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Johnson back in Downing St

Tories and SNP big winners as Labour crashes; Swinson defeated

Collision course: Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson were the big winners

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon were drawn into an increasingly bitter cross border battle after emerging as the big winners in the General Election.

The Conservatives secured a landslide with the biggest share of the vote since Margaret Thatcher first entered Downing Street 40 years ago. Labour imploded with its worst result since the 1930s. North of the Border, the SNP were on course to make significant gains.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would not resign, but would not lead the party into another general election. He said he would oversee a “period of reflection”, but insisted the manifesto based on “hope and unity” had been popular with voters. He criticised the media’s treatment of him and his party.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson lost her seat after a disastrous showing for her party’s anti-Brexit election campaign. The newly-elected leader was beaten by 149 votes by the SNP candidate and the party later said she would step down. Deputy leader, Sir Ed Davey, and its president, Baroness Sal Brinton, will become joint acting leaders. Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Lesley Laird was also unseated as was the DUP’s Westminster spokesman Nigel Dodds.

An exit poll revealed minutes after the polls closed at 10pm predicted a potential 86-seat majority for the Tories and a calamitous collapse for Labour. The final majority is 80. At nearly 45% it will be the Tories’ biggest share of the vote since 1979.

Jo Swinson

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson lost her seat

The Tories secured their biggest win since 1987 on 365 seats (up 47), Labour on 202 (down 60), SNP 48 (up 13), Lib Dems on 11 (down 1), Plaid Cymru on 4, Greens 1 and others 18. The Brexit Party was not expected to win any seats and its leader Nigel Farage revealed he had spoiled his ballot paper.

It was a good night for the SNP which gained seats, but it will face a further five years of Tory opposition to its hopes of securing a second independence referendum.

The Conservatives made gains in Labour’s heartlands in the north of England and Midlands, including former mining constituencies which had been Labour for generations. Tony Blair’s former Sedgefield constituency was lost to the Tories.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell blamed Brexit for Labour’s result. “We thought it would be closer. If it is anywhere near the prediction it will be extremely disappointing,” he said.

John McDonnell

John McDonnell: election dominated by Brexit (pic: Terry Murden)

The result will end the months of deadlock in the House of Commons and bring an end to the uncertainty over Brexit, with Mr Johnson likely to meet his 31 January deadline.

However, Labour’s Ian Murray held on to his Edinburgh South seat, the only Scottish Labour candidate to survive, but made a devastating criticism of the party’s campaign and called for Jeremy Corbyn to resign.

“This party must listen and this party must respond or this party will die,” he said. Describing Labour’s performance as “catastrophic”, he added: “We are letting down the country by not having a credible opposition.

“Not only does the person have to got, but the ideology has to go as well.

“I have said to Jeremy, if you do not want to listen to your colleagues the public will have their say and they have had their say tonight.”

Ian Murray: ‘the ideology has to go’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Markets greeted the Tory majority enthusiastically. The pound rose about 2% against the dollar to reach $1.3469 and was up 1.6% against the euro at €1.2054. 

The FTSE 100 opened higher. Shares in water companies which faced the possibility of nationalisation under a Labour government have shot up 10% – while UK housebuilders beat that with a massive 14% gain for Persimmon. Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group are up more than 10% while Virgin Money has gained 17%.

US President Donald Trump said the UK and US would be free to strike a “massive” new trade deal after Brexit.

He said the agreement had the potential to be “far bigger and more lucrative” than any deal which could have been made with the EU.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “After three years of gridlock, the Prime Minister has a clear mandate to govern. Businesses across the UK urge him to use it to rebuild confidence in our economy and break the cycle of uncertainty. 

“Employers share the Prime Minister’s optimism for the UK and are ready to play a leading role. The starting point must be rebuilding business confidence, and early reassurance on Brexit will be vital.

“Firms will continue to do all they can to prepare for Brexit, but will want to know they won’t face another no deal cliff-edge next year. Pro-enterprise policies on immigration, infrastructure, innovation and skills, will help relaunch the UK on the world stage.”

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Small business owners will be hoping that today’s result helps to bring stability back to the economy. 

“After more than three years of Brexit absorbing government bandwidth, the Conservative Party has pledged to tackle the many domestic challenges that have been neglected during that time. 

“In the coming weeks we’ll see a Queen’s Speech and steps towards leaving the EU next month. Amid this, small businesses the length and breadth of the UK will be looking to the new government to achieve positive change for small firms in its first 100 days, not least with publication of a pro-business Budget in early February.”

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