Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2017 result: UK facing political chaos as Theresa May's big gamble backfires

By Adrian Rutherford

The UK is facing fresh political turmoil after Theresa May’s big gamble on calling a snap election backfired with the election ending in a hung parliament.

The Conservative landslide had failed to materialise and the party on course for 318 seats, four short of the 326 needed for a majority in the Commons.

Labour are predicted to finish on 261 with eight seats remaining to be called.

The Prime Minister’s decision to go to the country three years ahead of schedule was based on a desire to secure a stronger position ahead of crunch Brexit talks set to begin within days.

But as polls closed last night, it became clear her gamble had failed.

A 10pm BBC/Sky/ITV exit poll gave the first indication of the drama ahead, putting the Conservatives on 314 seats — down 16 and well short of a majority.

The outcome threatened to plunge the UK into chaos ahead of crunch talks to trash out a deal on exiting the EU.

As a dramatic night unfolded:

  • Former Chancellor George Osborne said, if borne out by actual results, the “catastrophic” exit poll figures would put Mrs May’s future as Conservative leader in doubt.
  • Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire defended the PM’s gamble on calling the snap election.
  • Reports suggested Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s seat may be under threat, although she narrowly held on.
  • The pound plummeted more than 1.5% against the US dollar and 1% against the euro.
  • Some were already speculating on a second election.
  • Senior figures from all parties urged caution on the poll as the new political landscape of the UK began to emerge.

The result represents a humiliation for Mrs May, who went into the election with a small but viable majority amid expectations she might extend her advantage to 100 seats.

It would be a personal triumph for Jeremy Corbyn, who was widely regarded as having run an effective campaign after being written off as unelectable by many observers.

Mr Corbyn refused to be drawn on the outcome of the election as he arrived for the declaration in Islington North shortly after 2am this morning.

The Labour leader was mobbed by the media on his way into the Sobell Leisure Centre where he was eventually greeted by Islington South and Finsbury candidate, and shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry.

The result threatened to throw the UK’s politics into disarray as the parties scramble to form a government, just 11 days before the expected start of Brexit negotiations in Brussels.

Speaking shortly after the exit poll was released, Mr Brokenshire said it was too early in the night to be drawing conclusions but defended Mrs May’s decision to call an election.

He said: “I think it was right because ultimately she was presented with a situation in the House of Commons, also the House of Lords of people wanting to frustrate the whole Brexit process.”

Mr Osborne, who was sacked from the Cabinet by Mrs May when she took office last July, told ITV: “Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government then she I doubt will survive in the long-term as Conservative party leader.”

A senior Labour source noted that Mrs May had said repeatedly during the election campaign that if she lost six seats she would no longer be Prime Minister.

But senior figures urged caution, pointing out that in 2015, the exit poll significantly underestimated the Tory result, putting David Cameron’s party on 316 when it eventually scooped 331 seats.

Tory Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon told the BBC: “This is a projection, it’s not a result. These exit polls have been wrong in the past.”

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell also warned against reading too much into the prediction, saying: “We have to have some scepticism about all polls at the moment.”

Labour activists were jubilant. A senior source said: “If this exit poll is correct, her credibility is completely shot.”

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