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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on course to win a decisive election victory, vindicating his gamble on an early vote and putting the country on track to leave the European Union next month. The pound rose.
The official exit poll predicted his Conservatives will win 368 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons — a large overall majority of 86 seats. The main opposition Labour Party is projected to secure 191 seats, a loss of 71 since the previous election. The Scottish National Party is seen securing 55.
If the forecast is borne out by results, Johnson’s majority — the biggest for his party since Margaret Thatcher’s in 1987 — will give him more power to get his own way on Brexit, especially if he needs extra time to negotiate with the EU. Meanwhile, the plan is to hurry legislation through Parliament to meet the current departure date of Jan. 31.
“If the numbers play out the way they seem and we get that stable working majority, then we get real busy, real quick,” Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly told Bloomberg TV.
For an interactive election map, click here
For Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the projection of heavy losses is a disaster. He staked everything on a radical plan to hike taxes for the rich and nationalize swathes of industry, but candidates said he was toxic for voters on the doorstep.
Senior Labour officials expect Corbyn to announce his resignation as party leader if the exit poll is accurate. Two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no way he could carry on if the results are as bad as expected.
“I thought it would be closer. I think most people thought the polls were narrowing. If it’s anywhere near this, it’s extremely disappointing,” Labour’s economy spokesman John McDonnell told the BBC. “We knew it would be tough because Brexit has dominated this election. We thought other issues would cut through and there would be a wider debate.”
For the Scottish National Party, it was a different story. It was playing down the scale of its success until results are declared. The exit poll predicted it would win back all but one of the seats it lost in 2017 and leave just four districts in Scotland for the other parties. That would spur leader Nicola Sturgeon to reiterate her demand for another Scottish independence referendum, something Johnson has so far ruled out.
The exit poll is based on a mass survey of tens of thousands of people after they cast their ballots. That has generally made it more accurate in predicting the outcome of U.K. elections than snapshot surveys of voters’ intentions conducted during the campaign.
As results started to come in, they seemed to bear out the results of the survey, as voters moved to the Conservatives almost everywhere, but particularly strongly in places that voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
The exit poll Parliamentary seat forecast showed:
Conservatives to win 368 seatsLabour to win 191Liberal Democrats to win 13Brexit Party to win 0Scottish National Party to win 55Green Party to win 1Other parties to win 22
For Johnson, a big majority would mark the culmination of an extraordinary rise to power. After he led the pro-Brexit campaign three years ago, Johnson watched as Theresa May tried and repeatedly failed to negotiate an EU divorce agreement the House of Commons would accept.
When she called a snap election in 2017 expecting a landslide, she lost the majority she started with, plunging the U.K. into two years of chaos as a deadlocked parliament failed to agree on the way forward. May was finally forced to resign, allowing Johnson to take over as prime minister in July with a promise to deliver Brexit “do or die” by the end of October.
Despite months of threats and bellicose rhetoric, he eventually secured a new Brexit deal with the EU, but couldn’t persuade parliament to rush it into law in time for him to meet his deadline.
That was enough to prompt the premier to trigger an early election — the next one wasn’t due until 2022 — in the hope voters would give him the majority he needed, in his words, to “get Brexit done.”
If the exit poll proves correct again this year — and most of the results will be declared overnight — Johnson’s bet will have paid off.
(Updates with early results in 10th paragraph)
–With assistance from Heather Harris, Robert Hutton and Anna Edwards.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at [email protected], Thomas Penny, Rodney Jefferson
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