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Johnson’s election gamble set to pay off as exit poll predicts big Tory majority

But Labour is on course for its worst result since 1935

Boris Johnson’s gamble looks to set to pay off (PA/Stefan Rousseau)
Boris Johnson’s gamble looks to set to pay off (PA/Stefan Rousseau)

By Harriet Line, PA Deputy Political Editor, and Catherine Wylie, PA

Boris Johnson’s gamble on a snap election looks to have paid off, with the Tories on course to win a big majority, according to an exit poll.

The BBC/Sky/ITV poll puts the Tories on 368 seats, with Labour predicted to win just 191 seats, the Scottish National Party 55, Liberal Democrats 13, the Brexit Party none, Plaid Cymru three and Greens one.

This would give Mr Johnson a majority of 86.

The pound soared against the dollar and the euro as the exit poll emerged.

One of the first results to come through appeared to bear out the exit poll prediction as the Conservatives won Blyth Valley with a 10% swing from Labour – a seat they had held since 1950.

Labour’s Gareth Snell also predicted his own defeat ahead of the result in another former stronghold, Stoke-on-Trent Central, telling PA: “I’m going to lose badly and this is the start of 20 years of Tory rule.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s party clung onto several North East seats include Newcastle Central, Sunderland Central, Newcastle-upon-Tyne East and Houghton and Sunderland South, but with much reduced majorities.

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.”

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General Election 2019 exit poll. Infographic from PA Graphics.

If the exit poll proves to be accurate, Mr Johnson will return to Number 10 on Friday in a position to easily drive through his Brexit deal and take the UK out of the European Union next month.

The result, the largest majority for a Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, would be seen as a triumph for his tightly-controlled campaign, which was largely gaffe-free until the final week.

Mr Johnson entered the election without a majority, having just 298 Tory MPs, after some quit the party and he withdrew the whip from others when they rebelled over Brexit.

The result would, however, be a huge set-back for Labour leader Mr Corbyn.

Labour, who had 243 MPs when Parliament was dissolved last month, is forecast to lose 52 seats.

Such a poor result would be the worst for Labour in terms of seats since 1935 and would put extreme pressure on Mr Corbyn to stand down after losing a second General Election in a row.

The future of the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson also appeared uncertain, with the joint leader of East Dunbartonshire council saying “it is on a knife edge” whether she will lose her seat to the SNP.

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

In a tweet sent as the polls closed, Mr Corbyn thanked 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”.

And shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said it represented a “devastating result for us” and “all the people who were really needing a Labour victory to improve their lives”.

Asked if his party needed a new leader, Mr Gardiner said: “These are things that will be discussed by the leadership of the party in the next few days.”

The Tories appeared cautious after the exit poll but said a functioning majority “would mean we can now finally end the uncertainty and get Brexit done”.

A Conservative spokesman said: “This is a projection, not a result, it’s important we wait to see the actual results when they come in. What we do know is that voters have rejected Labour’s fudge on Brexit.

“We needed this election because parliament was doing all it could to frustrate the will of the people.

“A functioning majority would mean we can now finally end the uncertainty and get Brexit done. It would allow the country to come together and move forward by delivering the change people voted for in 2016.”

Labour said it was “too early to call the result” but claimed the party had “changed the debate in British politics”.

A party spokesman said: “We, of course, knew this was going to be a challenging election, with Brexit at the forefront of many people’s minds and our country increasingly polarised.

“But Labour has changed the debate in British politics. We have put public ownership, a green industrial revolution, an end to austerity centre stage and introduced new ideas, such as plans for free broadband and free personal care.”

PA

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