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UK election 2017: Shock exit poll projects Conservatives won’t win majority, Labour gains 34 seats

UK election: The exit poll predicted Theresa May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party gain 34 seats while SNP are down by 22.

world Updated: Jun 09, 2017 03:41 IST
Reuters, London
UK election 2017,Jeremy Corbyn,Theresa May
Workers in protective equipment are reflected in the window of a betting shop with a display inviting customers to place bets on the result of the general election with images of Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in London.(Reuters Photo)

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, according to an exit poll on Thursday, a result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

The exit poll predicted May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone, meaning she would have to form a coalition or attempt to govern with the backing of other smaller parties.

The exit poll predicted the Conservatives would win 314 seats and the Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”. May had been expected to win comfortably.

Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.

A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.

The poll forecast the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 34 seats, the centre-left Liberal Democrats 14, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one.

If the exit poll is correct, Labour, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, could attempt to form a government with those smaller parties, which strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.

May’s failure to win a majority calls into question her position as Conservative Party leader and could mean a second election in Britain this year.

  • Jeremy Bernard Corbyn was born in 1949 in ‘Toryshire’ Chippenham, Wiltshire, about 154km west of London.

  • He was first elected in 1983 as the Labour MP for Islington North, the seat he has held for 34 years.

  • He is known for his eccentric, informal and plain-speaking grandfatherly style fitting the caricature of the archetypal ‘bearded leftie’, as the English media puts its.

  • Some of the promises made in the Labour manifesto include free childcare, health and social care reform, abolition of tuition fees, higher income tax on "fat cats" or top earners.

  • Corbyn - the "no hope" candidate was unexpectedly chosen to take over the Labour Party leadership after it recorded its worst election defeat in decades under Ed Miliband.
  • The UK Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party stunned Westminster by demanding an early election in April this year to secure the Brexit mandate and crush dissent.

  • Theresa Mary May was born in 1956 in Eastbourne, East Sussex. She worked at the bank of England and Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) before becoming an MP for Maidenhead. The British media calls her the "well-heeled" member of parliament owing to her perceived image of a fashion-conscious politician, her love for kitten heels and designer clothes.

  • She entered parliament in 1997 and has held a variety of shadow cabinet posts. Known as the ‘quiet woman’ of British politics, May became the first female chairman of the Tory party in 2002.

  • Like Margaret Thatcher - the first woman PM of Britain - she went to the University of Oxford. The British media calls her the "well-heeled" member of parliament owing to her perceived image of a fashion-conscious politician, her love for kitten heels and designer clothes.

  • The Conservatives, in their manifesto, have pledged to lower immigration, end free movement of EU citizens, leave European single market and seek new customs agreement. It also includes increased National Health Service spending, free elderly care and a vote on overturning the ban on fox hunting.

The exit poll, although a good indicator of broadly how Britons have voted, has not always correctly predicted the exact result in the past.

The exit poll sent shock waves through financial markets. Sterling, which had hit a two-week high of $1.2978 in morning trade after earlier polls had suggested a Conservative victory, dived to around $1.2780. .

May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU countries which are due to begin in less than a fortnight, and to cement her grip on the Conservative Party after she took over as prime minister in the wake of last year’s EU referendum.

Despite being ahead in the opinion polls by more than 20 points at the start of the election campaign, May’s lead was slowly eroded, with Britons unimpressed with her election policies, particularly one to force elderly people to pay more for their social care. Opponents dubbed it a “dementia tax”.

If Corbyn’s Labour do take power with the backing of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, both parties adamantly opposed to Brexit, Britain’s future will be very different to the course the Conservatives were planning and could even raise the possibility of a second referendum.

May had promised to clinch a Brexit deal that prioritised control over immigration policy, with Britain leaving the European single market and customs union, and said no deal would be better than a bad deal.

Labour said it would push ahead with Brexit but would scrap May’s negotiating plans and make its priority maintaining the benefits of both the EU single market and its customs union, arguing no deal with the EU would be the worst possible outcome.

It also proposed raising taxes for the richest 5% of Britons, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure plans.

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 02:56 IST