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The BBC's Shaun Ley
"The party leaders have been ensuring they can rely on at least one vote - their own"
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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Voting patchy in UK election
Pub polling station
Nigel Whiting makes his choice in his local in Winchester
Voting in the UK general election is said to be patchy, with officials reporting a slow start in some areas and brisker activity in others.

The pace of voting is expected to pick up in the evening when many people return home from work.

Officials in Glasgow said turnout by noon was varying between 5% and 15%, but the figure is said to be higher in the nearby marginal constituency of Eastwood.

How many candidates?
3,294 nominated
640 Labour
643 Conservative
639 Lib Dems
72 SNP
40 Plaid Cymru
420 UK Independence
145 Green
109 Socialist Lab
97 Socialist Alliance
72 Scottish Socialist
35 ProLife Alliance
31 BNP
15 Monster Raving Loony
In Southampton it has been predicted that final turnout might not reach 70%.

The voters are selecting 659 members of the next parliament, and the party to take power in government.

About 45,000 polling stations opened at 0700 BST on Thursday and will close at 2200.

The first results are expected at about 2300 BST on Thursday.

After 30 days of hectic campaigning, all the politicians can do now is wait for voters to give their verdict.

Tony Blair with his family.
Tony Blair arrives to vote with his family.
Much of the attention will be on the numbers of people who vote, with some opinion polls having suggested that turnout may be lower than 70%.

That would be worse than the 1997 election, when the turnout was the lowest since 1935.

This time there has also been a much higher proportion of postal ballots, with up to one in five voters choosing to post their vote in some areas.

The weather, as always, may have a role to play.

So far it has been a mixture of sunshine and showers across much of the UK.

William Hague and his wife Ffion
William Hague and his wife Ffion cast their votes
The leaders of all the main political parties are at their homes in their constituencies, resting after a frantic last day of campaigning.

Labour leader Tony Blair, Conservative leader William Hague and the Liberal Democrat chief Charles Kennedy clocked up about 2,000 miles between them on Wednesday.

Mr Hague cast his vote accompanied by his wife Ffion in his Richmond constituency in north Yorkshire.

Mr Kennedy had already voted by post - but visited his local polling station for the benefit of the cameras.

Charles Kennedy visits a polling station.
Mr Kennedy had already voted by post.
Mr Blair made the short walk from his home to vote in his Sedgefield constituency, accompanied by his wife Cherie and their three older children.

And in Northern Ireland, 100 candidates are going to the polls to vie for 18 seats.

The general election results are likely to start being declared within 45 minutes of the polling booths shutting.

Each constituency has an average of 80 ballot boxes, which means more than 50,000 of them then have to be sealed and transported from their polling stations to counting locations - mostly by car, accompanied by council workers.

An early voter sets off near Peebles in the Scottish Borders
An early voter sets off near Peebles in the Scottish Borders
Election candidates in Oldham have been banned from making speeches at the count.

The action has been taken by the returning officer for Oldham amid concerns about possible disruption at the count following recent racial tension in the town.

The Labour held seat of Sunderland South is the hot favourite to declare its result first for the third time in succession.

There are also local government elections being held on Thursday in England and Northern Ireland.


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