UK Conservatives on course to win majority-exit poll

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International desk, December 13: The Tories have taken former Labour strongholds in Wales and the north of England, as an exit poll suggests they are on course to win the election.Blyth Valley, Workington and Vale of Clwyd – all areas that voted Leave in the EU referendum – now have Tory MPs.

The results point to the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll suggesting a Tory majority of 86 as being broadly accurate, although most seats have yet to declare.

Labour is on course to lose 71 seats, the exit poll suggests.

The Scottish National Party have made their first gains of the night, taking Rutherglen and Hamilton West from Labour and Angus from the Conservatives.

But Labour took Putney, in south-west London, from the Tories.

Labour’s vote is predicted to be about 8% down on the 2017 general election, with the Conservatives up slightly and the smaller parties having a better night.

The exit poll taken at 144 polling stations, with 22,790 interviews. suggests the Tories will get 368 MPs – 50 more than at the 2017 election – when all the results have been counted.

Labour would get 191, the SNP 55, the Lib Dems 13, Plaid Cymru three, the Greens one, the Brexit Party none and the SNP 55.

It would be the biggest Conservative victory since 1987 and Labour’s worst result since 1935, the poll suggests.

The pound surged against the dollar after the exit poll figures were announced as polls closed at 22:00 GMT, with sterling gaining 3% to $1.35 – its highest level since May last year.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government will move quickly to “get Brexit done” before Christmas by introducing legislation in Parliament, if it is returned to power.

A row has already broken out at the top of the Labour Party over who is to blame for what is expected to be the party’s worst election result in decades.

Leave-supporting Labour chairman Ian Lavery, who held his seat with a reduced majority, said he was “desperately disappointed”, adding that voters in Labour’s “heartlands” were “aggrieved” at the party’s Brexit stance.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC the exit poll was “extremely disappointing” for Labour if it was correct.

“I thought it would be closer,” he said, and he blamed what he called a “Brexit election,” when Labour had been hoping “other issues could cut through”.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Neil decisions would be made about party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s future when the actual results were in.

Some Labour candidates have criticised Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

Phil Wilson, who is standing in Sedgefield – a Tory target – tweeted: “To blame Brexit for the result is mendacious nonsense. Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was a bigger problem. To say otherwise is delusional.

“The party’s leadership went down like a lead balloon on the doorstep.”

Gareth Snell, who said he expected to lose Leave-voting Stoke Central to the Conservatives, called for Mr Corbyn and Mr McDonnell to go but also blamed anti-Brexit members of Labour’s top team for pushing the party towards a Remain message.

‘Get Brexit done’

This is the UK’s third general election in less than five years – and the first one to take place in December in nearly 100 years – and has been dominated by Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Mr Johnson focused relentlessly on a single message – “get Brexit done” – promising to take the UK out of the EU by 31 January 2020 if he got a majority.

Labour primarily campaigned on a promise to end austerity by increasing spending on public services and the National Health Service.

The Liberal Democrats promised to cancel Brexit if leader Jo Swinson became prime minister, but opinion polls suggested their vote was squeezed during the course of the campaign.

Plaid Cymru are predicted to get three MPs, one less than they had before the election was called.

The Scottish National Party said a strong vote for them would effectively be a mandate for a second independence referendum.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that while the exit poll “suggests a good night” for the SNP, she added that “what it indicates UK-wide though is grim”.

Caroline Lucas, who the exit poll suggests is set to remain the Green Party’s only MP, tweeted: “If this exit poll is right, it’s a devastating blow for our climate, for future generations and for our democracy.”

A decisive moment came early on in the campaign when Nigel Farage announced his Brexit Party would not be standing in seats won by a Conservative at the 2017 general election to avoid splitting the Leave vote.

Mr Farage said his party had taken votes from Labour in Tory target seats, although he himself had spoiled his ballot paper “as I could not bring myself to vote Conservative”.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party was on course for a resounding victory in Britain’s election after voters backed his bid to deliver Brexit on Jan. 31, the country’s most significant geopolitical move in 70 years.

For Johnson, whose 20-week tenure in power has been marked by chaotic scenes in parliament and stark division on the streets over Britain’s tortuous departure from the European Union, the victory in Thursday’s contest is vindication.

Educated at the country’s most elite school and recognizable by his bombastic style, the 55-year-old must not only deliver Brexit but also convince Britons that the contentious divorce, which would lead to lengthy trade talks, is worth it.

A landslide Conservative win would mark the ultimate failure of opponents of Brexit who plotted to thwart a 2016 referendum vote through legislative combat in parliament and prompted some of the biggest protests in recent British history.

An exit poll showed the Conservatives winning a landslide 368 seats, more than enough for a comfortable majority in the 650-seat parliament and the biggest Conservative national election win since Margaret Thatcher’s 1987 triumph.

“I hope you enjoy a celebration tonight,” Johnson, the New-York born former mayor of London, told supporters in an email. “With any luck, tomorrow we’ll be getting to work.”

If the exit poll is accurate and Johnson’s bet on a snap election has paid off, he will swiftly ratify the Brexit deal he struck with the EU so that the United Kingdom can leave on Jan. 31 – 10 months later than initially planned.

But nearly half a century after joining what has become the world’s largest trading bloc, Johnson faces the daunting challenge of striking new international trade deals, preserving London’s position as a top global financial capital and keeping the United Kingdom together.

Sterling soared, reaching a 19-month high versus the dollar of as much as $1.3516, up 2.5% on the day, and its strongest levels against the euro since shortly after the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Labour were forecast to win 191 seats, the worst result for the party since 1935, after offering voters a second referendum and the most radical socialist government in generations. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn faced calls to quit.

Source: News Agencies