Belfast Telegraph

General Election 2019

General Election: Brexit set for January 31 as jubilant Tories romp to commanding majority

PM Boris Johnson holds his dog, Dilyn, after casting his vote
PM Boris Johnson holds his dog, Dilyn, after casting his vote
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Boris Johnson is heading back to Downing Street with the Conservatives on course for their biggest election victory since the Thatcher years.

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The Tories are set to be returned to power by a landslide, with an exit poll predicting an 86 seat majority.

The joint BBC-ITV-Sky poll suggested the Conservatives would win 368 seats, 42 above the 326 needed for an absolute majority in the House of Commons.

Labour was forecast to secure just 191 seats — the fewest since the 1930s — with a string of its ‘red wall’ of Brexit-backing strongholds falling.

Early results pointed to a swathe of Conservative gains as the political landscape of the UK was radically redrawn.

An indication came just after 11.30pm as the former mining constituency of Blyth Valley, in Labour hands since 1950, turned blue.

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The expected Conservative landslide will clear the way for Mr Johnson to take the UK out of the European Union on January 31 and enjoy a free hand to implement his programme in a term of at least four and a half years in Downing Street.

It would be the largest majority for a Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher in 1987.

The Prime Minister greeted the poll by tweeting: “Thank you to everyone across our great country who voted, who volunteered, who stood as candidates. We live in the greatest democracy in the world.”

As Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government will move quickly to “get Brexit done”, former Conservative cabinet minister Justine Greening said “the deadlock on Brexit is finally broken”.

The result, however, was disastrous for Jeremy Corbyn, with Labour forecast to lose 52 seats.

It was set to be the worst result for Labour in terms of seats since 1935, with Mr Corbyn set to resign on Friday.

In a tweet sent as the polls closed, Mr Corbyn told activists: “You’re the heart of our party, and you have campaigned tirelessly to win so we can a build a fairer country. I thank you all.”

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the exit poll was “extremely disappointing”.

Jon Lansman, boss of the Corbyn-supporting Momentum campaign group, said he did not think the Labour leader would “overstay his welcome”.

The first result of the night came at 11.26pm in Newcastle Central, where Chi Onwurah was re-elected as a Labour MP.

Labour also clung onto Sunderland Central, Newcastle-upon-Tyne East and Houghton and Sunderland South, but with much reduced majorities.

The first big shock came as the Conservatives took Blyth Valley, which had been Labour since it was created in 1950. Ian Levy got 17,440 votes, beating the Labour candidate by more than 700 votes.

Kate Hoey, the Northern Ireland-born former Labour MP, said it was “a very, very damaging night” for the party.

She said Labour had “lost touch with its working class decent supporters in areas of the country that voted to Leave”.

The SNP was heading for a near clean-sweep in Scotland, predicted to take 55 of the 59 seats, with the Liberal Democrats on 13.

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