World

From Churchill's defeat in 1945 to Cameron's 2010 coalition as captured by AP photographers

  • FILE - This is a July 26, 1945  file photo of Labour Party leader Clement Attlee as he smiles at the cheering throngs which gathered at Transport House, in London to celebrate Labour's election victory. Even though Winston Churchill triumphantly led the country through World War II, his Conservative Party would suffer a stunning defeat in the 1945 general election. Attlee’s Labour Party won by a landslide and would become one of the most transformative governments of the 20th century, notably with the creation of the National Health Service. (AP Photo/Leslie Priest, File)

    FILE - This is a July 26, 1945 file photo of Labour Party leader Clement Attlee as he smiles at the cheering throngs which gathered at Transport House, in London to celebrate Labour's election victory. Even though Winston Churchill triumphantly led the country through World War II, his Conservative Party would suffer a stunning defeat in the 1945 general election. Attlee’s Labour Party won by a landslide and would become one of the most transformative governments of the 20th century, notably with the creation of the National Health Service. (AP Photo/Leslie Priest, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - This is an Oct. 30, 1951 file photo of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as he leaves No. 10 Downing Street at the end of the first meeting of his new cabinet in London. At nearly 77, Churchill became the second-oldest prime minister in British history after the Conservative Party won the 1951 election. His second term as premier was dominated by foreign affairs, notably the break-up of the British Empire. Churchill would remain in post until 1955 when he resigned due to ill health.  (AP Photo, File)

    FILE - This is an Oct. 30, 1951 file photo of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as he leaves No. 10 Downing Street at the end of the first meeting of his new cabinet in London. At nearly 77, Churchill became the second-oldest prime minister in British history after the Conservative Party won the 1951 election. His second term as premier was dominated by foreign affairs, notably the break-up of the British Empire. Churchill would remain in post until 1955 when he resigned due to ill health. (AP Photo, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - This is an April 8, 1961 file photo of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as he speaks briefly outside the White House, Washington  with President Kennedy. In 1955, Winston Churchill was replaced by Anthony Eden who then won the ensuing general election. Eden's premiership proved short-lived after his misguided attempt to regain the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956. Eden resigned a year later, replaced by Harold Macmillan, who led the Conservatives to their third straight election victory in 1959. Macmillan famously claimed the British had “never had it so good.” (AP Photo/File)

    FILE - This is an April 8, 1961 file photo of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan as he speaks briefly outside the White House, Washington with President Kennedy. In 1955, Winston Churchill was replaced by Anthony Eden who then won the ensuing general election. Eden's premiership proved short-lived after his misguided attempt to regain the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956. Eden resigned a year later, replaced by Harold Macmillan, who led the Conservatives to their third straight election victory in 1959. Macmillan famously claimed the British had “never had it so good.” (AP Photo/File)  (The Associated Press)

U.K. elections can be brutal affairs.

The polls close at 10 p.m. local time. Within hours the movers can be parked outside Number 10 Downing Street waiting to ferry away the losing prime minister's belongings. There's no U.S.-style 10-week transition here.

Since World War II, elections have led to eight changes in power, mostly conducted in an orderly fashion. In his landslide victory in 1997, Tony Blair gave his maiden speech as premier in front of the famous black door by lunchtime the day after the election.

But May 7's general election looks like it's going to be the most uncertain in the postwar period and the process of forming the next government could take days, if not weeks.

The traditional two-party system that's dominated British politics since 1945 is fraying like never done before with the Scottish National Party, for one, widely tipped to make big gains in the north.

Others, like the Green Party and the UK Independence Party, are looking to make a dent too, while the Liberal Democrats are hoping to remain a sizeable presence in Parliament despite widespread anger at the decision to link-up with the Conservatives after the 2010 election. And, there are Welsh nationalists and an array of Northern Ireland parties to account for, too.

With neither the Conservatives nor Labour predicted to win a majority of the 650 seats to the House of Commons, another coalition government, possibly involving three or more parties, is a possible outcome.

There's even talk that one of the big two parties may look to govern alone without a majority. The last time there was a so-called minority government after the election was in 1974, under Harold Wilson's Labour leadership — another election later in the year saw Labour win a slim majority.

Though polls at the moment suggest that David Cameron's Conservatives may win the most seats, they also suggest that Ed Miliband's Labour Party may have more options available to form the government once all the votes have been counted.

Whose face will be beaming at the famous black door in Downing Street is anyone's guess.

This photo gallery showcases some of the most memorable moments in British electoral history as captured by The Associated Press — from Winston Churchill's stunning defeat in 1945 to Cameron's arrival in 2010 after days of tortuous coalition negotiations.