London, United Kingdom – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said his Conservative Party appears to be on course for an “historic election” victory, with initial results from Thursday’s snap poll indicating a seismic political shift has taken place in the United Kingdom.
Speaking in the early hours of Friday morning, Johnson said voters appeared to have given his government a “powerful new mandate to get Brexit done”.
“I think this will turn out to be a historic election that gives us now, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people, to change this country for the better and to unleash the potential of the entire people of this country,” he said at the vote count in his London constituency of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
Johnson’s comments came hours after an exit poll predicted his Conservative party was set to win 368 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, potentially delivering the Tories their biggest election victory for more than three decades.
Such a result would hand Johnson, 55, the working majority he needs to take the UK out of the EU by the end of next month, as he has repeatedly pledged to do.
More than 45 million voters were registered to take part in the poll, the UK’s third since 2015, with the final result expected to be known later on Friday morning.
Corbyn to stand down as leader
Speaking minutes before Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, announced he would not be heading another election campaign after Thursday’s seemingly crushing defeat.
The exit poll compiled by Ipsos Mori for the BBC, Sky News and ITV suggested Labour were on course to win just 191 seats, a figure which, if accurate, would mark the party’s worst electoral performance since 1935.
Speaking at a vote count in his north London constituency of Islington, Corbyn, 70, described Labour’s performance as “very disappointing” before saying he would lead the party for an interim period while it discussed its future in a “period of reflection”.
Early results showed Johnson’s strategy to fight the election under the slogan of “Get Brexit Done” had successfully breached Labour’s so-called “Red Wall” strongholds across England’s Midlands and north, many of which voted in favour of leaving the EU in the UK’s 2016 referendum.
Weary Labour candidates taking in the scale of their defeat also said Corbyn’s leadership had played a major role in the party’s overall performance.
Among the smaller parties, the pro-EU Liberal Democrats were forecast to win 13 seats by Ipsos Mori’s exit poll. Party leader Jo Swinson lost her seat to the Scottish National Party (SNP), however, which was forecast to claim 55 of the 59 seats available in Scotland.
“Some will be celebrating the wave of nationalism that is sweeping on both sides of the border,” said Swinson, who only became Liberal Democrat leader in July. “These are very significant results for the future of our country.”
Swinson did not say whether she would now step down as leader of her party.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader, said Johnson did not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the EU.
“We don’t want Brexit,” Sturgeon said. “Boris Johnson may have a mandate to take England out of the European Union, he emphatically does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union.”
Sturgeon is now expected to press ahead with demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence after a poll in 2014 saw breaking away from the rest of the UK rejected by 55 percent of voters.