Preliminary results and exit polls show the Conservative Party making a better-than-expected showing in the United Kingdom’s general election, keeping prime minister David Cameron in power. Ed Miliband’s Labour Party had a much rougher night, and is on track to lose all of its seats in its former stronghold of Scotland to the pro-independence Scottish National Party.
An exit poll conducted by NOP/MORI for the BBC, ITV and Sky news channels predicted 316 seats for the Conservatives (an increase of nine), 239 for Labour (a decrease of 19), and 58 for the SNP (up by a whopping 52). The Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in the Conservative governing coalition, were projected to win only 10 seats, down from 47 seats before the election. Final results are not due in until the morning of Friday, May 8 in Britain.
As the evening progressed, the tide shifted even further in the Conservatives’ favor: The BBC projects that the party will win 329 seats, giving the Tories an outright majority. Most polls and analysts had expected that the Conservatives would be required to seek a coalition partner among the Lib Dems, UK Independence Party, or another small party.
The election results increase the likelihood of two major referendums in the coming years: A vote on whether the UK should stay in the European Union, long a goal of the Conservative Party; and another vote on Scottish independence, which is the central policy goal of the SNP.
Ed Miliband is widely expected to step down as Labour leader following the party’s dismal results. “The results are still coming in, but this has clearly been a very disappointing and difficult night for the Labour party,” he said. “We haven’t made the gains we wanted in England and Wales and in Scotland we’ve seen a surge of nationalism overwhelm our party. Now, I want to say to all the dedicated and decent colleagues in Scotland who have lost their seats that I am deeply sorry for what has happened.”
Traders were cheered by the election results, which suggests a much clearer result than pre-election surveys. The pound jumped sharply on news of the exit poll.