British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party seemed to be on its way to an astounding landslide victory in Thursday general election with would match the party's results from times of Baroness Margaret Thatcher in 1987 and Labour's historic low of 1935, according to exit polls.
Thursday's outcome would give the ruling Tories 368 seats, enough for a comfortable outright majority in the 650-seat Parliament, with which to decide the Brexit crisis by January 31.
Labour were forecast to win 191 seats, the Scottish National Party 55 seats and the Liberal Democrats 13. onclusive results were expected to become availabe early Friday. In the last five national elections, only one exit poll has got the outcome wrong. It was in 2015 when the poll predicted a hung Parliament when in fact the Conservatives won a majority, taking 14 more seats than forecast.
Such a result would mark the Conservative's biggest victory since 1987 and hand Johnson the working majority he needs to take the UK out of the EU (Brexit) as he has pledged to do.
It would also signal more than just a defeat for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. As soon as unofficial results became available, longtime Labour voters flocked to social media to convey the same message: the 70-year-old leader is unelectable. I usually vote Labour, but I can't vote for him, they wrote on Twitter under the #Corbynout hashtag.
Johnson has campaigned on a get Brexit done slogan while Corbyn promised a new referendum on Brexit.
Some 46 million people were eligible to vote in the country's first December election since 1923.
The exit poll compiled by Ipsos Mori for the BBC, Sky News and ITV suggested the Conservatives were set to secure 368 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, with the main opposition Labour Party on course for 191.
The Conservatives overturned a 7,915 majority for Labour in the northern England seat. Labour’s vote share fell 15 per cent, while the Conservatives gained 5.4 per cent to give them a 712 majority. The Brexit Party, formed this year, took 8.3 per cent of the vote.
On Thursday night, Johnson told party members to “enjoy a celebration” after the exit poll forecast gave him the numbers in Parliament he needs to deliver Brexit next month. “I hope you enjoy a celebration tonight,” he said in an e-mail to party members. “You powered this campaign. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
Labour Party finance minister John McDonnell said Corbyn’s future and his own would be decided once the official election results were in. “We’ll see the results in the morning and then decisions will be made, I’m sure then,” he told BBC TV.
With the party deeply divided over the Brexit issue, however, much of Labour's pre-election messaging focused on the state of public services and its plan for a major shake-up of the economy. “It looks as if Brexit dominated. A lot of this was Brexit fatigue. People just wanted it over and done with,” McDonnell said in an interview with Sky News.
Labour party candidate Gareth Snell said Corbyn must quit, conceding that he expected to lose his parliamentary seat in Stoke-on-Trent – a city once regarded as a Labour stronghold.
Among the smaller parties, the Scottish National Party were predicted to win 55 seats, with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats forecast to win 13.
Chris Hopkins, head of political research at research consultancy Savanta ComRes, said the exit poll indicated the prime minister's pared-back campaign messaging had worked. If this was the Brexit election and it looks for all intents and purposes, if this exit poll is correct, that it was, then the simple message of 'Get Brexit Done' has clearly resonated, Hopkins said.
Johnson is going to want to get his Brexit deal through as soon as he can, and it sounds like he is going to have the numbers to do so at a canter really, very, very easily, he added.
Even if Parliament were to sign off on the prime minister's withdrawal agreement by the end of next month, a potentially gruelling period of negotiations over the UK and EU's future relationship would begin as the so-called transition period takes effect.
Johnson has repeatedly said this period will not be extended past the end of 2020, when it is currently scheduled to end, but there is widespread doubt over whether a comprehensive agreement could be concluded before then.
If you really want to get Brexit sorted by the end of December next year then you are looking at a more limited future relationship because you will not have the time to negotiate in more detail a new bespoke arrangement with the EU, said Maddy Thimont Jack, a specialist Brexit researcher at the UK's Institute for Government.
If you look at previous negotiations that the EU has had with other countries then 11 months is much shorter than it took to broker other agreements, for example with Canada, but I do think it is worth saying that in those instances there wasn't a need for a strict timeframe.
Corbyn, for his part, pledged that a Labour administration would negotiate a softer withdrawal agreement than the deal brokered between Johnson and Brussels - one aimed at building a new UK-EU customs union and ensuring close alignment to the EU's single market.