Exit Polls Show Britain's Conservative Party On Track To Win Parliament Majority

Dec 12, 2019
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Exit polls show that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party are on track to win a substantial majority in Britain's Parliament. If that is confirmed, the result will have major implications for Brexit and the future of the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party is projected to win an additional 20 seats in the House of Commons, potentially strengthening their push for a second referendum on Scotland leaving the U.K. Now, to make sense of all this, we turn to our man in London, NPR's Frank Langfitt.

Hey there, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hi. I can hear - it's noisy behind you. Where are you talking to us from?

LANGFITT: It is. Actually, I'm at the London School of Economics. They always have this election night here. There are lots of experts. I come here for every election of which we have had many, many...

KELLY: Yes (laughter).

LANGFITT: ...Since I first got here about three and a half years ago.

KELLY: OK, so a big night there - we should stress this - we don't know if this is going to hold. The results are still being counted, still coming in. It sounds like a big victory for Boris...

LANGFITT: It does.

KELLY: ...Johnson. And I wonder, what are the implications? Does this mean Brexit is finally really going to happen?

LANGFITT: Yes, I think it does. I think that Boris Johnson promised to do this by the end of January. I think everyone expects that he'll be able to do this. He has the numbers that he needs finally. And, of course, remember. Theresa May tried this three times. She failed. But what it also means - it's such a big victory if these numbers hold, and the exit polls tend to be pretty accurate here, Mary Louise. He could be in power for five years. And what's going to be really interesting is - he talks about getting Brexit done. The fact of the matter is this is just a withdrawal agreement to get the United Kingdom out of the European Union. The next question is, how do they do a free trade agreement? Can they get it done in a relatively limited period of time? What would it look like - its impact on - particularly on the British economy? This gives him a lot more flexibility. He's not beholden to hardcore Brexiteers, maybe can do a much softer Brexit and, really, helps keep the United Kingdom closer to the EU economically.

KELLY: How did Boris Johnson do it? How'd they beat Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party?

LANGFITT: I think the way he did it - and we found this travelling all over, particularly England, in the last several weeks is - his message was get Brexit done; three words, very simple. There was Brexit fatigue not only with people who wanted to leave the EU. But even people who had voted to stay in the EU were just so tired of this. And they - and the sense of paralysis and stasis was really bothering a lot of people. And I think that it was a very sharp message that worked very well for him.

KELLY: I mentioned this big gain, it looks like, for the Scottish National Party. What would be the significance there? Yeah.

LANGFITT: That's fascinating. So I saw Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, up in Edinburgh - up in Glasgow, and she was campaigning, saying, give us these votes, and we will push for a second referendum. Her argument is, you know, we never wanted to leave the European Union. The Scots feel much more European than, say, the English. And she said now that we're basically being pulled out of the EU against our will, we want a second referendum to actually secede from the United Kingdom. This has a long way to go. The polls are still not quite in her favor to do this, but you could see a kind of a battle going on between Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon in the future. Johnson has said under no circumstances will he allow a second referendum.

KELLY: And briefly, Frank, are scribes there writing their political obituaries for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn? This is the second election in a row he's lost.

LANGFITT: Yeah, and this - and if these hold, it's a devastating loss for him and a big miscalculation how he ran the race. So I think we'll be very interested to see what he has to say later tonight or early tomorrow. But, yes, he - there are going to be some very hard conversations in the Labour Party.

KELLY: All right. NPR's Frank Langfitt in London.

Thank you, Frank.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.