UK’s Labour on course for huge election majority, exit poll shows

By Andrew MacAskill, Elizabeth Piper and Alistair Smout

LONDON (Reuters) -Keir Starmer will be Britain’s next prime minister with his Labour Party set to win a massive majority in a parliamentary election, an exit poll on Thursday indicated, while Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives are forecast to suffer historic losses.

Centre-left Labour was on course to capture 410 of the 650 seats in parliament, an astonishing reversal of fortunes from five years ago when it suffered its worst performance since 1935.

The result would give Labour a majority of 170 and would bring the curtain down on 14 years of increasingly tumultuous Conservative-led government.

“To everyone who has campaigned for Labour in this election, to everyone who voted for us and put their trust in our changed Labour Party – thank you,” Starmer said on X.

Sunak’s party were forecast to only win 131 seats, the worst electoral performance in its history, as voters punished them for a cost-of-living crisis, and years of instability and in-fighting which has seen five different prime ministers since the Brexit vote of 2016.

The centrist Liberal Democrats were predicted to capture 61 seats while the right-wing populist Reform UK party, headed by Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage who had pledged to destroy the Conservative party, was forecast to win 13.

While the prediction for Reform was far better than expected, the overall outcome suggests the disenchanted British public appears to have shifted support to the centre-left, unlike in France where Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally party made historic gains in an election last Sunday.

It was not just the Conservatives whose vote was predicted to have collapsed. The pro-independence Scottish National Party was forecast to win only 10 seats, its worst showing since 2010, after a period of turmoil which has seen two leaders quit in little over a year.

In the last six UK elections, only one exit poll has got the outcome wrong. Official results will follow over the next few hours.

“If this exit poll is correct, then this is a historic defeat for the Conservative Party, one of the most resilient forces that have we have seen in British political history,” Keiran Pedley, research director at Ipsos, which carried out the exit poll, told Reuters.

“It looked like the Conservatives were going to be in power for 10 years and it has all fallen apart.”


Sunak stunned Westminster and many in his own party by calling the election earlier than he needed to in May with the Conservatives trailing Labour by some 20 points in opinion polls.

He had hoped that the gap would narrow as had traditionally been the case in British elections, but the deficit has failed to budge in a fairly disastrous campaign.

It started badly with him getting drenched by rain outside Downing Street as he announced the vote, before aides and Conservative candidates became caught up in a gambling scandal over suspicious bets placed on the date of the election.

Sunak’s early departure from D-Day commemorative events in France to do a TV interview angered veterans, and even those within his own party said it raised questions about his political acumen.

If the exit poll proves right, it represents an incredible turnaround for Starmer and Labour, which critics and supporters said was facing an existential crisis just three years ago when it appeared to have lost its way after its 2019 drubbing.

But a series of scandals – most notably revelations of parties in Downing Street during COVID lockdowns – undermined then prime minister Boris Johnson and its commanding poll leads evaporated.

Liz Truss’ disastrous six-week premiership, which followed Johnson being forced out at the end of 2022, cemented the decline, and Sunak was unable to make any dent in Labour’s now commanding poll lead.

“That turnaround is pretty unprecedented in British history and just goes to show the scale of volatility with voters at the moment when they think their promises have been broken,” Pedley said.

© Reuters. Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria Starmer walk outside a polling station during the general election in London, Britain, July 4, 2024. REUTERS/Claudia Greco

While polls have suggested that there is no great enthusiasm for Labour leader Starmer, his simple message that it was time for change appears to have resonated with voters.

However, the predicted Labour result would not quite match the record levels achieved by the party under Tony Blair in 1997 and 2001 when the party captured 418 and 412 seats respectively.

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