Britain Votes
December 13, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party notched a landslide victory in national elections Thursday. Thanks largely to gains in long-held Labour areas that supported Britain's departure from the European Union, Johnson is on track to have the largest Tory majority since the 1980s. The Labour Party lost dozens of seats, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced early Friday that he will not lead the party in future elections. He did not step down immediately, though, pledging to stay on as party leader during a post-defeat "process of reflection."

Jo Swinson, the leader of the center-left, anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, won't have that option: She lost her Glasgow-area seat by 149 votes on Thursday, contributing to Liberal Democrats losses and strong gains by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP).

Johnson called his win "a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done," likely starting with formal withdrawal from the European Union at the end of January. Corbyn said the results were "very disappointing" and that the divisive Brexit issue "contributed to the results," though he also blamed Labour's 59-seat loss on bad press. Many Labour members blamed Corbyn, who is widely unpopular, and called on him to step down as party leader immediately.

With 48 seats, the SNP will be the third-largest party in the 650-seat House of Commons, after the Conservatives (364) and Labour (203). SNP leaders said they will push for a new referendum of independence from the United Kingdom. Johnson now has "a mandate to take England out of the EU but he must accept that I have a mandate to give Scotland a choice for an alternative future," SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC early Friday. Peter Weber

December 12, 2019

Voters in the United Kingdom are voting for all 650 seats in the House of Commons on Thursday, and the choice between Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party is pretty stark. Johnson, 55, campaigned on a heavily choreographed "Get Brexit Done" platform marred by misleading tactics and promises, while Corbyn, 70, pledged to hold a second referendum on leaving the European Union, increase public spending, and shift Britain's economic policy significantly leftward. Matthew Goodwin, a visiting senior fellow at the Chatham House think tank, called Thursday's vote "probably the most consequential election we've had in the post-war period."

Several smaller and regional parties, mostly but not exclusively on the left and center-left, are also expected to win seats. The Brexit Party gave Johnson a reprieve by not contesting 317 Conservative-held seats. Johnson called the election, two years ahead of schedule, after his Brexit plans were shot down in Parliament in September and October.

"All major opinion polls suggest Johnson will win, though pollsters got the 2016 referendum wrong and their models predict outcomes ranging from a hung Parliament to the biggest Conservative landslide since the era of Margaret Thatcher," Reuters notes. In fact, "two historic referendums — on Scottish independence in 2014 and Brexit in 2016 — and two national elections in 2015 and 2017 have delivered often unexpected results that ushered in political crises." Polls close at 10 pm GMT (5 pm EST), and the first results should come in an hour later. Peter Weber

December 11, 2019

Wednesday is the final day of campaigning before Britain votes on a new Parliament, and though Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservatives have consistently led in the polls, "the size of the margin is seen as narrowing before Thursday's contest," The Associated Press reports. "All of the parties are nervous about the verdict of a volatile electorate weary after years of wrangling over Brexit — and likely to dump traditional party ties." Johnson's main opponent is Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Neither man is popular.

"Welcome to the 2019 general election, a pre-Christmas present few British voters seem anxious to unwrap," writes BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher. "It's as if the 2016 U.S. presidential election, where both major candidates were deemed flawed and untrustworthy, is playing itself out again three years later, on the other side of the Atlantic." Johnson, campaigning for a parliamentary majority to push Brexit through, faces serious questions about his honesty and trustworthiness. Corbyn is inconsistent on Brexit, vows to pull Britain to the left, and faces criticism that he ignored anti-Semitism in his party.

The election was supposed to be about Brexit, but on Monday, the Daily Mirror published a photo of a 4-year-old boy sleeping on the floor of a hospital in Leeds, the photo went viral, and suddenly the Conservatives' decade of cuts to the beloved National Health Service (NHS) was the top campaign issue. Johnson initially refused to look at the photo on an iTV reporter's phone, pocketing the reporter's phone and saying he would "study it later."

