Conservatives win UK election in landslide; Corbyn blamed for Labour losses
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MP: Corbyn’s anti-Semitism actions made us the racist party

Conservatives win UK election in landslide; Corbyn blamed for Labour losses

Johnson claims mandate to ‘get Brexit done’ with Tories heading to biggest victory since Thatcher era; Labour leader says he will quit; relief for UK Jews, Israel

  • Bobby Smith, a political and fathers' rights activist and founder and leader of the 'Give Me Back Elmo' party, left, and Independent candidate Count Binface stand either side of Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson wait for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency count declaration at Brunel University in Uxbridge, London, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
    Bobby Smith, a political and fathers' rights activist and founder and leader of the 'Give Me Back Elmo' party, left, and Independent candidate Count Binface stand either side of Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson wait for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency count declaration at Brunel University in Uxbridge, London, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
  • British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, waits for the declaration of his seat in the 2019 general election in Islington, London, December 13, 2019 (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
    British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, right, waits for the declaration of his seat in the 2019 general election in Islington, London, December 13, 2019 (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)
  • Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, second right, reacts as she loses her East Dumbartonshire constituency, during the count at the Leisuredome, Bishopbriggs, Scotland, December 13, 2019.  (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
    Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, second right, reacts as she loses her East Dumbartonshire constituency, during the count at the Leisuredome, Bishopbriggs, Scotland, December 13, 2019. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party on Friday won a majority of seats in Britain’s Parliament — a decisive outcome to a Brexit-dominated election that should allow Johnson to fulfill his plan to take the UK out of the European Union next month.

The party took the 326 seats needed and looked set to win in a landslide.

With about half the results declared, Johnson said it looked like the Conservatives had “a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done.”

The victory will make Johnson the most electorally successful Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher, another politician who was loved and loathed in almost equal measure. It would be a disaster for left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who faced calls for his resignation even as the results rolled in.

Corbyn called the result “very disappointing” for his party and said he would not lead Labour into another election, though he resisted calls to quit immediately.

Many British Jews breathed a sigh of relief at Corbyn’s defeat. “The relief among the Jewish community is palpable. And the gratitude. But as the days and weeks move on, there is something on which we will reflect: the willingness of so many of our so-called allies to campaign for and embrace Jeremy Corbyn,” tweeted Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper.

In Israel, Likud MK Nir Barkat, a former Jerusalem mayor, praised Johnson for seemingly defeating “the anti-Semitic Corbyn.”

Former UK Labour MP and ex-mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who has long claimed the evidence of anti-Semitism in the party is “lies and smears,” lamented party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s crushing defeat in the election, partially blaming the result on “the Jewish vote.”

Results poured in early Friday showing a substantial shift in support to the Conservatives from Labour, after an exit poll predicted the Conservatives would get 368 of the 650 House of Commons seats to Labour’s 191. In the last election in 2017, the Conservatives won 318 seats and Labour 262.

It would be the biggest Tory majority since Thatcher’s 1980s’ heyday, and Labour’s lowest number of seats since 1935.

The exit poll also projected 55 seats for the Scottish National Party — a big increase — and a lackluster 13 for the centrist, pro-EU Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson lost her own Scottish seat.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson (L) talks with Independent MP Luciana Berger during an event with representatives of Britain’s other pro-EU political parties, to discuss Brexit, at Church House in central London on August 27, 2019 (Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

The Conservatives took a swath of seats in post-industrial northern England towns that were long Labour strongholds. Labour’s vote held up better in London, where the party managed to grab the Putney seat from the Conservatives.

Jewish Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, who lost her Stoke-on-Trent North seat, blamed Corbyn for her party’s defeat in the UK election.

“This is an appalling, heartbreaking night for the Labour Party. He should have gone many, many, many months ago,” she told Sky News.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s actions on anti-Semitism have made us the nasty party. We are the racist party.”

The decisive Conservative victory vindicates Johnson’s decision to press for Thursday’s early election, which was held nearly two years ahead of schedule. He said that if the Conservatives won a majority, he would get Parliament to ratify his Brexit divorce deal and take the UK out of the EU by the current January 31 deadline.

Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds arrives for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency count declaration at Brunel University in Uxbridge, London, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Speaking at the election count in his Uxbridge constituency in suburban London, Johnson said the “historic” election “gives us now, in this new government, the chance to respect the democratic will of the British people to change this country for the better and to unleash the potential of the entire people of this country.”

That message appears to have had strong appeal for Brexit-supporting voters, who turned away from Labour in the party’s traditional heartlands and embraced Johnson’s promise that the Conservatives would “get Brexit done.”

