Exit polls suggest Conservatives will win most seats in UK general election

The result of the UK's general election 2015 will be another hung parliament, with the Conservatives winning the most number of seats, but not enough to form an overall majority, if tonight's exit polls are to be trusted.

According to the exit poll sponsored jointly by the BBC, ITN and Sky News, conducted by Ipsos MORI and GfK NOP pollsters and published just moments after polling stations closed at 10pm, the outcome of this year's general election would see David Cameron's Conservatives taking 316 seats, up nine since the last election, and Ed Miliband's Labour party winning 239 seats, down 19 from the last election, if the poll is correct.

The SNP would triumph in Scotland, winning a staggering 58 seats - all but one in the country - the Liberal Democrats would take ten seats - losing 47 since 2010 - Plaid Cymru on 4, and Ukip and the Greens winning two seats each.

Such a result would be heartily celebrated by the Conservatives after previous polls projected the election to be on a knife edge between their party and Labour. However they would still have to form a coalition to command a majority in the House of Commons, and would have a choice of making an arrangement with the remainder of the Lib Dems or the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland.

As the mammoth task of counting begins, these exit polls give some idea of who will eventually be heading to Number 10. Seat prediction polling, as it is known, takes place in marginal constituencies, but not every voter is interviewed at a polling station.

It is estimated that around 22,000 voters were surveyed this year by several hundred interviewers, with pollsters targeting 140 key constituencies.

For the past three elections, the exit polls have revealed a high degree of accuracy, simply by pollsters asking people how they voted as they exit polling stations across the UK.

During the 2010 general election, more than 16,000 voters across Britain were interviewed about their decisions between 7am and 10pm, according to the BBC.

The 2010 exit poll accurately predicted a hung parliament, hours before it was confirmed. The poll rightly predicted that the Conservatives would be 19 seats short of securing a majority, winning 307 in total, which was later confirmed to be the case. It predicted 255 seats for Labour, which in the event won 258, and 59 for the Lib Dems, who took 57.

In 2005, the exit polls predicted that Labour would take 356 seats, which they did, while the Conservatives were predicted to win 209, while in fact they won just 198.

But colossal mistakes have been made too. In October 1974, the BBC predicted a 132 majority for Harold Wilson's Labour party; in fact, they could only muster a three seat majority.

The BBC and ITN wrongly predicted that the 1992 election would result in a hung parliament instead of the John Major majority.

And because of the rise of the SNP in Scotland and smaller parties, this year's prediction could be even trickier than previous years, making it hard to determine how some of the marginal constituencies will swing. John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University who will be analysing the numbers for the BBC, told the Daily Telegraph: "Once upon a time, you could concentrate on Conservative-Labour marginals, throw in a few Lib Dem seats and basically get it right. Until now you could ignore Scotland. You can't ignore it any more."

It is illegal in the UK to publish any exit poll results before all polling stations close at 10pm, in order not to sway people before they vote. In fact, just a small number of people see the result during the day, and even television hosts, such as the BBC's veteran presenter David Dimbleby, learn of it just minutes before they announce it live on air.

A publisher who does publish the poll before this time, could face a £5,000 (€6,750) fine or even six months in jail. Despite this, it appeared that Respect party leader George Galloway tweeted what appeared to be exit poll data for his seat in West Bradford earlier today, before quickly deleting it.