Theresa May refuses to quit after general election losses

9 Jun

Theresa May will ask the Queen’s permission to form a government today despite the Tories suffering devastating losses when her election gamble backfired.

The Prime Minister will go to see the monarch at 12.30pm to make clear she intends to stay in power to push through Brexit – even though she has lost her Commons majority.

The defiant move comes as Mrs May faces open calls from her own MPs to ‘consider her position’, while a jubilant Jeremy Corbyn has demanded she make way for him to become PM.

Earlier, an ashen-faced and shaking Mrs May – who called the election three years early in a bid to capitalise on sky-high poll ratings – claimed the Conservatives have the right to stay in power because they are still the largest party with an expected 319 seats.

She insisted the country needed a ‘period of stability’, adding: ‘It is incumbent on us to ensure that we have that.’

But as the knives came out for Mrs May, former chancellor George Osborne lambasted her campaign performance as ‘wooden’ and her manifesto as a disaster, making clear he did not believe she could survive for long. Former minister Anna Soubry, who was reelected in Broxtowe, added her voice to calls for Mrs May to consider resigning. Asked exactly where the Tory campaign had gone wrong, Ms Soubry said bluntly: ‘Where do you want me to start?’ Another Tory MP, Nigel Evans, said the party had ‘shot ourselves in the head’.

Even the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 MPs Mrs May is set to rely on to keep her in Downing Street, said it would be ‘difficult’ for her to cling on.

With English and Welsh voters seemingly punishing Mrs May for calling the ballot unnecessarily, the only thing saving Mrs May from utter disaster overnight was the Tory performance in Scotland. The party’s leader north of the border, Ruth Davidson, inspired a 12-seat surge that ousted the SNP‘s former First Minister Alex Salmond in Gordon and Westminster leader Angus Robertson in Moray.

Prime Minister Theresa May addressed Tory activists in CCHQ after saying the party would try to cling on in government this morning despite losing its overall majority. She is pictured leaving the offices with husband Philip

Prime Minister Theresa May addressed Tory activists in CCHQ after saying the party would try to cling on in government this morning despite losing its overall majority. She is pictured leaving the offices with husband Philip

Prime Minister Theresa May addressed Tory activists in CCHQ after saying the party would try to cling on in government this morning despite losing its overall majority. She is pictured leaving the offices with husband Philip

Mrs May was guided into Conservative HQ by husband Philip this morning after her humiliation in the election

Mrs May was guided into Conservative HQ by husband Philip this morning after her humiliation in the election

Mrs May was guided into Conservative HQ by husband Philip this morning after her humiliation in the election

Mr Corbyn demanded that Mrs May quit so that he could try to form a government

Mr Corbyn demanded that Mrs May quit so that he could try to form a government

As he walked into his Islington North count this morning, Mr Corbyn said: 'Welcome to the Labour parliament.'

As he walked into his Islington North count this morning, Mr Corbyn said: 'Welcome to the Labour parliament.'

As he walked into his Islington North count this morning, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Welcome to the Labour parliament.’ He later demanded that Mrs May quit so that he could try to form a government

The pound slumped on the bombshell news overnight, as markets had priced in a solid Conservative victory

The pound slumped on the bombshell news overnight, as markets had priced in a solid Conservative victory

With one seat left to count, the Conservatives are set to be on 318, with Labour on 261, the SNP on 35 and the Lib Dems on 12 (pictured right)

With one seat left to count, the Conservatives are set to be on 318, with Labour on 261, the SNP on 35 and the Lib Dems on 12 (pictured right)

The pound slumped on the bombshell news overnight (left) as markets had priced on a Tory victory. With one seat left to count, the Conservatives are set to be on 318, with Labour on 261, the SNP on 35 and the Lib Dems on 12 (pictured right)

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After another political rollercoaster ride overnight, the Conservatives are on track to wind up with 319 MPs, Labour 261, the SNP 35 and the Lib Dems 14. For an absolutely majority a party needs 326 seats out of the 650 in the Commons – although taking into account the impartial Speaker and the fact that Sinn Fein does not take up its seats, 320 is enough.

Mrs May has struck a broad deal with the DUP, which is broadly in line with the Tories on most issues, that pushes her over the threshold.

