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UK's Brexit election: Boris Johnson looks set for victory with comfortable majority

Forecast not only pegged the Tories way past the 326-mark required for the all-important majority in the 650-member House of Commons, but also meant Johnson's so-called divorce agreement is set to be turbo-charged to go full speed ahead

twitter-logo PTI   New Delhi     Last Updated: December 13, 2019  | 08:21 IST
UK's Brexit election: Boris Johnson looks set for victory with comfortable majority
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks set to return to 10 Downing Street with a comfortable majority and a victory for his Get Brexit Done message in the General Election based on forecasts as early results poured in on Friday. The first sign of what the results held in store came with a definitive exit poll released at the close of voting at 2200 GMT on Thursday, which predicted the Johnson-led Conservative Party winning 368 seats, with the Labour Party way down at 191 in a predominantly Tory blue versus Labour red contest.

The forecast not only pegged the Tories way past the 326-mark required for the all-important majority in the 650-member House of Commons, but also meant Johnson's so-called divorce agreement struck with the European Union (EU) to take the UK out of the 28-member economic bloc set to be turbo-charged to go full speed ahead. This has been a hard-fought election in a very cold time of the year because we needed a functioning Conservative majority, said Priti Patel, the senior-most Indian-origin minister in Johnson's last Cabinet, in response to the exit poll.

We are committed to deliver on priorities and getting Brexit done is a priority. The deal is there, we want to move forward, she said. The Opposition Labour Party, which looked set for one of its worst performances since 1935 as the so-called red wall of the party's heartlands towards the north of England looked set for significant knockdowns, conceded that voters seemed to have voted strongly on the basis of Brexit.

Brexit has dominated this election. If the results are anywhere near the exit polls, this is an extremely disappointing result, admitted Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell. The first couple of results were some relief for the Labour Party as its candidates clinched the traditionally held Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Central and Houghton and Sunderland South seats, albeit with reduced majority.

But then came the first big upset of the night as the Blyth Valley constituency echoed the exit poll results and handed over a significant gain to the Conservatives, which grabbed the so-called Labour heartland seat which had been with the party since the 1950s. Polling stations across all constituencies of the United Kingdom England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where a total of 3,322 candidates were standing began the count right after the polls closed, with the final tally expected to begin taking shape in the early hours of Friday.

The snap election had been called by Johnson in a bid to win a majority for his Conservative Party and break the Commons deadlock over Brexit. It resulted in the UK's first December General Election in nearly a century and saw voters brave a cold and blustery winter's day to queue outside polling stations to cast their vote in what had been pegged as the most important election in a generation. This also marked the UK's third General Election in less than five years and the second since the UK voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum.

Johnson, who had taken over from Theresa May earlier this year with a pledge to meet the October 31 Brexit deadline, was constantly frustrated with a lack of majority in the Commons. During the course of the campaign, he focused relentlessly on the "Get Brexit Done" message, promising to take the UK out of the EU by the new 31 January 2020 deadline if he was handed the mandate from the electorate.

In contrast, his main rival for No 10 Downing Street, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, had promised voters another referendum with a choice between a renegotiated Brexit deal and remaining in the economic bloc. But the party primarily campaigned on a promise to end Tory budget cuts by increasing spending on public services and the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), a strategy which it would seem failed to make a dent in the polls.

If the early trends pan out, Labour is set for a crushing defeat which is almost entirely likely to be blamed on Corbyn's leadership and his failure to take a clear stance on Brexit as well as counter growing allegations of antisemitism within the party ranks. A perceived anti-India stance since the party passed an emergency motion calling for international intervention in Kashmir is also likely to have swayed some of its traditional connect with Indian diaspora voters.

The Liberal Democrats promised to cancel Brexit with leader Jo Swinson trying to rally the Remain voters by even doing a deal with the Green Party and Plaid Cymru to stand aside in certain seats to maximise the anti-Brexit vote. However, the forecast for the party looks to have not made much of a gain over its position in the last Parliament.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) had campaigned on the message that a strong vote for them would effectively be a mandate for a second independence referendum in Scotland and the party looked set to make some important gains in the election.

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