UK exit poll: Conservatives may fall short of majority

In Thursday's vote, the Conservatives were set to win 314 seats, followed by Labour on 266, the Scottish National Party on 34 and the Liberal Democrats on 14, the exit poll for the BBC, Sky and ITV showed.

Former chancellor George Osborne said if the prediction was true it would be catastrophic for the prime minister.

The results have investors fretting about the prospect of more political turmoil less than a year after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

May, who went into the election with a reputation for quiet competence, was criticized for a lackluster campaigning style and for a plan to force elderly people to pay more for their care, a proposal her opponents dubbed the "dementia tax". The dominance of the Labour party also reflected in the elections for the Mayor of the London where Sadiq Khan, a child of an immigrant Pakistani, was chosen for the post. But even a slim Tory majority is unlikely to be convincing enough to suggest that Theresa May's election gamble has paid off.

On what Labour would do, she added: "We will see what happens next but if the Labour Party is called on to provide the next government, we will do so and do it in a unified way under a popular manifesto... with a leader who is strong". An agreement on a coalition was announced five days after the general election.

May herself had said during her campaign: "It's a fact that if we lose just six seats, we will lose our majority and Jeremy Corbyn will become prime minister", predicting that the Scottish Nationalists and Liberal Democrats would back him.

A party must control 326 to have a majority.

If no party wins a majority there is a "hung parliament" and the party with the most seats begins negotiations to see if it can command a majority.

But given the consensus expectation of a huge Tory victory in the popular vote, and of at least modest gains in the government's parliamentary majority, the exit poll numbers are a bit of a nasty shock (currency markets are already showing a drop in the value of the pound) to the conventional wisdom.

Brexit failed to emerge as a major issue in the campaign, as both the Conservatives and Labour said they would respect voters wishes and go through with the divorce.

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a pop concert in Manchester on May 22, killing 22 people. The ruling party now has 330 seats in parliament. As the polls suggested a tightening race, pollsters spoke less often of a landslide and raised the possibility that May's majority would be eroded. Police numbers across the United Kingdom were cut by 20,000 under May's watch as Home Secretary.

Last Saturday, three assailants wearing fake suicide vests mowed down pedestrians and launched a stabbing rampage around London Bridge, killing eight people before being shot dead by police. "If this is right, I think she should consider her position".

Still, May will face immediate demands from her own team to change the way she runs the government, according to Tory ministers, candidates and party officials, who asked not to named discussing internal affairs. The pound is getting hit in the aftermarket and that's probably a symptom of uncertainty. However, it said that it would be able to produce a more accurate forecast when 10 per cent of results were in, which will be around 0100 GMT.

"It's important, but it's only one issue amongst several", said 68-year-old Mike Peacroft.

  • Leroy Wright