Exit polls project a Conservative lead but short of a majority

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Polling stations have closed in the UK, with an exit poll suggesting that the Conservative Party is heading towards a victory.

Voting across the country finished at 10 PM, with the first exit polls released as the polls closed.

The exit poll carried out for the BBC and Sky News suggests that no party will claim an overall majority, with David Cameron’s Conservatives increasing a lead over Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.

The broadcasters put the Conservatives on 316 seats, Labour on 239 seats, the Scottish National Party making landslide gains on 58 seats, the Lib Dems collapsing to 10 seats, and the UK Independence Party and Greens both on 2 seats.

A second YouGov exit poll was tighter – with the Tories on 284, Labour on 263, the Liberal Democrats on 31, and the SNP on 48.

The Scottish National Party is expected to make landslide gains in Scotland, sweeping up almost all of the country’s seats, while the Lib Dems are projected to lose at least half of their MPs. The UK Independence Party, which has a poor record on LGBT rights, is expected to sweep up votes – but may not be able to convert it to seats.

If the projections are correct, there are fears the Conservatives could end up courting the support of UKIP or Northern Ireland’s DUP to receive a strong majority, due to the collapse of the Lib Dem vote.

Conservative chief whip Michael Gove said it would be an “unprecedented vote of confidence” in David Cameron’s leadership  if the figures are correct – but he declined to discuss whether the party would court the DUP or UKIP.

All the main parties include pledges on LGBT rights in their manifesto, with a number of different pledges.

The Conservative Party manifesto outlines a pledge for new legislation to pardon men convicted under the laws who are deceased – which Labour and the Lib Dems also back.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has pledged to statutory introduce inclusive sex and relationship education, review gender recognition laws and review the procedures for LGBT asylum seekers, amid criticism of the often-degrading and unbalanced ‘tests’ that gay asylum seekers are subjected to.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems plan to toughen hate crime laws, pledging to bring forward new legislation to tackle homophobia in schools and at football matches.

Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party is the only one of the main UK-wide parties to have pledged an anti-LGBT policy, with the party’s Christian Manifesto – which was not released to the press – calling for a ‘conscience’ law to weaken equality legislation, and accommodate the beliefs of people who oppose gay rights.

A number of allies of equality, including Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone, who introduced same-sex marriage, and out Tory Vice Chair Mike Freer, are fighting close-run battles to retain their seats. A PinkNews editorial this week urged people to favour local candidates who supported equality.

In a recent poll, 85% of PinkNews readers said that they would vote against a candidate who didn’t support same-sex marriage – which could prove decisive in seats held by some Conservatives with small majorities, such as Bob Blackman and Matthew Offord.

PinkNews election coverage is generously supported by KPMG.

Exit polls project a Conservative lead but short of a majority