Polling stations have now closed on the United Kingdom’s 2019 snap election, the fifth national vote in Britain since 2014, and results are expected to roll in until early Friday morning.
While the first results may come in as quickly as an hour after the polls closed at 2200GMT, some of the most rural and remote areas — including the Scottish Islands where votes have to be brought to the mainland by boat — could take until Friday morning.
A so-called exit poll, based on interviews with voters as they leave polling stations across the country and trying to forecast the overall vote can legally be published immediately after 2200, when all polling stations close and its results can no longer influence would-be voters.
UPDATE 2203 — Exit polls suggest enormous Conservative majority, Labour collapse
The exit poll has now been released, and if the figures are to be believed — bearing in mind even this poll has got it wrong before — there will be champagne corks popping in Conservative headquarters.
While the Conservatives needed nine seats to control the house, the prediction is they would actually gain 50, taking them to 368. This is a majority of 86 over Labour — a potentially major achievement that would give the Conservatives the largest majority for the party in decades.
UPDATE 2200 — Polls close
Polling stations have now closed, leaving the not inconsequential task of counting. Sealed crates of paper ballots will be transported to local government counts around the country where they will be counted and verified, before the constituency returning officer declares the results.
We’re in for a long night.
The Day So Far
British electoral law prevents journalists from reporting on many aspects of the day so not to influence voters on the day they actually cast their ballots — but some unusual events have permeated the shutdown.
Police in Motherwell, Scotland were called to a polling station in the early hours of this morning after a “suspicious device” was spotted. The incident was deemed sufficiently serious that the surrounding area was evacuated before a bomb disposal robot was sent in to destroy the device.
Police subsequently revealed the object was not a “viable” bomb, but arrested a 48-year-old man. Information about the identity of the suspect, or a potential motive.
Britain Goes to the Polls in So-Called ‘Brexit Election’ https://t.co/PaC7fneemJ
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) December 12, 2019
Why is this election happening? A potted history of Brexit
British politics has been in an unusually intense state of political activity in recent years, with the watershed moment arguably coming in 2014 — meaning the British people have been in a state of near-constant debates, coverage, and national votes for half a decade.
This has been largely down to Brexit — Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union — probably the defining political feature of this generation.
Then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised Eurosceptics an in-out referendum way back in 2013, a major concession but an easy concession for him to make. Not only did Cameron not believe the country would vote for it — offering the vote would allow him to silence anti-Europe critics within his own party for a generation — but he said he would only give in in 2015 or later, after a general election he did not believe he would win.
This promise became complicated for him when the British people voted Nigel Farage’s UKIP into first place in the 2014 European Union elections. Not only did this knock Cameron’s Conservatives off the top perch in the European Parliament, it meant an overtly Eurosceptic party had won a national election for the first time.
With the following year came the 2015 general election Cameron did not expect to win — but win he did, and this time without the need of a coalition partner — leaving him with a manifesto promise to give that EU referendum to the British people. The pollsters had failed to predict the outcome of the 2015 election, and after a failed attempt to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union to make remaining seem more appealing, the pollsters got it wrong in 2016 when they failed to predict the outcome of the referendum.
The British people voted to leave the European Union, giving Brexit the greatest political mandate for any issue or government in British political history. But rather than taking the message — the vote threw into crisis a government which had been whole-blooded in its support for the losing side — David Cameron resigned as prime minister within hours of the news coming in.
Then followed Prime Minister Theresa May, elevated to the leadership of the Conservative Party after frontrunner Boris Johnson dropped out of the race. May — a Remain supporter who nonetheless promised to deliver Brexit — was determined to get a new parliament to carry her plan through, but bungled the 2017 snap general election and put the events in motion that inevitably led to today’s general election.
After two years of, at times, torturous ‘negotiations’ with the European Union, May found herself unable to pass her Brexit deal through a House of Commons her party had no majority in. While she clung onto power, it was Nigel Farage again winning the European Parliament elections — in 2019 under a newly concocted Brexit Party banner — that finally brought the curtain down on May’s reign.
Mr Farage in the meanwhile credited himself with the scalp of a second Conservative prime minister in three years.
Reigns of the Conservative Party now passed to Boris Johnson, Britain again moved into another period of renegotiation with the European Union. This more swiftly concluded, the so-called deal again failed to pass through Parliament, Johnson having inherited the same hung fractious, broadly anti-Brexit parliament that had frustrated Theresa May.
Hence today’s snap election — after several attempts, Boris Johnson finally got the blessing of Parliament to hold fresh votes. While Brexit is far from the only issue at stake, it has certainly been the most discussed — hence the British press dubbing this the ‘Brexit election’.
Yet despite that, it will be the fifth national vote in five calendar years — and the fourth dominated by Brexit. Whether this will be the last Brexit election or not, depends on the polls and the coming months and years.