By Ray Fleming

THAT'S today's winning electoral lottery number. The party with that number will have won the jackpot of an overall majority of seats in the House of Commons. Anything less than that will require a lot of wheeling-and -dealing to form a coalition of some kind. But if no one holds a winning ticket the prize may eventually have to be rolled-over to some future date in the form of another election.

Since Britain has no written constitution, convention becomes very important when tricky issues, such as a hung parliament, have to be dealt with. It has been very disappointing, therefore, to hear both David Cameron and Nick Clegg questioning convention as the basis on which the parties should proceed if today's voting does not provide a clear answer. Mr Cameron has said: “There is a convention and there is a practice and they are not always the same thing.” Mr Clegg has spoken about not letting “dusty documents” get in the way of a common sense interpretation of the results. Each of them has indicated that the number of votes cast nationally should be taken into account as well as the number of Parliamentary seats won. Perhaps that is right for the future but today's election has been fought on a different basis. The Prime Minister remains the Prime Minister until he decides to resign. Opportunism and contempt for convention cannot change that.