Voting in the general election in Britain ended at 10pm with exit polls predicting Tony Blair will be returned to Downing Street with a greatly reduced parliamentary majority of just 66 seats.

The first result has been declared, with Labour retaining their seat in Sunderland.

The joint exit poll for the BBC and Independent Television predicts that Labour have got a 37% share of the vote with the Conservative party on 33% and the Liberal Democrats on 22%.

Those figures are broadly in line with opinion polls taken during the course of the four-week campaign and would see Tony Blair back in Downing Street tomorrow morning with a 66 seat majority.

That would be a loss of 95 seats but Tony Blair would still go down as the first Labour prime minister in British political history to have won three consecutive terms in office.

But the fact that he has a reduced majority however would limit Mr Blair's room for manoeuvre in terms of legislative measures and would undoubtedly hasten his departure from Downing Street well before the end of that third term.