Across Britain, turnout at the last election in 2005 was just over 61%, fractionally up on 59% who voted in 2001. Before those polls, turnout had never fallen below 70% in any election since 1945. Turnout could be crucial in this election.
11:31: The media are swarming all over Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and his wife Miriam, who have just voted in his Sheffield constituency.
Smiling and talking with the press and constituents, Clegg said he was having “a very nice morning”.
“I don’t think my vote is a secret,” he joked.
11:24: More of the party leaders have now voted. At the polling station near his Scottish home, a smiling Gordon and Sarah Brown cast their ballots. “Nice to see you,” he shouted to reporters.
A polling official told the BBC that early turnout in Brown’s constituency was considerably higher than at the last election in 2005. At the last election, Brown won his seat comfortably with 58.1% of the vote. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is also due to vote soon.
11:09: Boris Johnson, London’s Tory mayor, was slightly more verbose. “I think we’ll have a strong Conservative victory tonight and walking around London yesterday and today, I feel very strongly that the swing is on and the public are in the mood for change,” he told reporters after cycling to his local polling station in Islington.
11:03: When asked how he was feeling after casting his vote, David Cameron told reporters: “Good, thanks. I am feeling good, I will leave it at that.”
10:56: It didn’t take long. Some, presumably anti-Tory, wits have taken the Sun’s mock-up photo of David Cameron, styled as Barack Obama, and altered it to say: “Nope” instead of “Hope”. It is doing the rounds on Twitter, and can be seen on http://www.twitpic.com/1lcq0v.
Mockery of campaign posters has been one of the features of this campaign.
10:43: Labour leader Gordon Brown is not far behind Cameron – in voting at least. He’s due, with wife Sarah, at the polling station near his North Queensferry home in about 10 minutes, our reporter Paul tells us. Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is preparing to vote too.
10:32: And yes, bang on cue, David and Samantha Cameron have arrived at the polling station in Witney, the first of the party leaders to vote. He was smiling, but did not talk to reporters on the way in. She was wearing a purple dress, and for those interested in the minutiae of tie-watch, he was clad with a green tie. Is there a ‘Vote blue, go green’ message there?
10:30: An update from my colleague Will Davies in Witney. The pranksters with the Eton banner have been brought down from the roof of the polling station. Perhaps David Cameron can be expected soon, then.
So far, voter turnout seems quite high, colleagues continue to report, but none of the party leaders have yet voted. The day’s main shocking event so far is the crash involving UKIP former leader Nigel Farage.
10:26: A UKIP spokesman tells my colleague Alice Ritchie the party is very concerned about the condition of the plane’s pilot (see 09:47) but Nigel Farage seems OK and that the party’s campaign itself will continue. “We will continue as before but the campaign in Buckingham has had a bit of a hiatus,” he said. Officials would not be saying more until the status of the pilot was confirmed.
10:18: It’s a grey and drizzly morning in Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency too, says my colleague Thomas Walker. Coffee and bacon sandwiches are keeping the reporters going as they await the arrival of the Lib Dem leader, he adds.
10:15: More fun at the polling station in David Cameron’s Witney constituency. The police tell our reporter they are getting in a specialist climbing team to tackle the pranksters on the roof. The roof is all of 2.5 metres high, our unimpressed reporter says. “We want to make sure the next prime minister is from Eton to get rid of the oiks who have ruined this country,” one of the two men, who claims his name is Sebastian, shouts down to reporters.
09:50: It’s freezing cold and raining in North Queensferry, Fife, where Gordon Brown lives, reports AFP’s Paul Barber. The prime minister is expected to cast his vote there in the next half hour.
09:47: UKIP officials have told an AFP colleague the former party leader had been bloodied by the crash but was able to walk away from the crash site. The plane’s pilot was more seriously hurt, they said. The plane had been flying a banner saying: “Vote for your country – Vote UKIP” reports said.
