LONDON – As daylight broke over the U.K. this morning, a cloud of uncertainty hung over Downing Street.
The people had spoken in the country's general election but – to quote a Labor minister – "we don't know quite what they have said."
For the first time since 1974 there's no outright winner. The Conservatives may claim to have won, but Labour isn't accepting it has lost.
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And the third party Liberal Democrats – who thought they had gotten a new political bandwagon rolling – were left looking at its flat tires after all the air had come out.
The political battle resumed at 10 p.m. sharp last night as politicians from the rival parties slugged it out all over the media over who had won the right to form the next government.
It was summed up neatly in an early exchange on the BBC, when one prominent Conservative politician told her Labor counterpart: "You're losing your legitimacy to govern."
And he replied: "But you don't seem to be acquiring it."
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Deal making begins
So now the horse-trading has begun, and the phones are buzzing between the political dealmakers in all the parties with seats in parliament.
While publicly the leaders will talk of doing what is right for the country, the behind-the-scenes conversations will be a little less noble: Support us so we can form the government – and tell us what you want in return.
The biggest surprise of the night came not from the politicians, but from the voters, in what may turn out to be the U.K.'s very own "hanging chad" moment. Many hundreds – perhaps thousands – found themselves unable to vote in time because of long lines at the voting stations.
They were angry, and in some cases the police were called to calm things down.
One told Sky News: "There's British troops dying to give Afghans the vote, and here – in the mother of democracies – lots and lots of people are being disenfranchised."
This morning there's talk of legal challenges, and demands to reform an archaic system that can no longer cope.
As the morning mist becomes a grey afternoon, who gets to live in 10 Downing Street is anyone's guess right now. With one exception perhaps.
The British media reports that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called David Cameron last night to congratulate him on his "victory."
He may, in the end, turn out to be right. But not yet.