Boris Johnson Lands Biggest Victory Since Thatcher, Labour Suffers Historic Upset
Topline: Boris Johnson’s Conservatives were delivered their biggest electoral win since Margaret Thatcher in 1987, resulting in a huge majority that paves the way for them to push through Brexit in less than two months.
- With 649 out of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives secured 364 seats—a gain of 47. Johnson strengthened his parliamentary majority after weeks of governing without one at all. The party’s campaign message of “Get Brexit Done” evidently helped the Tories to sweep up major Labour heartlands.
- Johnson acknowledged those Labour voters who swung, telling them during his victory speech: “You may intend to return to Labour next time round, and if that is the case, I am humbled that you have put your trust in me, and I will never take your support for granted.”
- Though Johnson had come under fire for his questionable campaign tactics, the sizeable parliamentary majority means he will be able to make good on his promise to secure a Brexit deal by the January 31 deadline.
- It was the worst night for Labour in decades. The opposition party, led by Jeremy Corbyn, lost 59 seats and now have 203, making it the worst loss for the party since 1935.
- Corbyn said he would not lead his party into another election, but said he would see the party through a period of reflection first. Some of his party figures called for him to step down.
- Corbyn campaigned on renegotiating a Brexit agreement and holding another referendum about the issue, but he also attempted to make protecting the National Health Service, the U.K.’s government-run healthcare system, a focal point of his bid. But the campaign was marred by allegations of anti-Semitism, which loomed over his campaign.
- It continued to be a night of major upsets elsewhere. The Liberal Democrats, which ran on nixing Brexit without a second referendum, lost its leader as she lost her seat to the Scottish National party. Overall, the center party lost one seat.
- A swathe of independent and former Conservative party lawmakers defected to the Lib Dems over recent months in a bid to clinch the pro-remain vote.
Markets outlook: The pound continued to surge to historic highs against the euro and the dollar. Sterling shot up to 1.20 against the euro, its highest result since July 2016, while it rose to 1.35 against the dollar, the strongest it has been since May 2018.
Chief critics: Labour’s stunning loss left party members questioning what went wrong—and if Corbyn is to blame. Some prominent Labour figures argued Corbyn’s lack of leadership and personal unpopularity led to the party’s disastrous result. Some commentators are calling on Corbyn to step down as party leader altogether.
“The Party’s leadership went down like a lead balloon on the doorstep. Labour’s leadership needs to take responsibility,” Labour candidate Phil Wilson tweeted.
The Conservatives were also targeted by critics for their campaign tactics, and faced accusations of spreading misinformation throughout the campaign.
Key background: Since the British public voted for Brexit in 2016, Parliament has been unable to hammer out a deal with specifics about how the process would work. In October, Johnson called the election after failing to fulfill his promise of getting the U.K. out of the European Union by October 31. That defeat was a blow for Johnson, who became prime minister in July after former Prime Minister Theresa May resigned after she failed to get support for her Brexit deal.
Yet Johnson ran his campaign on the promise to “Get Brexit Done,” a phrase that was incessantly weaved into every corner of his bid, and that ultimately attracted the support of those who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
What’s next: With a solid majority, Johnson is in a position to pass a Brexit deal by January 31. After that, he still has to negotiate a separate agreement by the end of 2020 establishing the country’s trade relationship with the E.U. going forward.