1. Labour "confidence and supply" government

Ed Miliband would get agreement from the SNP or Lib Dems (or both) to support Labour in votes on confidence and the budget.

The cost to Miliband: Would have to agree extra cash for schools and extra devolution to Scotland to win over the SNP.

Advantage: Stability. Allows the government to plan ahead without the constant threat of losing a confidence vote.

Disadvantage: Leaves Labour at the mercy of smaller parties and disillusioned MPs.

2. Labour-led coalition

Miliband would do a formal deal with the Lib Dems, including ministerial posts and a joint government programme.

The cost to Miliband: Having to compromise over key plans – notably his economic strategy over the next five years.

Advantage: Allows Miliband and Clegg to present a five-year programme.

Disadvantage: Miliband would face anger from left-wingers, while Lib Dems may alienate right-leaning supporters.

3. Labour minority government

Ed Miliband would depend on the support of SNP, Lib Dems and others on a vote-by-vote basis.

The cost to Miliband: Permanently living on the edge.

Advantage: Avoids wrangling over a common programme. Labour would argue that the smaller parties face the wrath of the voters if they forced an election.

Disadvantage: Daily instability with the government facing the constant threat of defeat. Miliband could face a backlash over the influence wielded by the SNP.

4. Conservative minority government

David Cameron would have to rely on Lib Dem and DUP MPs, as well as any Ukip MPs, for daily survival.

The cost to Cameron: Permanent threat of Commons defeat.

Advantage: Allows him to put forward a Tory Queen’s Speech and challenge other MPs to vote it down.

Disadvantage: Threat of Commons chaos combined with dealing with anger on Tory benches that he has failed again to win an overall majority.

5. Conservative "confidence and supply" government

David Cameron would ask for support from the Lib Dems, the eight or nine DUP MPs and any Ukip MPs in confidence and budget votes.

The cost to Cameron: Would have to promise the Lib Dems extra money for education.

Advantage: The markets would welcome this.

Disadvantage: Almost every Commons vote would leave Tories vulnerable to defeat by a Labour-nationalist alliance. A gruelling five years (if it lasts that long).

6. A Conservative-led coalition

David Cameron would offer the Lib Dems seats at the Cabinet and a new Coalition agreement. If numbers are tight, he could try to bring in the DUP.

The cost for Cameron: Major concessions to the Lib Dems, renewing accusations of the yellow tail wagging the blue dog.

Advantage: Lets Mr Cameron plan for five years.

Disadvantage: Right-wing MPs would fume at a fresh deal with the Lib Dems (but not the DUP).

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