Newspaper headlines: Election reaction after polls close

The front pages focus on the general election after the polls closed, with the widespread feeling that it was a good day for David Cameron and his Conservative party.

The Times says a Conservative seat tally seven short of an overall majority, as predicted by an exit poll, would lead to pressure for a minority administration.

David Cameron could ask to try to strike an alliance with either the Lib Dems, DUP or both but this would not add substantially to the stability of the government, the paper says.

The Telegraph says, should the exit poll prove accurate, it could leave Mr Cameron with enough seats to form a government alongside the DUP.

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Image caption The papers predict David Cameron will be returning to Downing Street

It adds that as the leader of what is predicted to be by far the largest party in Westminster, Mr Cameron has the constitutional right to make the first attempt to form the next government.

The Independent says the poll findings gave the Conservatives hope, after being deadlocked with Labour in opinion polls in the run-up to the election.

"Tory strategists have long hoped for a repeat of the 1992 campaign, when a late swing to the party enabled John Major to win an unexpected majority," says the Independent.

"Keep Cam and carry on" is the rather clever headline inside the Sun.

The paper says that although the Tories look likely to win, Westminster is set to be plunged into days, if not weeks, of messy coalition negotiations and backroom deal-making, like in 2010.


Mandarins ready

The Financial Times pictures people enjoying a drink in the sunshine at the Anglesea Arms pub in west London, which doubled up as a polling station.

The paper says that should no party win a parliamentary majority, senior civil servants have made preparations to steer politicians, the public, and the Queen through potentially difficult negotiations to form a new government.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Hayward, the prime minister's private secretary Chris Martin, and the Queen's private secretary Sir Christopher Geidt were standing by to step in, says the FT.

The Mail says the Conservatives could be the first ruling party since 1983 to increase its number of seats. The paper calls it a "triumph for the Tories".

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Image caption Counts took place across the country throughout the night

The Express says that, as ballot papers were being counted in the climax to the closest-fought electoral race in decades, millions of votes had gone to the two parties committed to an EU referendum, the Conservatives and UKIP.

The Guardian calls it a poll shocker for Labour, and says Mr Cameron secured an "astonishing electoral triumph".

The nation is facing five more years of "Tory misery", says the Mirror.

The paper adds that Ed Miliband had been given hope that the sunny weather in most parts of the country had increased turnout - usually to the benefit of Labour.


'Aga saga'

Ann Treneman in the Times writes about an election marathon that had everything (and the kitchen sink).

"This may indeed have been the most important election since time began (our lifetimes, since the war, etc) but it is also undeniable that much of the election was also about, er, kitchens," she says.

"Indeed, such was the Aga saga drama-rama that, even yesterday, as the nation awoke to vote, I expected Mary Berry to pop up outside a polling station and say: "OK bakers, time to vote!"

The Telegraph's Michael Deacon is distinctly unimpressed with Channel 4's "alternative" coverage of election night, featuring David Mitchell and Jeremy Paxman, which started at 9pm, an hour before the polls closed.

He says: "The big question beforehand was: what were they going to do for the first hour? After all the polls didn't close until 10pm. What analysis could they offer, what jokes could they tell, without Ofcom accusing them of influencing late voters.

"Perhaps their producers would copy Big Brother, which, whenever its contestants say something legally dubious, replaces the jabber of their conversation with birdsong.

Image caption Politicians' kitchens were a recurring theme in the campaign

"Then the programme started. Within minutes, I was longing for birdsong. Not that the programme had broken any regulations. It was just that it was so dispiritingly bad."

John Crace in the Guardian writes that once they had voted, Ed, Dave and Nick could head back home and hole up for the rest of the day until the polling booths closed.

"A chance to catch up with some of the things they'd been putting off for weeks. Watching videos, booking holidays, phoning recruitment agencies.

"And planning their exit poll speeches. How winning was really losing, or losing was really winning. How up was down and down was up. That sort of thing."

Meanwhile, the Times reports that economists have warned that political stalemate after a messy outcome to the election will cost Britain jobs, dent growth and damage deficit reduction plans.

The paper says City traders were preparing for a nervous few weeks in the markets as uncertainty about Britain's future under a hung Parliament takes its toll.

In a worst case scenario, a weak government could threaten Britain's credit rating and cause the pound to collapse, they said.

Economist Philip Rush tells the Times: "There will be a jobs cost and a hit to GDP. Once political risk is believed to be a concern, it can spiral. If it is not too bad, the impact can be small."


'Election spin?'

The Telegraph reports that Britain's bookmakers described the election as the "First Political Grand National" after taking £25m in bets because the outcome was so uncertain.

The largest bet was placed by a man who had won £193,000 predicting the correct result of the Scottish independence referendum, and staked the lot on a hung Parliament.

It is the largest political bet ever made and he would stand to make around £46,000 if successful. Ladbrokes took a £50,000 bet for Labour to win the most seats, the largest bet for any party across the board.

The Mirror says bookies Ladbrokes and William Hill said polling day was now as important as the FA Cup final - and more money was taken than on the big boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

The Express takes a look at some of the more unusual buildings that were used as polling stations, including a launderette, pub, cricket club, restaurant, caravan and mobile container.

"Election spin?" says the Express. "One of Britain's most peculiar polling stations was a launderette. Needless to say, it was soon awash with voters."

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Image caption Larry the cat: His seat is safe

The Mirror pictures one building used as a polling station bearing a sign which reads: "Please do not sit on the fence."

The Times ends a Q&A feature which "maps out the potential minefield that lies ahead" by asking what happens to Larry the Downing Street cat?

The answer? "Larry, a brown and white rescue tabby from the Battersea Dogs and Cats home, arrived in Downing Street in 2011. Whoever becomes prime minister, his future at No 10 is secure."

And from cats to dogs, with the Sun reporting that hundreds of canine pets were taken to polling stations after BBC Newsnight presenter Evan Davis asked in a tweet if they were allowed into voting booths.

Dogs, explains the Sun, are allowed into polling stations with owners if they do not disrupt the vote.

Matt's cartoon on the front of the Telegraph shows a starting gun about to be fired at an athletics race, with the starter saying: "On your marks, get set… CLAIM VICTORY!"

And Pugh's cartoon in the Mail has a man in a voting booth turning round to a polling station assistant and saying: "Could I borrow your rubber? I've changed my mind again...".


Matchday selfies

And just one story for you away from the election.

The Times reports that a select group of fans will get a glimpse of the future during the FA Cup final later this month. From the comfort of their box seats they will be able to call up multi-angle instant replays on tablet computers, within a minute of the action taking place on the pitch.

Then, should they wish to grab a burger at half time, says the Times, they will be able to with a swipe of their smartphones, using Wembley Stadium's new contactless payment system.

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Image caption Instant replays and half-time burgers on demand at Wembley

The paper tells us that experts believe such technologies will become commonplace in big sports grounds across the country, as younger fans demand greater digital interaction with their teams, their surroundings and their friends.

The Times says: "Gone will be the days when a stadium is an internet blackspot, dead to excited status updates and matchday selfies.

"Instead, it will be a fully connected world where supporters' smartphones are sent drinks offers before kick-off, player statistics at half-time and traffic warnings after the match."