Home » Exit poll: UK voters punish Conservatives after 14-year rule, hand Labour landslide win

Exit poll: UK voters punish Conservatives after 14-year rule, hand Labour landslide win

Exit poll: UK voters punish Conservatives after 14-year rule, hand Labour landslide win


LONDON − Britain’s center-left Labour Party was set to comfortably win a historic general election, an exit poll showed, ousting the Conservative Party by a huge margin in a vote that means the staunch U.S. ally will get its sixth prime minister in eight politically turbulent years.

The exit poll projected that Labour will win 410 seats to the Conservatives’ 131. The exit poll was carried out by polling company Ipsos, jointly for British broadcasters BBC News, ITV News and Sky News.

If the exit poll is accurate, Labour’s leader Keir Starmer, 61, a former lawyer, will take over as prime minister from Rishi Sunak, who ascended to the role in 2022. Britain elects a party, not a specific leader, to rule the country − of the last five Conservative prime ministers, only three were directly elected.

Official results will trickle in through Thursday night into Friday morning.

A final pre-vote survey from research firm YouGov showed that Labour was on track to win a large majority, with the Conservatives suffering a crushing defeat. YouGov’s modeling expected Labour to win as many as 431 seats in Britain’s 650-seat Parliament. If that ultimately happens, it would be the largest majority for any British political party since 1832. Some of the biggest names in Conservative politics, including Sunak and party grandees such as Sir Iain Duncan Smith, could lose their seats.

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Labour would replace a Conservative government whose reputation was deeply marred by Britain’s exit from the European Union, known as Brexit, and its failure to reduce record immigration levels and repair the nation’s aging infrastructure and beleaguered public services.

Voters rejected the Conservatives after 14 years of rule, experts said, because the party could not come to grips with a cost of living crisis that bruised the party’s reputation for financial competence.

Britons feel dissatisfied. They are worse off economically in recent years. Poverty has gone up. Compared to the U.S., Germany and other wealthy nations, Britain’s economy has stagnated since the 2008 financial crisis, according to the Office for National Statistics, a government-affiliated watchdog. After adjusting for inflation, salaries have barely risen.

“We’ve just had enough of them,” said Tom Giles, 32, an office worker shortly after emerging from a voting station in central London Friday, referring to the Conservatives.

Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said the Conservatives had been in power “for too long for people to forgive.” He said this was evident in everything from stagnant salaries to roads full of potholes, from long waiting lists at public hospitals to schools without enough teachers.

Conservative rule expected to end after 14 years

Sunak, 44, was Britain’s first Hindu leader. He’s extremely wealthy. His wife an heiress to an Indian tech firm fortune. He was given the job after his predecessor, Liz Truss, lasted just 44 days as prime minister. She resigned after unveiling a tax-cutting agenda that deeply spooked financial markets.

Truss had taken over from Boris Johnson, who stepped down amid revelations that he ignored his own COVID-19 lockdown rules to attend parties and social gatherings.

Before that, Theresa May won the prime minister role in a national vote after David Cameron’s sudden resignation in 2016 when he held, and lost, a referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

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The Labour Party last won a general election in Britain in 2005. Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair won a record majority for his party on 1997, when he secured a 179-seat majority in Parliament.

Starmer has vowed he’ll try to tackle the sluggish economy and underfunded public services without hiking taxes.

“Today Britain can begin a new chapter,” Starmer said Thursday in a statement. “A new age of hope and opportunity after 14 years of chaos and decline.”

Labour says it will find the money it needs to fix Britain by closing tax loopholes used by the wealthy, ending tax breaks for those who pay for private schools and being a more prudent and responsible steward of the economy. It’s a growth strategy that has raised eyebrows among some economists.

“It isn’t yet clear from their speeches, pamphlets and interviews exactly what they believe will drive growth and how they will achieve it,” a group of economists who reviewed Labour’s economic policies wrote in an essay collection published by the Social Market Foundation, a non-partisan think tank.

“Overall, we find no ‘grand theory’ of growth but a series of pragmatic, often technocratic, interventions which might drive growth,” they wrote.

In a bid to limit what is expected to be a historic defeat for the Conservatives, Sunak has warned Britons of giving Labour a “supermajority” in Parliament, saying his party can at least provide an effective opposition.

The outcome of Britain’s vote is not expected to substantially change its close relationship with the U.S. on defense, intelligence-sharing and trade because most issues of foreign affairs are viewed as nonpartisan. However, Labour would be more comfortable with President Joe Biden or another Democrat president than former President Donald Trump, according to Bale. Trump was more unpredictable on issues like trade during his term in office.

Over the last 100 years, the Conservatives have been the most electorally successful British political party. In that time, there have been 17 Conservative-led British governments, compared to eight Labour-led ones.

One potential important impact of the vote on British politics is that Nigel Farage, a close ally of Trump’s who leads the right-wing Reform UK party, could for the first time be elected to Britain’s Parliament.

Farage is an anti-immigration, EU-sceptic political rabble-rouser who campaigned for Brexit. He previously told USA TODAY in an interview that he intends to mount a long-term challenge to the Conservatives and ultimately replace it as an opposition force to Labour at the next general election, expected in 2029.

If Labour wins the vote, in keeping with British protocol Sunak would be expected to resign as prime minister on Friday in an audience with King Charles. He would then visit Buckingham Palace and ask the king for his permission to form a government. That is a procedural requirement of all new prime ministers.