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Exit poll suggests Labour Party is headed for a huge majority in Britain’s election

The center-left Labour Party led by Keir Starmer has had a steady and significant lead in opinion polls for months.
APTOPIX Britain Election
Posted at 6:56 AM, Jul 04, 2024

An exit poll suggests the Labour Party is headed for a huge majority in Britain’s election, riding a wave of frustration with 14 years of Conservative rule.

The poll released moments after polls closed on Thursday indicates that Labour leader Keir Starmer will be the country’s next prime minister.

Britain’s exit poll is conducted by pollster Ipsos and asks people at scores of polling stations to fill out a replica ballot showing how they have voted. It usually provides a reliable though not exact projection of the final result.

Thursday's parliamentary election is widely expected to bring the Labour Party to power against a gloomy backdrop of economic malaise, mounting distrust in institutions and a fraying social fabric.

A jaded electorate is delivering its verdict on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's Conservative Party, which has been in power since 2010. Polls opened at 40,000 polling stations in a vast variety of locales including church halls, a laundromat and a crematorium.

Hundreds of communities were locked in tight contests in which traditional party loyalties came second to more immediate concerns about the economy, crumbling infrastructure and the National Health Service.

In Henley-on-Thames, about 40 miles west of London, voters like Patricia Mulcahy, who is retired, sensed the nation was looking for something different.

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“The younger generation are far more interested in change,’’ Mulcahy said. “So, I think whatever happens in Henley, in the country, there will be a big shift. But whoever gets in, they’ve got a heck of a job ahead of them. It’s not going to be easy.”

Sunak made the short journey from his home to vote at Kirby Sigston Village Hall in his Richmond constituency. He arrived with his wife, Akshata Murty, and they walked hand-in-hand into the village hall, which is surrounded by rolling fields.

The center-left Labour Party led by Keir Starmer has had a steady and significant lead in opinion polls for months, but its leaders have warned against taking the election result for granted, worried their supporters will stay home.

"Change. Today, you can vote for it,” he wrote Thursday on the X social media platform.

A couple of hours after posting that message, Starmer walked hand-in-hand with his wife, Victoria, into a polling place in the Kentish Town section of London to cast his vote. He left through a back door out of sight of a crowd of residents and journalists who had gathered.

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The Conservatives have acknowledged that Labour appears headed for victory and urged voters not to hand the party a “supermajority.”

In the final days of campaigning Sunak insisted “the outcome of this election is not a foregone conclusion.”

But in a message to voters on Wednesday, Sunak said that “if the polls are to be believed, the country could wake up tomorrow to a Labour supermajority ready to wield their unchecked power.” He urged voters to back the Conservatives to limit Labour's power.

Labour has not set pulses racing with its pledges to get the sluggish economy growing, invest in infrastructure and make Britain a “clean energy superpower.”

But nothing has really gone wrong in its campaign, either. The party has won the support of large chunks of the business community and endorsements from traditionally conservative newspapers, including the Rupert Murdoch-owned Sun tabloid.

The Sun said in an editorial that "by dragging his party back to the center ground of British politics for the first time since Tony Blair was in No. 10 (Downing St.), Sir Keir has won the right to take charge,” using the formal title for Starmer, who was knighted.

Former Labour candidate Douglas Beattie, author of the book “How Labour Wins (and Why it Loses),” said Starmer's “quiet stability probably chimes with the mood of the country right now.”

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The Conservatives, meanwhile, have been plagued by gaffes. The campaign got off to an inauspicious start when rain drenched Sunak as he made the announcement outside 10 Downing St. Then, Sunak went home early from commemorations in France marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

Several Conservatives close to Sunak are being investigated over suspicions they used inside information to place bets on the date of the election before it was announced.

It has all made it harder for Sunak to shake off the taint of political chaos and mismanagement that’s gathered around the Conservatives since then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff held lockdown-breaching parties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, rocked the economy with a package of drastic tax cuts and lasted just 49 days in office. There is widespread dissatisfaction over a host of issues, from a creaking public health care system to crumbling infrastructure.

But for many voters, the lack of trust applies not just to Conservatives, but to politicians in general. Veteran rouser of the right, Nigel Farage, has leaped into that breach and grabbed attention with his anti-immigration rhetoric.

The centrist Liberal Democrats and environmentalist Green Party also want to sweep up disaffected voters.

“I don’t know who’s for me as a working person,” said Michelle Bird, a port worker in Southampton on England’s south coast who was undecided about whether to vote Labour or Conservative. “I don’t know whether it’s the devil you know or the devil you don’t.”