A No10 spokesman said: ‘The PM will visit Buckingham Palace at 12.30pm today to seek permission from the Queen to form a government.’  

In yet another rollercoaster ride of political drama overnight:

  • London was a horrorshow for the Conservatives, with Education Secretary Justine Greening only just hanging on in Putney and Treasury minister Jane Ellison losing in Battersea after a 10 per cent swing to Labour. But Zac Goldsmith squeaked back in Richmond Park by just 45 votes.
  • In total eight minister have been ousted, including Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer from Ipswich, Gavin Barwell from Croydon Central, Nicola Blackwood from Oxford West, Rob Wilson from Reading East, Simon Kirby from Brighton Kemptown, Edward Timpson in Crewe & Nantwich, and James Wharton from Stockton South. 
  • The SNP endured a dreadful night with their numbers at Westminster forecast to plummet from 54 to 34. The party’s former First Minister Alex Salmond lost Gordon, and Westminster leader Angus Robertson was defeated in Moray.
  • Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he would have ‘absolutely no choice’ but to return to active politics if the result meant Brexit was under threat. ‘We may well be looking down the barrel of a second referendum,’ he said. 
  • The Liberal Democrats are set to get 12 seats, up from nine, despite widespread expectations that they would be put to the sword after a dire campaign. Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg lost Sheffield Hallam to Labour – but former business secretary Vince Cable fared better as he made a comeback in Twickenham and Ed Davey is returning in Kingston and Surbiton.
  • The pound tumbled dramatically against the US dollar and the euro as markets had priced in a solid Tory victory. 

Mr Corbyn today repeated his demand for Mrs May’s resignation, adding he and party were ‘ready to serve’. He insisted: ‘That’s what we fought the election for.’

He said: ‘We are offering to put forward the programme on which we fought the electon. We are there as the Labour Party… everyone can see the huge increase in our support.’

MAY GETS FIRST SHOT AT FORMING NEW GOVERNMENT

The Tories getting a handful more MPs than was initially forecast could be crucial to their prospects of staying in power.

With 650 MPs in Parliament, 326 seats are needed for an absolute majority.

But in practice, a working majority requires just 320 MPs, as the Speaker does not vote and Sinn Fein has so far declined to take up its seats.

Whereas the exit poll showed she could only have 314 MPs, Mrs May is on track to end up with 318, or possibly 319 – within touching distance of the magic figure. 

The support of 10 DUP MPs should allow them to pass a Queen’s Speech and Budget, although the Ulster party will demand significant concessions.

Ironically, the Brexit-supporting party was determined to maintain the pensions triple lock and keep universal winter fuel payments – contradicting some of the most controversial parts of the Tory manifesto. 

The first big test will be the Queen’s Speech on June 19.

Only if Mrs May falls short will Labour get to try forming a government. 

Mr Corbyn said Parliament should meet on schedule and MPs would then have a vote – but refused to concede Mrs May had the right to present her Queen’s Speech as the leading party and the incumbent, as constitutional convention demands.

The Labour leader could force a vote on his own plans by tabling an amendment to Mrs May’s Queen’s Speech. 

In a victory speech after winning Islington North for the ninth time, Mr Corbyn said: ‘This election was called by the Prime Minister to gain a large majority in order to assert her authority.

‘The election campaign has gone on for the last six weeks, I have travelled the whole country and you know what: politics has changed.

‘Politics is not going back into the box where it was before. What has happened is people have said they have had quite enough of austerity politics, they have had quite enough of the underfunding of the health service, underfunding our schools and education service.’

He added: ‘I am very proud of the results coming in around the country tonight, of people voting for hope, hope for the future and turning their backs on austerity.

‘If there is a message from tonight’s result it is this: the Prime Minister called the election, she wanted a mandate.

‘The mandate she has got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence.

‘I would have thought that was enough to go and make way for a government that will be truly representative of the people of this country.’

But speaking at her own count in Maidenhead, a clearly shaken Mrs May said: ‘As we look ahead and wait to see what the final results will be, I know – as I say – the country needs a period of stability and whatever the results are the Conservative Party will ensure we fulfil our duty in ensuring that stability so that we can all, as one country, go forward together.’ 

Tory sources indicated she would continue in Number 10.

‘Certainly that’s what’s expected,’ a source said. 

