favour the larger two parties. But in the event of a hung parliament ? where no one has an overall majority ? Mr Clegg could find himself in the role of kingmaker. He has already indicated that he could work with both Conservative and Labour but not with the current prime minister, Labour leader Gordon Brown.
If the Lib Dems are invited into a coalition it could have an impact on UK foreign policy in Afghanistan and the Middle East. It could also see a root and branch reform of the UK first past the post electoral system and the introduction of a form of Proportional Representation. Meanwhile a high-profile candidate in the British general election, Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, walked away from a plane crash with minor injuries today soon after voting started, his party said. Mr Farage, an outspoken Member of the European Parliament, was in a light aircraft which crash-landed at an airfield in Northamptonshire, north of London, as he toured the constituency of Buckingham. He is trying to oust the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, in the constituency. "He walked out of the crash bloodied," a party spokesman said.
"He has been taken to hospital in Banbury. The pilot is a bit more serious. He was cut out of the craft." A police spokesman said: "Two people were on board, the pilot and the passenger, both had minor injuries." Mr Farage, 46, gained notoriety when he called the European Union's new president Herman Van Rompuy a "damp rag" in a rant in the parliamentary chamber in Strasbourg.
He was fined almost 3,000 euros (US$3,850) for the comments he made in March during Van Rompuy's first appearance before the European Parliament. Mr Farage is trying to win UKIP's first seat in the House of Commons. The party opposes Britain's membership of the EU and wants stronger controls on immigration. * The National
With Britain's parliamentary election today expected to be the closest run in nearly two decades, the final result might not be clear until most of the 650 seats have declared their winners. The following are 10 key seats which may give an early clue to the outcome of the election if voting patterns in them are replicated nationwide. Birmingham Edgbaston, result expected 11.45pm GMT This seat was the first gain made by the ruling Labour party in their 1997 landslide election victory. With a swing of just 2 percent needed from Labour, it is likely to be the opposition Conservatives' first gain of the night if they are to win the election. Vale of Clwyd, result expected midnight If the Conservatives win this Welsh seat they will have achieved the 7.1 percent swing needed to win 326 seats and secure an overall majority. Stourbridge, result expected 1am The 1.5 percent swing towards the Conservatives it would take for Labour to lose this central England seat would mean they will have also lost their overall majority in parliament. Dudley South, result expected 1am If the Conservatives achieve the 4.5 percent swing needed to take Dudley South in central England from Labour, they will be the largest party in a hung parliament, where no party has overall control. Torbay, result expected 1am This is the first Conservative/ Liberal Democrat marginal seat of the night. If the Conservatives do not achieve the 3 percent swing needed to take this seat in southwest England, it may be the first sign that a surge in popularity for the perennially third Lib Dems could dent the Conservatives' prospects. Shrewsbury and Atcham, result expected 1.30am If Labour achieve the 1.8 percent swing needed to gain this seat in western England from the Conservatives, they will have secured an overall majority of 100 seats. Luton North, result expected 2am If the Conservatives achieve the 8.2 percent swing required to win Luton North, just north of London, they would have an overall majority of 50 seats in parliament. Luton South, result expected 2am This is a bellwether seat which, since 1951, has been won by the party that goes on to be victorious nationwide. It is currently held by Labour and would require a 7.4 percent swing to the Conservatives if they were to take it, or a 10.1 percent swing for the Liberal Democrats. Morley and Outwood, result expected 2am While the Conservatives would require a swing of 10.5 percent to take the seat of Schools Minister Ed Balls, one of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's closest confidents, they have made the northern England constituency a specific target. The defeat of someone as high profile as Balls would be symbolic for the opposition party, who hope to create a "Portillo" moment reminiscent of when then Conservative Defence Minister Michael Portillo lost his seat in 1997, despite going in to the election with a large majority. Edinburgh South West, result expected 3am The seat of Finance Minister Alistair Darling is considered to be one of the most vulnerable of any cabinet minister. While the swing to from Labour is not expected to be as great in Scotland, Darling could lose his seat if the Conservatives achieve a uniform swing greater than 8.2 percent. * Swing percentages are based on those compiled by Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher from the University of Plymouth, and have been rounded to one decimal place. * Reuters