British PM Johnson wins historic election, hails ‘new dawn’ of end to Brexit deadlock

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday secured a thumping victory in the UK’s most dramatic General Election in decades, ending months of political uncertainty and setting the country on course to leave the European Union in the New Year.

Addressing a victory rally in London as a 363-plus haul of seats confirmed the Conservatives’ most emphatic majority since the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher, Johnson hailed a “new dawn” which “unarguably” broke the Brexit deadlock and vowed not to let down the “sacred trust” placed in him by the voters.

“We did it, we pulled it off didn’t we? We broke the deadlock, we ended the gridlock, we smashed the roadblock,” said the 55-year-old Tory leader, who was accompanied by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds and their pet dog Dilyn as the results poured in.

“With this election I think we’ve put an end to all those miserable threats of a second referendum,” he said, as he got the crowd to repeat “Get Brexit Done” numerous times during an energetic victory speech.

Johnson will soon have an audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, which will mark the formal start of his new government.

Earlier, he had won his own seat in London’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip, where he hailed the projected win for his 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,” he said.

Johnson said that 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 Opposition Labour was down to just 203 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, a disastrous performance for the party in decades 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 70-year-old Corbyn as he won his own seat in London’s Islington North constituency.

It marked a crushing defeat, which is almost entirely being 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.

Labour, which headed for its worst performances since 1935 as the so-called “red wall” of the party’s heartlands towards the north of England suffered significant knockdowns, conceded that voters seemed to have voted strongly on the basis of Brexit.

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 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. (AGENCIES)