Con­ser­va­tives win big in Bri­tain

Prime min­is­ter cites clear man­date for Brexit by Jan. 31

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Jill Lawless, Danica Kirka and Mike Corder

Party takes huge ma­jor­ity of seats in Par­lia­ment — a de­ci­sive out­come to a Brexit-dom­i­nated election.

LON­DON — Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son’s Con­ser­va­tive Party has won a thump­ing 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 U.K. out of the Euro­pean Union next month.

With 649 of the 650 re­sults de­clared on Fri­day, the Con­ser­va­tives had 364 seats and the main op­po­si­tion Labour Party had 203.

“We did it — we pulled it off, didn’t we?” a ju­bi­lant John­son told sup­port­ers. “We broke the grid­lock, we ended the dead­lock, we smashed the road­block!”

A few hours later, John­son was whisked to Buck­ing­ham Palace to meet with Queen El­iz­a­beth II as part of the con­sti­tu­tional rit­ual of form­ing a new gov­ern­ment. He is the 14th prime min­is­ter to be asked by the monarch to form a gov­ern­ment.

John­son’s vic­tory paves the way for Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union by Jan. 31.

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

Cor­byn said an in­ter­nal election to choose a new party leader to re­place him will hap­pen early next year and that he will step down then.

As the bit­ter re­crim­i­na­tions be­gan about Labour’s failed cam­paign, for­mer Labour Party Home Sec­re­tary Alan John­son called Cor­byn “a dis­as­ter on the doorstep. Ev­ery­one knew that he couldn’t lead the work­ing class out of a pa­per bag.”

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the election, 70year-old Cor­byn said he would not lead the party into an­other election but re­sisted calls to step down im­me­di­ately.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump con­grat­u­lated John­son on Twit­ter, and said that “Bri­tain and the United States will now be free to strike a mas­sive new trade deal af­ter Brexit.”

Re­sults poured in early Fri­day show­ing a sub­stan­tial shift in sup­port to the Con­ser­va­tives away from Labour. In the last election in 2017, the Con­ser­va­tives won 318 seats and Labour 262.

The re­sult this time de­liv­ered the big­gest Tory ma­jor­ity since Thatcher’s 1980s hey­day, and Labour’s low­est num­ber of seats since 1935.

The Scot­tish Na­tional Party won al­most 50 of Scot­land’s 59 seats, up from 35 in 2017, a re­sult that will em­bolden its de­mands for a new ref­er­en­dum on Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence.

The cen­trist, pro-EU Lib­eral Democrats took only about a dozen seats. Lib Dem leader Jo Swin­son stepped down af­ter los­ing in her Scot­tish con­stituency.

The Con­ser­va­tives took a swath of seats in postin­dus­trial 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.

The de­ci­sive Con­ser­va­tive show­ing 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 U.K. out of the EU by the cur­rent Jan. 31 dead­line.

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.”

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 U.K. 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.

The U.K.’s de­par­ture will start a new phase of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Bri­tain and the 27 re­main­ing EU mem­bers.

STE­FAN ROUSSEAU/PRESS AS­SO­CI­A­TION

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, the Con­ser­va­tive Party leader, is greeted by aides Fri­day at No. 10 Down­ing St. in Lon­don af­ter an au­di­ence with Queen El­iz­a­beth II.

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