The election action unfolds

6.40am Nick Clegg, looking deflated despite having comfortably held his seat in Sheffield Hallam, acknowledged that the Liberal Democrats "simply didn't achieve what we hoped".

7.00 Gordon Brown arrived back in Downing Street, ignoring questions shouted at him by waiting journalists wanting to know whether he intended to resign.

9.46 Labour holds Erith and Thamesmead, in south-east London. This was the point at which the Tories could not win a Commons majority and a hung parliament was confirmed.

10.01 The Lib Dems privately indicated that Mr Clegg was holding to the line he had taken throughout the campaign, that if one party secured the highest numbers of votes and the highest number of MPs, that party had the right to be the first to try to form a government.

10.26 Gordon Brown, still Prime Minister and not yet accepting defeat, announced that he had asked the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, to arrange for the Civil Service to provide support on request to parties engaged in horse trading to form a government.

10.40 Nick Clegg arrived at the Liberal Democrat headquarters in Cowley Street, Westminster, and announced that it was up to the Tories to prove they are "capable of seeking to govern in the national interest". It was, in effect, a public invitation to David Cameron to ring him and make an offer. He also insisted that there would have to be "real reforms" to fix "our broken electoral system".

11.15 Conservatives sources indicated that David Cameron would have something to say very soon, about forming a government that would be "strong and stable with broad support, that acts in the national interest".

12.55pm Nick Clegg left Lib Dem headquarters and was driven to his home in Putney, where he would be awaiting David Cameron's call.

1.40 Gordon Brown appeared on the steps of Downing Street to make what amounted to a plea to the Lib Dems to save his Government. He said that the country needs "strong, stable and principled government", and offered a referendum on creating a fairer voting system. Meanwhile, one area of uncertainty was cleared. Though no one knew who would be running the Government, they at least knew who would be in charge in the Commons. The returning officer in Buckingham announced that the Speaker, John Bercow, had held his seat, in Buckingham, against the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and other independents.

2.00 David Cameron held a conference call with members of his Shadow Cabinet to tell them the offer he intended to make to the Lib Dems.

2.30 David Cameron delivered a statement in London's St Stephen's Club setting out what he called a "big, open and comprehensive offer" to the Liberal Democrats. It included promises to push some Lib Dem policies up the political agenda and to set up an all-party committee into electoral reform.

3.45 Cameron and Clegg talked privately on the telephone.

4.34 An announcement that the Conservatives had held Torridge and West Devon meant the counting was finally over, except in Thirsk where it has had to be delayed for three weeks because of the death of a Ukip candidate. Assuming the Conservatives hold Thirsk, the Conservatives will have 307 seats, exactly the number predicted in the first exit poll on Thursday night. It puts them 19 short of the figure of 326, which would have assured them an outright majority in the Commons.

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