09:23: Reports said UKIP’s former party leader Nigel Farage has suffered minor injuries in a light plane crash in Northamptonshire. Police confirmed to AFP reports of the crash, but declined to name those injured. Farage is running against House of Commons speaker John Bercow.
09:05: Early voting was brisk at one of the most unusual polling stations in the country, the Anglesea Arms pub in the upmarket London district of Kensington, my colleague Robin Millard said.
The restaurant section at the back of the pub has been converted for the day and dozens of people cast their vote soon after it opened for business at 7:00am. Some voters were performing their democratic duty while on the school run and dragged their children along with them.
08:40: A bungalow bedroom is doubling up as a polling station in a Cambridgeshire village. Retired hairdresser Carmelia Bond from Chettisham, near Ely, offered up her son’s room because there was no other central place for locals to vote. “He’s asked me to make sure that all the people going in there to vote wipe their feet,” Bond told the Cambridge News.
08:15: In a stark reminder that the next prime minister will inherit deep economic problems, the FTSE 100 index opened down 1.27 percent at 5,274.03 points, as investors continue to fret over the Greek financial crisis.
08:04: Some online research tells me that Hoskins won’t be voting Labour this time around. “Tony Blair sort of killed it for me,” Hoskins told the Telegraph last month. “I am quite tempted by the Greens,” he added, “but it is quite a leap.”
07:57: It’s all happening at Cameron’s polling station. Now the Mirror’s man-in-a-chicken-suit — who followed Cameron around on the campaign trail — has arrived at Spelsbury Memorial Hall.
07:50: Showing that it can equal Witney for star power, actor Bob Hoskins is standing in line behind our AFP reporter Leon Neal outside a Muswell Hill polling station.
Leon reports that there are long queues of people waiting to cast their votes here in this leafy part of north London.
07:44: The Mirror, which backs Labour, used its front page to highlight Cameron’s privileged background, showing him in a photograph during his days at Oxford University, and urging: “Don’t let Cam con you… vote Labour.”
07:42: More excitement at Cameron’s polling station. It seems two male pranksters have positioned themselves on the roof of the Spelsbury Memorial Hall drinking champagne and holding up a banner saying “Vote Eton, vote Tory”.
07:40: The first celebrity voter has been spotted. AFP reporter Will Davies saw award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley walk into a polling station in Witney, Oxfordshire — which just so happens to be where David Cameron is expected to cast his vote later this morning. No word yet on who Kingsley plans to vote for.
07:32: In a last-ditch attempt to woo voters, The Sun’s front page is carrying a full-page picture of David Cameron, mocked up in the style of the famous red, blue and yellow photo of Barack Obama , with the words “Our only hope”.
07:30: AFP reporter Robert Leslie reports that the first person to vote at his local polling place in Sevenoaks, Kent, was a man in his thirties who arrived five seconds before the doors opened. As a commuter town, many of the Sevenoaks polling stations are expected to be busy this morning as people vote before going to work.
07:14: While most of us will be voting in a church hall or a school, some polling stations are a bit more unusual. The BBC have sent one of their reporters to a castle in Cornwall, and AFP will be joining voters in a pub in South Kensington later today.
07:00: Polling stations are open, here we go!
06:55: More than 40,000 polling stations around the country are readying to open in just a few minutes, and more than 44 million people are registered to vote in this closely-watched election.
The latest polls are still pointing to a hung parliament. The BBC’s May 5 “Poll of Polls” puts the Conservatives ahead at 37%, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats both scoring 28% of the vote. So it looks like it might all depend on how the election plays out in the marginals…
06:50: Election Day has arrived. In a few minutes from now, at 07:00 UK time, polling stations will be opening around the country in what is set to be the closest election since the 1970s.
Economic troubles await whoever becomes the country’s next prime minister, tasked with nurturing a fragile economic recovery and bringing down the national debt.
The three main contenders for Downing Street — Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg — will all be voting shortly. After a four-week campaign that, for the first time, featured live television debates between the main party leaders and raised the prospect of a hung parliament, all are calling for a high turnout. AFP