British Prime Minister Theresa May should step down after losses for her Conservative Party in the general election, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Friday as results trickled in.
May “has lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that’s enough to go,” Corbyn said after being reelected in his Islington North constituency in central London.
May’s Conservative party was poised to win the snap election on Friday but lose its parliamentary majority, according to a shock exit poll released as polling stations across Britain closed on Thursday evening. It projected that May’s party could fall from 330 to 314 seats, short of a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons. The forecast predicted Labour would increase its share from 229 to 266 seats, pointing to a hung parliament.
According to The Guardian’s tally as of 8:45 a.m. local time Friday, 315 seats had been declared for the Conservatives, 261 for Labour, 35 for Scottish National Party, and 12 for the Liberal Democrats, with the count ongoing.
May said Friday that her Conservatives would ensure much-needed “stability” for Britain as the party reeled from a string of losses.
“The country needs a period of stability and whatever the results are, the Conservative party will ensure that we can fulfill that duty to ensure that stability,” she said after being reelected to her seat in Maidenhead near London.
May was facing questions over her judgment in calling the election three years early and risking her party’s slim but stable majority of 17.
If the exit poll outcome was confirmed, the result would lead to a period of political uncertainty and could throw Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union into disarray. The pound lost more than 2 cents against the dollar within seconds of the announcement.
As results trickled in from hand counts of ballots, all parties urged caution in reading too much into the exit poll. During the last election, in 2015, the Conservatives did better than the exit poll predicted. Conducted for a consortium of UK broadcasters by interviewing voters leaving polling stations, it is regarded as a directional, but not exact, indicator of the result.
Sky News projections gave the Conservatives 315-325 seats, while the BBC forecast predicted May’s party would receive 316 seats to Labour’s 267.
Early Friday, British ex-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg lost his seat in parliament, the biggest figure to fall so far in Britain’s surprising election.
Clegg led the Liberal Democrat party through five years of coalition government with the Conservatives until 2015. He lost his Sheffield Hallam seat in northern England to the Labour Party early Friday.
The centrist, pro-EU Liberal Democrats had hoped to make big gains in the election by scooping up voters who want to remain in the bloc. But many of those seem to have voted Labour instead. Clegg urged all politicians to try to heal a “deeply divided and polarized nation.”
The deputy leader of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s pro-independence party also lost his seat in Thursday’s election, in what is projected to be a disappointing night for Scotland’s nationalists. Angus Robertson, who led the SNP in the British parliament, lost to Conservative Douglas Ross in the constituency of Moray in northeast Scotland.
May became prime minister through a Conservative Party leadership contest when predecessor David Cameron resigned after the referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union. She went into the election untested on a national campaign, but with a reputation for quiet competence. She championed “strong and stable government.”
But the run-up to the election did not go to plan.
May was criticized for a lackluster campaign and for a plan to force elderly people to pay more for their care, a proposal her opponents dubbed the “dementia tax.” As the polls suggested a tightening race, pollsters spoke less often of a landslide and raised the possibility that May’s majority would be eroded.
After terror attacks in Manchester and London that killed 30 people and forced the suspension of campaigning, security became the focus of the debate.
Corbyn, who built his reputation as a left-wing activist, focused his campaign on ending the years of austerity that have followed the global financial crisis. He called for increased spending on the National Health Service, schools and police, as well as the nationalization of railroads and water utilities.
The Labour leader closed out his campaign by telling a rally he had reshaped British politics.
“As we prepare for government, we have already changed the debate and given people hope,” he said. “Hope that it doesn’t have to be like this; that inequality can be tackled; that austerity can be ended; that you can stand up to the elites and the cynics. This is the new center ground.”
Corbyn has been criticized as anti-Israel, with critics pointing to friendly remarks he has made toward Palestinian terror groups in the past. The Labour leader spent much of last year promising to purge his party of figures accused of anti-Semitic stances, but much of the Jewish community was not convinced of the sincerity of his efforts.