Prime Minister Theresa May was poised to win Britain’s snap election today but lose her parliamentary majority, according to the exit polls, creating new uncertainties as the country prepares to negotiate its departure from the European Union.
May has won her Maidenhead seat in south-east England with 37,780 votes. The exit polls suggested that her ruling Conservatives fell short of the 326 seats needed to win a majority in Britain’’s 650-seat Parliament.
As the country awaited results early, May said Britain needed a “period of stability”.
“At this time, the country needs a period of stability. The Conservative party is on course to winning the most votes and it will be incumbent on us that we provide that period of stability,” she said in her victory speech, seemingly conceding the exit poll predictions of a possible hung Parliament and her dashed hopes of a landslide win.
“My resolve is the same that as it has been. Whatever the results, the Conservative party will remain the party of stability,” she said.
Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn has also held on to his seat at Islington North in north London with a decisive margin and won over 40,086 votes which he described as an “incredible” result and called on Theresa May “to go” to make way for his party.
“Politics has changed and this is people saying they have had quite enough I am very proud of the results that are coming in and the vote for hope. The Prime Minister called the election because she wanted a mandate and the mandate is that she has lost seats,” he said in his victory speech, claiming on Twitter earlier that the Labour party had “changed the face of British politics”.
The forecast is slightly better for the Tories than the exit poll published when polls closed on Thursday night but would still potentially leave May with fewer MPs than when she called the general election to “strengthen her hand” in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.
The projections indicate that the party remains shy of an overall majority, expected to win around 322 seats, down from the 2015 general election majority of 331 seats.
Labour is projected to win 261, set to make 29 gains with the Tories losing nine seats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) could lose 24 seats in a bad night for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon whose party is projected to win 32 seats.
Among some of the heavyweight losses of the night include that of former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg losing his Sheffield Hallam stronghold to the Labour party, while fellow party colleague Vince Cable who had lost his seat in a shock result in 2015 has regained his Twickenham seat with a solid majority of 9,762.
Newcastle made history by becoming the first constituency to declare its result at 2300 local time in favour of the Labour party.
The constituency of Houghton and Sunderland South in north-east England which had maintained its lead as the first to declare since the 1990s lost out as it declared a few minutes later at 2305 local time, also in favour of the Labour party.
While both seats were strongholds for the Opposition and were predicted to go to the Labour party, it was the strong vote share of the party which indicated a swing away from the Tories towards the Labour in the overall poll.
The vote share indicated that Brexit is set to play a central role in the general election, with the constituencies in favour of remaining in the European Union (EU) in the June 2016 referendum voting for Labour and those for Leave going for the Tories.
A minority Conservative government could probably rely on the votes of the 10 or more MPs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) from Northern Ireland.
But a minority Labour-led government could rely on Welsh Plaid Cymru’s three MPs, the one Green MP and the SDLP (three in the last Parliament).
The official exit poll traditionally released by UK broadcasters at 10pm when the polls close has a history of being fairly accurate in terms of the final picture that emerges once the results are declared.
Based on the exit poll forecast, Theresa May’s gamble to call a snap general election in the hope of winning a stronger mandate and a larger majority seems to have not paid off as it showed she may end up short of the magic number.
The far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) is set for a washout with no MPs while the Liberal Democrats are set to win 14 and the Green Party one MP, according to the NOP/Ipos MORI poll for BBC/ITV/Sky channels.
In total, 30,450 people were interviewed as they exited from 144 polling stations across the UK.
Most opinion polls and the bookmakers had been forecasting a strong majority for the ruling Tory party of between 50 and 70 MPs.
The markets reacted to the uncertainty with the pound sterling dropping against the dollar as the outcome of the results threw up the prospect of a hung Parliament.
The electorate was voting to elect 650 MPs for the House of Commons, with about 45.8 million people entitled to vote.
The final result is expected by Friday afternoon but the overall picture is likely to become clear in the early hours of Friday.