Former prime minister Tony Abbott has lost his northern beaches seat of Warringah to independent Zali Steggall.

The ex-Liberal leader had held Warringah for 24 years but early counting suggests the Liberals could lose the seat with his former chief of staff confirming alarm bells were ringing.

With almost 20 per cent of the vote counted at 7.30pm, Mr Abbott had just 37 per cent of the primary vote, compared with Ms Steggall who had 45 per cent of first preference votes.

“I would have thought it would be a little bit tighter than this – it looks like it’s real trouble,” Peta Credlin told Sky News on Saturday night.

Liberal senator Michaelia Cash told Seven News: “The primary vote is clearly an issue.”

ABC election analyst said Zali Steggall had 45 per cent of the primary vote compared to Mr Abbott‘s 37 per cent.

“Tony Abbott is not going to win if those are the first preferences,” he said.

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Media were locked out of the former prime minister’s election night function and told they’d only be briefly allowed in to record his speech.

“Life goes on,” one Liberal supporter said.

Abbott supporters were subdued as they trickled in to to the Manly Leagues Club’s Encores Room.

By way of contrast, Ms Steggall arrived to a rockstar reception at the Novotel hotel in Manly.

Ms Steggall described the night as “a referendum for Warringah”.

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“We’ve worked very hard for the past four months to make this happen – I think it’s democracy,” she told reporters.

“Politics in Australia has not been at its best for the past 10 years and it’s time we changed that. I really take that on board and I take great responsibility for that.”

AAP

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