What is a hung parliament and could a coalition happen?

Theresa May looks set to miss out on a majority. Credit: PA

Britain could be facing a hung parliament for the first time in seven years, if the results of the General Election exit poll turn out to be accurate.

That would come as a huge shock to Conservative leader Theresa May, who called the election with the intention of increasing her majority - not losing it.

It remains to be seen if the exit poll prediction comes to fruition, bit if it does, the Prime Minister would have a number of difficult decisions to make about her future.

  • What is a hung parliament?

It's currently unclear who will hold the keys to number 10. Credit: PA

A party needs to reach the magic 326-seat mark to win a majority, so when that doesn't happen the Parliament is said to be "hung".

The exit poll predicts the Conservatives will only make 314 seats, meaning they would be facing a 2010 scenario where they had to find an alternative way of forming a government.

On that occasion, they went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats - although the chances of that happening again this time are slim.

  • Could a coalition happen?

David Cameron and Nick Clegg led the last coalition government. Credit: PA

It's unlikely because the Liberal Democrats have already made it clear they wouldn't do a deal.

ITV News expert Professor Jane Green suggests that if the numbers in this exit poll are right it could prove tricky for either the Conservatives or Labour to form a coalition with the smaller parties anyway.

If no coalition deal can be reached, one of the party leaders could try to run a minority government - but that would mean they'd have to rely heavily on the support of smaller parties to get their laws through the Commons.

That rarely works, so a fresh general election could be on the cards in the hope that a majority would come to the surface then.