Labour set for huge 170-seat majority in UK general election, exit poll indicates

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Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour party is heading for a massive majority of about 170 seats at the UK general election, according to a national exit poll that indicated Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives will crash out of office after 14 years.

The poll on Thursday night suggested Starmer will become prime minister with 410 seats out of 650 in the House of Commons while Sunak’s party is facing the worst result in its history, with just 131 seats.

The result is momentous for Britain and will resonate around the world: the UK’s political dial has swung back to an internationalist, centre-left party at a time when right-wing populists are advancing in many countries.

The result is a personal triumph for Starmer, who took over the Labour leadership in 2020 after the party’s worst election defeat in almost a century. His projected victory is similar in scale to Sir Tony Blair’s 1997 Labour landslide.

The Ipsos exit poll is usually a reliable predictor of overall results. Vote counts from individual constituencies will trickle in through the night, with Labour, if the polls are correct, likely to have a clear majority by 5am.

According to the exit survey, the centrist Liberal Democrats were on course to win 61 seats, close to the 62-seat record set by the party in 2005. The Lib Dems are forecast to make big gains in the Tory “blue wall” of rich constituencies in the south of England.

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK was projected to do better than expected with 13 seats, a major breakthrough for the right-wing populist party that suggests it will be a powerful force in the new landscape of British politics.

The Scottish National party was set to come behind Labour in Scotland with just 10 seats, according to the exit poll, putting a serious dent in the party’s dream of securing independence.

The survey laid bare the overwhelming sentiment reported by candidates from all parties that Britain wanted “change”, with many senior Tories admitting during the campaign that the party looked exhausted.

The UK has been under Conservative rule for 14 years, during which time there have been five different prime ministers. The period has been marked by economic austerity, Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic and an energy price shock.

Starmer is set to become only the seventh Labour prime minister in the party’s history, and his victory is the first since 2005 for the centre-left party. Labour last ousted the Tories from power in 1997.

Starmer will move into 10 Downing Street on Friday and immediately form his cabinet, with an instruction to ministers to quickly deliver policies to jolt Britain out of its low-growth torpor.

Speaking on the eve of the poll, Starmer said: “This is a great nation, with boundless potential. The British people deserve a government that matches their ambition. Today is the chance to begin the work of rebuilding Britain with Labour.”

The exit poll indicated that Starmer’s avowedly pro-growth, pro-business agenda has paid off, as Labour bucked international political trends. Far-right parties have performed strongly in recent elections for the European and French parliaments, while in the US, Donald Trump is leading in polls for the presidential race.

Labour’s chancellor-in-waiting Rachel Reeves has said she hopes investors will now see the UK as a “safe haven”.

Starmer has promised to work with business to stimulate growth, with an agenda that includes planning reform and state investment in green technology. Labour will also pursue a traditional agenda of reforms to worker rights.

For Sunak, the result looks set to be a personal disaster. He chose to hold an early election on July 4 — against the advice of his campaign chief Isaac Levido — and ran an error-strewn six-week attempt to turn around his party’s fortunes.

The party’s projected 131 seats is lower than the party’s worst-ever result of 156 in 1906. Starmer’s expected seat haul is close to the 418 seats won by Tony Blair in his 1997 landslide victory.

A number of senior Tory figures are expected to lose their seats on a night of devastation, reducing the cast list of potential contenders for the party leadership if, as expected, Sunak stands down.

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