The exit poll for the UK General Election indicates that the Conservative Party will win 368 seats, whilst the Labour Party will win 191. This will result in a majority of 86, the largest majority for the Tories since the 1980s. For Jeremy Corbyn, this will be Labour’s worst result since 1935.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) are set to increase their dominance in Scotland and win 55 seats, whilst the Liberal Democrats may only gain 13. The Brexit Party is unlikely to make any gains at all.
If these results are accurate, Boris Johnson may have turned around the Conservative Party’s fortunes. He has always been a divisive figure in British politics, but compared to 2017, he has always had one advantage over Theresa May- he campaigned for Brexit. Since he became Prime Minister, Boris has tried to ensure that Britain leaves the EU on time. He deployed every tactic in the book from proroguing Parliament to securing a deal satisfactory to all sides of the Conservative Party. A general election was his last resort, and it has worked to his advantage.
Throughout the election, the Tories’ mantra was ‘Get Brexit Done.’ Their message was simple- if the electorate awards the Conservatives a majority, they can vote through Boris’s deal and complete the Brexit process. They have also focused on areas that Labour are traditionally strong on, like health and education. Throughout the 2019 General Election, the Tories have consistently said the Brexit paralysis has delayed their progress on these issues, and by securing that majority, they can invest in public services and concentrate on other issues that matter to the British people.
The Tories have conducted a safe campaign. They have avoided cowering out of debates, the game-changing mistake that May made in 2017, and they had a simple manifesto message. The 2017 manifesto was damaged by policies on fox-hunting and making pensioners pay for their social care.
They have also been fortunate enough to witness the Brexit Party’s vote collapse. Nigel Farage agreed not to contest candidates in seats the Conservatives need to win. They were also damaged by bloopers like four of their MEPs declaring their support for Boris.
Considering how close they came to power in 2017, Labour hoped that their campaign of ending austerity would work to their advantage after almost ten years of Conservative rule. Corbyn tried to rally his coalition of voters that almost shifted him into power two years ago, but his support has collapsed.
Many of their policies have been exposed for being expensive, like free broadband, which would have to be paid for through nationalisation. Their campaign of ‘saving the NHS from Donald Trump’ was damaged by revelations that the health service would not be included in a US-UK post-Brexit trade deal. Furthermore, Corbyn’s neutral Brexit stance left its voters unsure whether the party stood for remaining in or leaving the EU, which left them vulnerable to the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats hoped that their anti-Brexit message would appeal to Remainers, but Jo Swinson failed to cut through to them because her position was viewed as extreme. This is why she failed to win over Tory Remainers who voted against leaving the EU, but believed that a democratic result should be respected.
The Tories’ Brexit message failed to resonate in Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU. They hoped their unionist message would prevent an SNP onslaught, but Nicola Sturgeon won the argument there. This shows that Brexit, not the Union, was the dominant theme north of the border.
Brexit overwhelmingly influenced this election outcome, and this result reflects that the majority of voters want it completed. But this poll leaves Labour in dark territory. As Andrew Neill said- they have already lost the 2024 General Election. This vote will change British politics, no matter what the final result actually looks like.