Another echo of 2016 is the apparently organized spread of misinformation via social media. Soon after the photo of the Leeds boy went viral, for example, a Facebook post took off claiming — falsely — that the photo was staged. "False stories are getting out there and exploding in social media," Matt Walsh, a researcher at the University of Cardiff, told AP, and they're "being put in the public domain through some very dark networks." Peter Weber

June 9, 2017

After meeting with Queen Elizabeth II on Friday following a devastating election for the Conservatives, Prime Minister Theresa May announced she will proceed to form a government with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party in the "interests of the whole U.K."

There was no way for May's party alone to hold enough seats for a majority in Parliament. May called for the election in April when her party was 20 points ahead of its main opposition, the Labour Party, and she wanted to have a stronger mandate before Brexit talks.

The BBC is forecasting the Conservatives will win 318 seats, short of the 326 necessary for a majority, and Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, will pick up seats for a projected total of 261. Corbyn earlier called for May to resign, but the prime minister said she would steam ahead with the Conservative agenda and Brexit negotiations. Jeva Lange

June 9, 2017

With 636 of 650 seats called, there is no way British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives or any other party will win enough seats for a majority, causing a hung parliament.

Almost every seat has been called, and the Conservatives have 310, followed by Labour with 258, both falling short of the 326 seats needed for a majority. Wanting to increase her majority ahead of Brexit talks, May called the early election in April, when her party had a 20 point lead over Labour, but support for Labour surged in recent weeks, and the party picked up several seats in the election. Conservatives aren't taking this stunning shift well, with one member of parliament, Nigel Evans, telling BBC 5 Live, "We didn't shoot ourselves in the foot, we shot ourselves in the head."

While the snap election didn't pan out the way May had hoped, at least she didn't lose her seat to a mysterious cape-wearing man who goes by the name Lord Buckethead. Buckethead — who touted his "strong, not entirely stable, leadership" — received just 249 votes, but it ended up being "a new Buckethead record!" he tweeted. Catherine Garcia

June 8, 2017

It was supposed to be a landslide victory for Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives, but as the United Kingdom waits for the final results of Thursday's snap election to come in, exit polls and official tallies point toward a possible hung Parliament.

May called for the election in April when her party was 20 points ahead of its main opposition, the Labour Party. May wanted to have a stronger mandate before Brexit talks, but a projection has the Conservatives at 318 seats, eight away from the necessary number of seats for a working majority and down from 330, with Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, picking up seats for a projected total of 267.

After winning re-election for his seat in north London, Corbyn said May "called the election because she wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she's got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go, actually." Later, May said the country "needs a period of stability" and her priority is getting the Brexit deal done right. Catherine Garcia

June 8, 2017

Polls are open in the United Kingdom for a general election that Prime Minister Theresa May might wish she hadn't scheduled. When May called the snap election in April, her Conservative Party was 20 points ahead of the main opposition Labour Party, and she argued that she needed a larger majority in Parliament to negotiate a beneficial exit from the European Union. After two terrorist attacks, Britain's national conversation has shifted from Brexit to national security, as well as May's proposed changes to Britain's health-care system. Polls show that Labour has cut the Conservatives' lead down to single digits.

May says the Tories will foster a "stronger, fairer and more prosperous Britain," while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn promises to govern "for the many, not the few." Voters in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will elect 650 members to the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. Peter Weber

April 18, 2017

On Tuesday morning, British Prime Minister Theresa May held a surprise news conference outside her official residence at 10 Downing Street to announce she plans to seek early elections, scheduled for June 8. Under a law passed by her predecessor, David Cameron, snap elections must be approved by Parliament. May rose to power in July, after Cameron's Brexit vote backfired, and she is seeking a stronger mandate as she prepares to negotiate Britain's exit from the European Union. In her announcement, May said Britain needs new elections because opposition parties and the House of Lords are getting in the way of her Brexit negotiations. "Our opponents believe that because the government's majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course," she said. "They are wrong."

May had previously ruled out early elections, saying in a TV interview in September: "I'm not going to be calling a snap election. I've been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020." In recent opinion polls, May's Conservative Party is far ahead of the opposition Labour Party and smaller parties. Peter Weber

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