From The Guardian:
This is what hung parliament means
The Lib Dems' ecstasy swiftly turns to agony as they confront their brief moment of power
The British electorate has spoken but has choked on its words. Labour's glad confident morning of 1997 has clearly ended in defeat under Gordon Brown. David Cameron has rescued his Tory party from 18 years of decay but not convincingly, and not enough to give him a secure parliamentary majority.
The third party that promised so much, the Liberal Democrats, has failed to make a breakthrough, and yet it must decide which party to support in office – and with a poor mandate for so important a decision. The first-past-the-post electoral system has met its Waterloo. Britain has not been given emphatic government just when that was most required. It has been given the parliamentary mess most feared by opponents of electoral reform – or the negotiating base most desired by its advocates. British politics now departs the hustings and enters the old smoke-filled rooms of Westminster.
Since Cameron cannot yet be sure of the confidence of the House of Commons, the first move clearly lies with Brown as incumbent prime minister. He is down but not out. He has clearly been beaten by the Conservatives but is entitled to see if he can form an anti-Tory alliance with the Liberal Democrats and possibly the so-called Celtic fringe. It would have to defy the bald fact that the Tories are certain to be the largest party, and most disciplined in the whipping cauldron of a hung parliament.
The Tories will also ask the Liberal Democrats and nationalists their intentions, and with the added moral authority of being the party that has clearly been preferred by the electorate. The nation will simply have to wait while the minority parties make up their minds. That is what "voting for a hung parliament" means.
Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrats now have their moment of power, but it will be just a moment. They have failed to win enough votes to carry an overwhelming moral case for electoral reform, yet they have not supplanted Labour on the centre-left. They may pray for the Tory lead to be big enough to leave the decision in the hands of the nationalists, but that seems unlikely. Whatever they decide they may well split over it, and may have to defend at an early re-election. Their recent ecstasy will swiftly turn to agony.