Voting open, results wide open in UK general election | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.05.2015
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Voting open, results wide open in UK general election

It's being called the "closest" and "most important" British general election in a generation. As millions choose their parliamentarians to send to London, DW's Mark Hallam caught up with voters in Westminster itself.

It scarcely matters which polls you read, the situation in the UK appears as simple as it is complex.

The major players, the Conservatives and Labour, are locked together on around one-third of the total vote. Both look set to fall well short of a parliamentary majority.

Would-be kingmakers the Liberal Democrats can expect to take a major hit, after five years in coalition with the Conservatives, but polls suggest they might cling on to a relatively healthy chunk of their seats.

Euroskeptic anti-immigration party UKIP can hope to beat the Lib Dems in terms of the popular vote - but still look likely to secure even less than the "handful of seats" hoped for by party leader Nigel Farage. Even Farage's South Thanet constituency in Kent is no sure thing for the United Kingdom Independence Party.

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Most British papers made no bones about where their preferences lay, even amid the uncertainty

Meanwhile, north of the border, the Scottish National Party (SNP) looks set to clean up, polling close to half of the popular vote, a full 20 percent clear of Labour. Most analysts predict the SNP will claim at least 45 seats (out of a possible 59 in Scotland); the only truly clear statement expected by the pollsters.

Campaigning stops as voting starts

Thursday's newspapers poured over "the most important election in a generation," as the center-right "Times" put it in a front page spread headlined "Judgment Day."

"I can imagine that tonight many people will stay up all night just to see how this election turns out, which is very unusual for the country," Rakesh Shah, a Conservative party member tells DW outside a Westminster polling station.

Campaigning closes as the clock strikes midnight on election day, meaning May 7 is a neutral affair. Shah was keen to stress this, too; the Tory volunteer was taking his turn collecting voters' registration numbers as they came to cast their ballots next to a primary school in the shadow of Westminster Cathedral. Armed with this information later in the day, Shah said, other Conservative volunteers can knock on doors of constituents yet to vote, reminding them that their chance to have a say in the country's future is soon to expire. This seat is a safe but important one for the Conservatives, one of comparatively few they hold in Labour-dominated inner-London.

Immigration, the economy and Scotland

"It's really about the economy and jobs here," Shah says, before breaking off to add three more voter registration numbers to his list. Two more young women, seeing Shah's blue rosetta, decline to give him the data, eying him (and perhaps the reporter's microphone) warily.

Jean Hamley, who looks like a young pensioner, might just get a knock on her door later on, based on the morning's evidence. She's waiting for her husband, she says, before the pair of them go and vote together. But it would actually be a wasted Tory journey; Jean and her husband are already in the blue Conservative corner, not least with their eyes on Scotland.

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"My vote will be for the Conservatives, because I can't see the country surviving with a Labour and SNP alliance," Hamley says. So she wouldn't like the nationalists pulling Westminster strings? "No way! No way! … The last Labour government was full of Scottish MPs, you know? We don't want any more." The most famous being former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, I interject, before Jean jumps back in: "Yes, but even Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh!"

Jackson Edham, a 21-year-old first-time voter, said that he wasn't really planning to vote at all, "but then I read the UKIP manifesto properly." Jackson likes UKIP's idea of a limited flow of immigrants, suggesting 50,000 skilled workers being allowed in each year on a points-based system inspired by Australia. More than jobs, it's overcrowding and the inflated London real estate market on Jackson's mind. "There's not going to be any room. I'm getting kicked out of my house and to find a place is impossible. So if we have any more people, where are we gonna go?"

These voices, and others, will decide who represents the "Cities of London and Westminster" (formerly "Westminster South") constituency in Parliament, with Conservative Mark Fields expected to hold what's been a Tory seat since 1950.

On Friday, though, 650 new parliamentarians from all over the country will have the right to make their way to the House of Commons, just a few minutes' walk from the Cathedral's grounds. What's less clear - and what might not even be clear when it's time for the Queen's speech welcoming a new government on May 27 - is which party, or parties, will be dictating the daily agenda.

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