UK election: Boris Johnson on course for historic win

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191213 Exit poll
Aden - Yasmin Abdel Azim - Exit poll results projected on the outside of the BBC building in London shows Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party predicted to win 368 seats and a majority as the ballots begin to be counted in the general election on December 12, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Boris Johnson is on course for a landslide victory in Thursday’s general election.

Early returns and exit polls point to the Conservatives winning as many as 368 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons.

Early counts point to a collapse in traditional support for Labour as British voters, weary of 30 months of Brexit wrangling, turned to Johnson’s Conservatives and his promise to Get Brexit Done by the end of January.

The Conservatives held 310 seats in the last parliament, but the party was split between hard-line Brexiteers and those who favoured Britain remaining in the EU. The election has ended that rift, with Johnson on his way to a mandate for a quick and sharp break from the political and economic bloc.

“In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down,” Conservative Mark Francois told the BBC. “In 2019, the red wall came down.”

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds his dog Dilyn as leaves a polling station, at the Methodist Central Hall, after voting in the general election in London, Britain, December 12, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Labour, the exit polls say, will hold just 191 seats. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will face immediate pressure to resign after four years at its helm if those predictions hold true, leading the party its lowest number of seats since 1935.

Johnson’s first reaction came on Twitter, saying: “We live in the greatest democracy in the world.”

Labour Shadow Secretary John McDonnell said: “If the counts reflect the exit polls, it’s going to be devastating,” adding that “it looks as if every other issue has been squeezed out by Brexit.”

Investors trading in the UK pound in Asia reacted by driving its value up 3 cents as soon as the exit polls were released when polling closed at 10pm local time.

The first result was declared in Newcastle Central, with Chi Onwurah winning the seat for Labour at 11:27pm local time. The second result came in from Houghton and Sunderland South at 11:29pm, again Labour holding the seat. The two northeastern constituencies vie at every election to be fastest to declare but the party’s vote did decline by double figures in the traditional Labour constituencies – pointing to a bad night to come for the party.

Within minutes the Conservatives took their first seat of the night, picking up Blyth Valley from Labour where its vote was down 15.8 per cent – paving the way to what will be a victory of historic proportions. Johnson joins John Major in becoming only the second Conservative Prime Minister to lead the party to a fourth consecutive victory, after winning general elections by David Cameron in 2010 and 2015, and Theresa May in 2017.

While counting will continue Friday and most results known by breakfast, it certainly looks as if Johnson will remain as Prime Minister with the largest working majority since Margaret Thatcher led the Conservatives to victory in 1987 with a majority of 144 seats.

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit party – which is predicted not to win any seats, told the BBC: “Look, we’re a new party. We’ve got no [local government] councillors. We’ve got no base. We put [Brexit] back on track. I was determined we’d use our influence to stop a second referendum.”

He said “taking the fight to Labour was important”.

Farage says he would prefer Johnson’s Brexit deal to a second referendum. “I killed the Liberal Democrats,” he said. “I hurt the Labour party.”

In Scotland, however, the Scottish Nationalist Party look like take 55 of the 58 seats north of the border, meaning it will be pushing the case for a second independence referendum at Westminster.

The exit polls, conducted by the BBC, ITV and Sky News, predicted that the Lib-Dems would have 13 seats in the new parliament, with the Greens holding onto their single seat.

Mick O’Reilly is the Al Khaleej Today Foreign Correspondent based in Europe

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