An exit poll suggested Thursday that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s gamble in calling an early election has backfired spectacularly, with her Conservative Party in danger of losing its majority in Parliament.
An opposition Labour Party that had been written off by many pollsters surged in the final weeks of a campaign that was marred by deadly attacks in Manchester and London. If accurate, the result will confound those who said Labour’s left-wing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was electorally toxic.
The survey predicted the Conservatives will get 314 seats and the Labour Party 266. It projected 34 for the Scottish National Party and 14 for the Liberal Democrats.
Based on interviews with voters leaving polling stations across the country, the poll is conducted for a consortium of UK broadcasters and regarded as a reliable, though not exact, indicator of the likely result.
If confirmed, the result will be humiliating for May, who called a snap election in the hope of increasing her majority and strengthening Britain’s hand in exit talks with the European Union. If she has failed, she could face pressure to resign.
“If the poll is anything like accurate, this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,” former Treasury chief George Osborne told ITV.
A party needs to win 326 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons to form a majority government. The Conservatives held 330 seats in the last Parliament, compared with 229 for Labour, 54 for the Scottish National Party and nine for the Liberal Democrats.
During the last election, in 2015, the Conservatives did better than the exit poll predicted, and senior Conservatives said Thursday that they would take a wait-and-see approach.
“It’s still very, very early in the evening,” said Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire. “It’s too early in the night to be drawing conclusions.”
The forecast is much better than expected for the opposition Labour Party, which had been expected to lose seats.
It could also be bad news for the Scottish National Party, which is predicted to lose 20 of its 54 seats - though the pollsters caution that there is a lot of uncertainty around the Scottish forecast.
A big loss could complicate the SNP’s plans to push for a new referendum on Scottish independence as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.
The poll was released after polls closed at 10 p.m. (2100GMT), ending an unsettled national election held in the shadow of three deadly attacks in as many months.
Results will come in overnight for all 650 seats in the House of Commons.