In his first speech after a landslide victory in the UK General Election, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday called for closure on Brexit and vowed to work “round the clock” to repay the trust of the voters in what he has branded will be a “one-nation people’s government”.
Johnson emerged on to the steps of 10 Downing Street as Prime Minister of a majority Conservative Party government after winning a landslide victory in the UK General Election.
The 55-year-old was driven to Buckingham Palace for his audience with Queen Elizabeth II for the formal government formation protocol as the final results tally handed him a solid 80-seat majority, the party’s largest since 1987 under Margaret Thatcher.
The result hands Johnson a “powerful mandate” to take Britain out of the European Union (EU) by the January 31 deadline, but he was keen to reassure the anti-Brexiteers who had not voted for him of a “new partnership” with the economic bloc as a non-member.
“I would now urge everyone to find closure and let the healing begin,” Johnson said.
He vowed to work “round the clock” to repay the trust of the voters in what he has branded will be a “one-nation people’s government”.
“This country now deserves a break and a permanent break from Brexit. I want everyone to go on with their Christmas preparations happy in the knowledge that they have a Parliament that works for everyone,” he said, acknowledging the impact of the first December election in nearly a century, which he had called to try and break the Brexit deadlock suffered by his previous minority government.
To highlight his plans beyond Brexit, Johnson said he would use his “extraordinary” mandate to bring the country together, asserting that he recognised the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) was the “overwhelming priority” of the British people.
The Tories grabbed a 45 per cent share of the vote, with Opposition Labour down to just 33 per cent in an election with a 67 per cent turnout, which is a little down from the 2017 election figure but still quite strong given the cold and blustery election day on Thursday.
Johnson’s speech at Downing Street came just as the final seat in the 650-member House of Commons was also declared in favour of the Conservatives, concluding the count in an election which threw up the most disastrous result for the Labour Party.
The Opposition party is down to just 203 seats, its worst showing since World War II as a result of much of its so-called heartland “red wall” being smashed down by Tory gains.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has since conceded that the party’s poor showing was largely down to not getting its Brexit message right with the voters and said he would not be leading the party into another General Election. Calls for him to resign immediately are growing but he has indicated plans to hang on until the New Year for a period of “reflection”.
Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson, meanwhile, who suffered her own bruising at the ballot box by losing her seat, stepped down from her post with a message of hope for the future.
The party’s anti-Brexit message failed to connect with the voters and it is left with just 11 MPs in the Commons.
“One of the realities of smashing glass ceilings is that a lot of broken glass comes down on your head,” said Swinson, the first female leader of the party.
Another female leader who had a contrastingly successful night was Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon who gained 13 seats in the Commons to notch up a total of 48 MPs and has now declared it as a mandate for another referendum on Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom.
In a speech in Edinburgh on Friday, she told Johnson, “You, as the leader of a defeated party in Scotland, have no right to stand in the way. The people of Scotland have spoken. It is time now to decide our own future”.
The renewed calls for Scottish independence could prove problematic for Johnson as he pursues Brexit, given Scotland’s stand against being taken out of the EU.
The remaining tally includes Northern Ireland’s Sinn Fein winning seven MPs, which traditionally do not take their seats in the Commons, effectively extending Johnson’s majority to 87.
Nigel Farage led far-right Brexit Party, which triumphed in the European Parliament elections earlier in the year, failed to win a single seat.
(With inputs from agencies)