A place to vent for our Anglophile readers. If these numbers hold up, it would be a surprise.

It would also be the second major international election in a row where conservatism, or what passes for it abroad, has outperformed pre-election polls. The other, of course, was Bibi Netanyahu’s big win in Israel two months ago, which has led to a … not so big advantage in the Knesset. FiveThirtyEight’s model had the Tories winning 278 seats in Parliament with an outside shot at 300; Labour was expected to follow close behind at 267 and be well positioned to form a majority of 326 potentially with help from the left-wing Scottish National Party. As it is, if the exit poll above is right, the Conservatives have easily outpolled a Labour/SNP coalition. In fact, 316 is so wildly above expectations that it may be too good to be true. Another poll taken today (not an exit poll but one conducted online earlier) has the race much closer:

The Liberal Democrats, who helped David Cameron make his majority in the last Parliament with 56 seats, would be nearly wiped out with just 10 now if the Sky poll is right. Stay tuned. As for what the election’s about, Charles Cooke fills in the blanks. Last year, Scots voted narrowly to remain part of the UK. This year, by jettisoning Labour in favor of the SNP, they’ve made Scottish nationalists potential kingmakers in the British parliament.

If the [SNP] does manage to win almost every seat in Scotland, the Labour party will be filled with rage, especially if the result is a Tory-led government. And if Labour manages to stem the bleeding and then to form an administration without the SNP, the calls for independence and for a potent “Scottish voice” will only be magnified.

It’s a funny old game, politics. When the SNP’s play for independence was defeated last September, most commentators predicted that the question would be closed for two decades or more. Instead, the party has gone from strength to strength, and the momentum that it built up during the referendum has been harnessed and placed squarely behind its general-election campaign. Now it is successfully harassing the two major British parties, and, should it succeed in engineering a regional takeover on Thursday, it will potentially manage to extract sweeping concessions to federalism or more. In the meantime, all eyes will be on Scotland, not London — and in particular on the few million swing voters who now hold the key to the whole national puzzle. For what was a losing team just a few months back, that’s not bad at all.

Could that explain the exit poll showing a much higher than expected take for the Tories? If English voters saw a stalemate in parliament shaping up between a nearly evenly divided Conservative Party and Labour, with Scottish nationalists as the balance of power, maybe there was a late tilt among undecideds to give Cameron as close to an SNP-proof majority as they could muster. Reducing the Scots’ leverage required empowering the Tories, who are less likely to make common cause with them than Labour is. I dunno. Those who know what they’re talking about here are encouraged to chime in below. Another interesting point by Cooke, meanwhile, is that UKIP leader Nigel Farage gambled big this time by running for parliament himself. He’s in a close race, and if he ends up losing, EUrocrats will crow that it’s proof positive that anti-EU sentiment has finally faded in the UK. (Farage would also be expected to step down as leader of the party.) He’s running in Thanet South, in case you’re a Farage fan want to track his progress tonight.

The BBC has live coverage, of course, as does FiveThirtyEight. And Bloomberg has a nice electoral widget that lets you search by candidate name, constituency, or by clicking around on the map. While we wait, read this dispatch on the Ghost of British Politics Future from a Jewish reporter who decided to see how things are going in George Galloway’s neighborhood lately. Sample quote: “Get out, you f***ing Jew.” Read to the end too or else you’ll miss the explanation of “biraderi,” in which the patriarch of an extended Muslim family effectively casts dozens of votes by dictating to his relatives how they should vote. What a nifty bit of “progress.”