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Cautious reaction to exit poll from Tory and Labour figures

Both Tory Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon and shadow chancellor John McDonnell warned against reading too much into the prediction.

Conservative and Labour figures reacted cautiously to the exit poll predicting Theresa May could have lost her overall majority.

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.”

Sir Craig Oliver, former director of communications at Downing Street for David Cameron, told Sky News: “If this is true, if this is accurate in CCHQ there will be deep and lasting shock.

“It was the biggest gamble a politician has taken for a long time and if that exit poll is right, it’s failed.”

Tory grandee Ken Clarke said the results indicated Britain was on course for an “interesting parliament” but insisted it was too early to tell what the final result will be.

Mr Clarke, a staunch Remainer who was the only Conservative to vote against triggering Article 50, told the BBC: “I think the worst outcome for the United Kingdom would be a weak Government and a hung parliament of any party and we just have to see where we get.”

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox sidestepped questions about whether Mrs May would be forced to resign if the Tories failed to win a majority.

Pressed on the issue, he told BBC News: “Well it’s very early in the evening and I think we have to wait and see.

Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell said the poll results showed Mrs May’s Brexit strategy had failed and insisted his party would be reluctant to make deals with other parties.

He told BBC News: “We’ve had our fingers burned by coalition, I don’t need to tell you that, so I find it very difficult to see how Tim Farron would go back on what he has already said and indeed to persuade the membership of the Lib Dems that a coalition was a good idea from our point of view.”

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said it was still early but told Sky News: “They have been right for the last 20 years or so, 30 years, so I think we’re on the verge of a great result.”

Ms Thornberry said Mrs May should “consider her position” as she will have “manifestly failed” if the exit poll turns out to be correct.

On what Labour would do, she added: “We will see what happens next but if the Labour Party is called on to provide the next government, we will do so and do it in a unified way under a popular manifesto… with a leader who is strong.”

Former Labour MP and Strictly Come Dancing star Ed Balls warned the exit poll could signal a second election. He told ITV: “If this is correct we’ll have another general election soon.”

Senior SNP MP Stewart Hosie was cautious about the result as he sought to play down the prospect of deals with other parties.

He told BBC News: “If this poll is correct it would still point to the SNP winning the election in Scotland, which is what we set out to achieve. I don’t recall us ever voting for significant Tory policy in the past and it would be hard to see in the current climate with the austerity cuts, hard Brexit party, that we would want to support them in any way in this future parliament.”

Lib Dem president Baroness Brinton said her party could not work with either Labour or the Tories as both are pushing for a “hard Brexit”. She told Sky News: “A coalition is not on the cards, not just because of the 2015 result but because of big policy differences.”

Polling expert Professor John Curtice said the result indicated that Mrs May had failed in her bid to get a greater mandate for Brexit but he could not rule out the possibility that the Tories would still gain a smaller majority

He told BBC News: “It seems to me that unless the exit poll is incredibly wrong then the Prime Minister has failed to achieve her principal objective, which was that she was going to achieve a landslide, or at least a very big majority for her party in the next House of Commons, and thereby provide her with rather more wriggle room over Brexit.”

The DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson hailed the exit poll, saying his party would be “serious players” in a hung parliament, and vowed to lend its support to the Tories on issues such as Brexit and keeping the UK together.

Ukip economy spokesman Patrick O’Flynn said he believes there will be “hell to pay” with Eurosceptic voters if the exit poll turns out to be correct, adding he expects people to “gravitate back to Ukip in very large numbers”.

Senior Labour figure Clive Lewis said if the exit poll is borne out, it will be a “complete clusterf***” for Mrs May and Brexit negotiations, due to start in 10 days, as the PM will have an unclear mandate in talks.

Mr Lewis, who quit Labour’s shadow cabinet to oppose the triggering of Article 50, told the Press Association: “It looks like whatever happens, Theresa May is toast. She is going to be in a bad place after this.”

On Mrs May, he added: “This will be a personal slap in the face for someone who doesn’t treat being questioned very well.”

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