London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday won the historic UK General Election as his Conservative Party crossed the 326-mark required for a majority in Parliament, marking a victory for his "Get Brexit Done" message and setting the UK on course to leave the European Union (EU) in the New Year.
Johnson, who won his own seat in London's Uxbridge and South Ruislip, hailed the projected win for his Conservative Party as a “powerful new mandate” to move forward with his deal to leave the 28-member economic bloc.
"It does look as though this One Nation Conservative government has been given a powerful new mandate to get Brexit done – and not just to get Brexit done but to unite this country and to take it forward,” said the 55-year-old Tory leader in his winner's speech after the results in his constituency were declared.
While stressing that the final tally is yet to be confirmed, he said the election would give him 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”.
The latest projections put the Johnson-led Conservatives at around 363, but the party can safely celebrate its victory as it comfortably crossed over the half-way finish line for the 650-member House of Commons.
The Opposition Labour is projected to get 203 seats, a disastrous performance for the party which resulted in leader Jeremy Corbyn announcing that he would be stepping down.
"It has been a very disappointing night for Labour... I will not lead the party in any future General Election campaign,” said Corbyn, as he won his own seat in London's Islington North constituency.
Labour is set for a crushing defeat which is almost entirely likely to be blamed on Corbyn's leadership and his failure to take a clear stance on Brexit as well as counter growing allegations of anti-semitism within the party ranks.
A perceived anti-India stance since the party passed an emergency motion calling for international intervention in Kashmir is also likely to have swayed some of its traditional connect with Indian diaspora voters.
The Conservatives have taken a string of former Labour strongholds, with Labour having lost seats in the north of England, Midlands and Wales in areas that voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.
The first sign of what the results held in store came with a definitive exit poll released at the close of voting at 2200 GMT on Thursday, which predicted the Johnson-led Conservative Party winning 368 seats, with the Labour Party way down at 191 in a predominantly Tory blue versus Labour red contest.
“This has been a hard-fought election in a very cold time of the year because we needed a functioning Conservative majority,” said Priti Patel, the senior-most Indian-origin minister in Johnson's last Cabinet, in response to the exit poll.
“We are committed to deliver on priorities and getting Brexit done is a priority. The deal is there, we want to move forward,” she said.
The first couple of results were some relief for the Labour Party as its candidates clinched the traditionally held Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Central and Houghton and Sunderland South seats, albeit with reduced majority.
But then came the first big upset of the night as the Blyth Valley constituency echoed the exit poll results and handed over a significant gain to the Conservatives, which grabbed the so-called Labour heartland seat which had been with the party since the 1950s.
Polling stations across all constituencies of the United Kingdom – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – where a total of 3,322 candidates were standing began the count right after the polls closed, with the final tally expected to begin taking shape in the early hours of Friday.
The snap election had been called by Johnson in a bid to win a majority for his Conservative Party and break the Commons deadlock over Brexit.
It resulted in the UK's first December General Election in nearly a century and saw voters brave a cold and blustery winter's day to queue outside polling stations to cast their vote in what had been pegged as the most important election “in a generation”.
This also marked the UK's third General Election in less than five years and the second since the UK voted to leave the EU in the June 2016 referendum.
Johnson, who had taken over from Theresa May earlier this year with a pledge to meet the October 31 Brexit deadline, was constantly frustrated with a lack of majority in the Commons.
During the course of the campaign, he focused relentlessly on the "Get Brexit Done" message, promising to take the UK out of the EU by the new 31 January 2020 deadline if he was handed the mandate from the electorate.
In contrast, his main rival for No 10 Downing Street, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, had promised voters another referendum with a choice between a renegotiated Brexit deal and remaining in the economic bloc.
But the party primarily campaigned on a promise to end Tory budget cuts by increasing spending on public services and the state-funded National Health Service (NHS), a strategy which it would seem failed to make a dent in the polls.