LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a convincing election victory Friday, easily passing the threshold to form a stable government and set the course for the country’s exit from the European Union.
An exit poll had predicted a clear majority for Johnson’s Conservative Party and just after 5 a.m. it secured the necessary 326 seats to win a majority in the House of Commons, with the BBC predicting an overall majority of 78 when all the results are confirmed.
As of 7 a.m. the party had won 362 seats, an increase of 47 on the last election in 2017, higher than recent opinion polls had predicted.
The win means the United Kingdom is all but certain to leave the European Union on Jan. 31. A divided Parliament has refused to back Johnson’s withdrawal bill several times — but he now has enough lawmakers to push it through the House three-and-a-half years after the Brexit referendum.
Speaking to party activists in London, Johnson said the election result meant that “getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people.”
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He addressed the millions of voters who are not traditional Conservative supporters but chose the party this time, promising that Parliament had to change.
“I say to you that in this election your voice has been heard and about time too. We politicians have squandered the last three and half years. We’ve even been arguing about arguing and the tone of our arguments.
“I will put an end to all that nonsense. We will get Brexit done by the 31st of January, no ifs, no buts, no maybes.”
President Donald Trump was among the world leaders to congratulate Johnson on his win, adding his support for a post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal.
The election, the third in four years, had been described as the most important in a generation as it represented the last realistic opportunity to block Brexit.
It’s an historic win for Johnson, the biggest Parliamentary majority since Margaret Thatcher won a decisive victory for the Conservatives in 1987.
But it’s been a disastrous election for the socialist Labour Party, which saw its vote share drop eight percent overall and the loss of key seats across the country in its worst general election performance in three decades. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he would stand down before the next election, without setting a date, after a period of “reflection.”
Former industrial heartlands which have been staunchly Labour for decades swung to the Conservatives. Dennis Skinner, the 87-year-old veteran socialist who has held the seat of Bolsover in Derbyshire since 1970, lost by 5,000 votes. Sedgefield in the north-east of England, the former seat for three-time election winner Prime Minister Tony Blair, also voted Conservative.
It wasn’t much better for the centrist Liberal Democrat Party — who promised to cancel Brexit if elected — which saw its leader Jo Swinson lose her seat in East Dunbartonshire in Scotland and the party fail to make many gains elsewhere.
The election raises questions, however, about the future of the United Kingdom. The Scottish National Party, which campaigns for Scotland to be an independent nation, won 48 seats, an increase of 13.
Scotland narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom in a 2014 referendum but the SNP’s success makes a second referendum more likely, although it is up to the prime minister to decide whether to hold one.