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Boris Johnson is on course to win a decisive victory in the U.K.’s general election, vindicating his gamble on an early vote and putting the country on track to leave the European Union next month.
The official exit poll predicted the prime minister’s 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, with the Scottish National Party securing 55.
If the forecast is borne out by results, Johnson’s large majority will give him more power to get his own way on Brexit, especially if he needs extra time to negotiate with the EU.
“This election result, if it’s anything like what your projection says, shows that the people of this country want the result of the Brexit vote honored,” cabinet minister Michael Gove, who with Johnson led the campaign to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, told ITV. “I’m naturally inclined to stay cautious until we see real results.”
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 is now likely to face intense pressure to quit if the forecast is confirmed by the results.
“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.”
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.
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.
(Adds John McDonnell comment.)
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at [email protected], Thomas Penny, Tim Ross
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