“I think Brexit has dominated, it has dominated everything by the looks of it,” said Labour economy spokesman John McDonnell. “We thought other issues could cut through and there would be a wider debate, from this evidence there clearly wasn’t.”

British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks during the declaration of his seat in the 2019 general election in Islington, London, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. (AP/Alberto Pezzali)

The prospect of Brexit finally happening more than three years after Britons narrowly voted to leave the EU marks a momentous shift for both the UK and the bloc. No country has ever left the union, which was created in the decades after World War II to bring unity to a shattered continent.

But a decisive Conservative victory would also provide some relief to the EU, which has grown tired of Britain’s Brexit indecision.

Britain’s departure will start a new phase of negotiations on future relations between Britain and the 27 remaining EU members.

Anti-brexit demonstrators stand outside Parliament in London, October 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

EU Council President Charles Michel promised that EU leaders meeting Friday would send a “strong message” to the next British government and parliament about next steps.

“We are ready to negotiate,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

The pound surged on the exit poll’s forecast, jumping over two cents against the dollar, to $1.3445, the highest in more than a year and a half. Many Investors hope a Conservative win would speed up the Brexit process and ease, at least in the short term, some of the uncertainty that has corroded business confidence since the 2016 vote.

Many voters casting ballots on Thursday hoped the election might finally find a way out of the Brexit stalemate in this deeply divided nation. Three and a half years after the UK voted by 52%-48% to leave the EU, Britons remain split over whether to leave the 28-nation bloc, and lawmakers have proved incapable of agreeing on departure terms.

On a dank, gray day with outbreaks of blustery rain, voters went to polling stations in schools, community centers, pubs and town halls after a bad-tempered five-week campaign rife with mudslinging and misinformation.

A woman leaves a polling station after voting in Twickenham, England, in the British general elections, December 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Opinion polls had given the Conservatives a steady lead, but the result was considered hard to predict, because the issue of Brexit cuts across traditional party loyalties.

Johnson campaigned relentlessly on a promise to “Get Brexit done” by getting Parliament to ratify his “oven-ready” divorce deal with the EU and take Britain out of the bloc as scheduled on Jan. 31.

The Conservatives focused much of their energy on trying to win in a “red wall” of working-class towns in central and northern England that have elected Labour lawmakers for decades but also voted strongly in 2016 to leave the EU. That effort got a boost when the Brexit Party led by Nigel Farage decided at the last minute not to contest 317 Conservative-held seats to avoid splitting the pro-Brexit vote.

Labour, which is largely but ambiguously pro-EU, faced competition for anti-Brexit voters from the centrist Liberal Democrats, Scottish and Welsh nationalist parties, and the Greens.

In this December 7, 2019 file photo, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn compares beards with a supporter during a visit to Swansea, while on the campaign trail in Wales. (Victoria Jones/PA via AP, File)

But on the whole Labour tried to focus the campaign away from Brexit and onto its radical domestic agenda, vowing to tax the rich, nationalize industries such as railroads and water companies and give everyone in the country free internet access. It campaigned heavily on the future of the National Health Service, a deeply respected institution that has struggled to meet rising demand after nine years of austerity under Conservative-led governments.

It appears that wasn’t enough to boost Labour’s fortunes. Defeat will likely spell the end for Corbyn, a veteran socialist who moved his party sharply to the left after taking the helm in 2015, but who now looks to have led his left-of-center party to two electoral defeats since 2017. The 70-year-old left-winger was also accused of allowing anti-Semitism to spread within the party.

“It’s Corbyn,” said former Labour Cabinet minister Alan Johnson, when asked about the poor result. “We knew he was incapable of leading, we knew he was worse than useless at all the qualities you need to lead a political party.”

For many voters, the election offered an unpalatable choice. Both Johnson and Corbyn have personal approval ratings in negative territory, and both have been dogged by questions about their character.

Johnson has been confronted with past broken promises, untruths and offensive statements, from calling the children of single mothers “ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate” to comparing Muslim women who wear face-covering veils to “letter boxes.”

Yet, his energy and determination proved persuasive to many voters.

“It’s a big relief, looking at the exit polls as they are now, we’ve finally got that majority a working majority that we have not had for 3 1/2 years,” said Conservative-supporting writer Jack Rydeheard. “We’ve got the opportunity to get Brexit done and get everything else that we promised as well. That’s investment in the NHS, schools, hospitals you name it — it’s finally a chance to break that deadlock in Parliament.”

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