- General election poll suggests Britain is heading for a hung parliament.
- Result would force the Conservatives to seek the support of smaller parties to govern.
- If true, Theresa May’s future as prime minister would be at risk.
- Result would defy expetations of pundits, pollsters, and the parties themselves.
LONDON — The official 2017 exit poll is now out and it suggests Britain is heading for a hung parliament.
Here’s what it found:
- Conservatives: 314 (-16)
- Labour: 266 (+34)
- SNP: 34 (-20)
- Liberal Democrats: 14 (+5)
- Greens: 1 (nc)
- UKIP: 0 (nc)
- Others: 22
We should be very cautious. The poll is strongly at odds with what most polls, pundits and the parties themselves told us was going to happen. However, exit polls have a pretty good record in the UK. So assuming it’s right, here’s what it would tell us.
It’s a hung parliament
Parties need 323 seats to form a government with an overall majority. If this poll is right, then May will not be able to form a government on her own and will need the support of smaller parties — either formally or informally — to remain in Downing Street.
The most likely options for May would be the unionist parties in Northern Ireland given that the Lib Dems have ruled out forming another coalition. Even if she did get their support she could end up with a majority as low as just one seat.
That truly would be exactly the sort of “coalition of chaos” that the Conservative campaign warned against. This would be a phenomenal result given that just weeks ago the Conservatives felt all but certain of winning a landslide majority.
Theresa May’s future is at risk
If this poll is right, and we really can’t put enough ‘ifs’ in here, then it’s hard to see how Theresa May could survive. She called this election with the expectation of winning an Emmanuel Macron-style landslide victory in order to “strengthen her hand” in Brexit negotiations and would have ended up actually losing the majority that she had.
It would be an unforced political error of truly historic proportions and could compel her to resign. We could be looking at a prime minister David Davis, Boris Johnson, or Andrea Leadsom within weeks.
The bottom has fallen out of the SNP vote
One of the biggest surprises from this exit poll is how many seats it projects the SNP to lose. Nicola Sturgeon’s party had expected to go backwards after winning 56 of 59 seats across Scotland in 2015.
However, even the most pessimistic projections for the party didn’t forecast that they would lose as many as this. If this exit poll is right the party is on course to lose 20 seats, exclusively to unionist parties in Scotland. If this did occur then it would bring the SNP’s hopes of calling a second independence referendum, already looking shaky, into doubt.
The experts were all wrong
Almost all the polls suggested that the Conservatives were on course for a comfortable majority, as did most academics and journalists. This poll suggests they were all wrong. If it’s right then this will be the third election in a row that Britain’s supposed political experts have been proven spectacularly wrong.
Project fear failed
Jeremy Corbyn’s background and support for things like the republican movement in Northern Ireland and opposition to nuclear weapons, were widely predicted to all but wipe out Labour.
This expectation was nailed home by Britain’s press, who followed the Conservative party in running a campaign of fear against the possibility of a Corbyn-led government. While the possibility of a Corbyn-led government still looks incredibly unlikely, the campaign against him clearly failed.
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