POLITICS

General Election Lib Dem Exit Poll Results Could Have Paddy Ashdown 'Eating His Hat'

07/05/2015 23:46 BST | Updated 07/05/2015 23:59 BST

The Liberal Democrats have dismissed exit poll suggestions that the party could be reduced to just 10 MPs.

But Lord Paddy Ashdown, former party leader and the chair of the Lib Dems' 2015 campaign team, has said he would "eat his hat" if the exit poll's prediction was correct.

"If this poll is correct I will publicly eat my hat on your programme," he told the BBC's Andrew Neil live on air.

Lord Ashdown said shortly after that: "I have been offered ten hats on Twitter tonight, not all of them politely I have to to say."

And, of course, Paddy Ashdown's hat already has its own parody Twitter account.

The loss of dozens of Commons seats would heap pressure on Nick Clegg's leadership but party sources insisted the projection did not correspond with the data they had gathered on the ground.

The Lib Dems won 57 seats in 2010, and party sources have suggested they "realistically" expected to return 30 or more MPs despite stubbornly low opinion poll ratings.

Responding to the joint BBC/ITN/Sky exit poll, a Lib Dem spokesman acknowledged the election was "unpredictable" but rejected the findings.

A party spokesman said: "This exit poll does not reflect any of our intelligence from today or in the run-up to polling day. We will wait for the final results."

Clegg's close ally Lord Scriven said the exit poll "looks completely rogue" and added that the YouGov poll, which put the Lib Dems on 10%, gave a "completely different picture".

Speaking to reporters at the Sheffield count in the English Institute of Sport, he refused to be drawn on what the exit poll figures would mean for Clegg's leadership.

"I don't think it is going to be that result," he said.

"We just need to all take a breath, wait until the evening gets a bit more firm and then make decisions about who, what, where and why."

The poll put Conservatives on 316 - just 10 short of the magic number of 326 needed to command an absolute majority in the House of Commons. Labour were forecast to secure just 239 - 17 fewer than their tally at the start of the election campaign - with the Scottish National Party almost achieving a clean sweep of 58 of the 59 seats north of the border.

GENERAL ELECTION 2015

General Election 2015 Live Updates And Results

How To Watch The General Election Results Online And On TV

Election Night Declaration Times In Alphabetical Order

20 Seats To Watch As Britain Goes To The Polls

Dogs Who Didn't Care At All About Voting

Who Will Be The Next Prime Minister?

Taking Selfies, And Other Things You CAN'T Do In A Polling Booth

Newspaper Front Pages Show Hysteria Continues Even On Election Day

Ukip Mercilessly Trolled On Twitter As #WhyImVotingUkip Is Hijacked Again

Polling Stations Were Set Up In Some Of The Weirdest Places...

Anger As Ukip Candidate Was Left Off The Ballot Papers

People Got A Little Confused About The General Election Hashtag On Twitter

IN PICTURES: A Look Back At Britain At The Polls Through History

David Cameron Was Photobombed... By Elmo

Ukip's Wikipedia Page Was Well And Truly Hacked

General Election 2015 Declaration Times In Time Order

What Is A Hung Parliament?

Some People Get Really Creative Spoiling Their Ballot Papers

The Election Explained Through Game Of Thrones Is Weirdly Spot On

21 Of The Stupidest Moments From The 2015 Election Campaign

So Who Will Actually Win The General Election?

100 Facts About The General Election

MORE GENERAL ELECTION