Despite Tory hopes they would be the biggest winners from a massive Ukip collapse, the exit poll at 10pm last night indicated Labour had hoovered up a big chunk of the vote. It said the Conservatives were on track to lose 16 seats, leaving them on 314 and well short of a majority – while Labour was up from 232 to 266.

However, things quickly looked even more grim for Mrs May, with Education Secretary Justine Greening barely clinging on in Putney and Treasury minister Jane Ellison losing Battersea amid a London meltdown.

Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer was defeated in Ipswich, and there has also been a miserable showing in Wales, while Home Secretary Amber Rudd barely survived by 300 votes after a recount in her Hastings seat. Canterbury – which has been Tory for a century – also went to Mr Corbyn’s party.

With almost all declarations in, the Tories are on track to end up with 319 seats to Labour’s 267 – just about enough for a workable majority, but many are expecting the final tally to be lower.

There are fears that a hung parliament could throw Britain into chaos barely a week before negotiations with the EU are due to get under way. 

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he was ready to return to politics, warning that he feared a second referendum on Brexit.

The exit poll was greeted with disbelief on social media, with Gary Lineker branding it the ‘biggest own goal’ in history. Piers Morgan said the PM was ‘toast’.

Initially there were doubts about whether the forecast – which interviewed 30,450 people as they left 144 polling stations across the UK – would turn out to be accurate.

YouGov’s Peter Kellner told BBC News he still believed the Tories could end up with a majority of ’30 or 40′.

Prof Curtice – who organised the poll – conceded there was margin for error and it was possible Mrs May would end up with a majority of 30.

But in the final analysis the Conservatives did indeed fall significantly short of the 326 needed for majority.

Mr Osborne said the numbers were ‘catastrophic’ and cast doubt on Mrs May’s future.

The Evening Standard editor, who was brutally sacked from the Cabinet by Mrs May when she took office last July, lambasted the PM for her ‘terrible manifesto’ and ‘wooden campaign’. 

But he added that Mr Corbyn might have been the Conservatives’ saving grace as another Labour leader could have won.

An ashen-faced Prime Minister insisted the country needed a ‘period of stability’ and claimed her party was still on track to have the most MPs

Mrs May said it was 'incumbent' on her party to stay on in government if it received the most seats in the election

Mrs May said it was 'incumbent' on her party to stay on in government if it received the most seats in the election

Mrs May said it was ‘incumbent’ on her party to stay on in government if it received the most seats in the election

The SNP's former First Minister Alex Salmond was humiliatingly ousted from his Gordon seat by the Conservatives

The SNP's former First Minister Alex Salmond was humiliatingly ousted from his Gordon seat by the Conservatives

The SNP’s former First Minister Alex Salmond was humiliatingly ousted from his Gordon seat by the Conservatives

Security seemed to have been stepped up outside Mr Corbyn's London home today in the wake of his surge in the polls

Security seemed to have been stepped up outside Mr Corbyn's London home today in the wake of his surge in the polls

Security seemed to have been stepped up outside Mr Corbyn’s London home today in the wake of his surge in the polls

‘Theresa May is probably going to be one of the shortest serving prime ministers in our history,’ he told ITV.

Mr Osborne also raised the prospect that the Brexit process could now be totally different due to the results. ‘Hard Brexit went in the rubbish bin tonight,’ he said.

His point was underlined by former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, who said he believed the EU would simply ignore Mrs May because she was not likely to last long. 

‘The prime minister has to stay as prime minister for now,’ he told the BBC.

‘I think those negotiations on Brexit will be non- existent. It takes two sides to negotiate. The EU will say ‘who are we negotiating with? Is this a prime minister who is going to be around for very much time. What’s their position?’ 

Ms Soubry made no effort to conceal her anger at Mrs May when asked whether she should resign.

‘That’s a matter for her. It’s bad. I think she in a very difficult place. She’s a remarkable woman and a very talented woman but she now has to consider her position,’ she said.

EU WARNS WEAKER PM WILL UNDERMINE BREXIT PROCESS 

The EU’s Budget Commissioner has warned that a weakened UK government could undermine the Brexit process.

Gunther Oettinger told German radio station Deutschlandfunk that in negotiations, ‘a weaker partner weakens the whole thing’.

If both sides in a negotiation were strong, ‘you get results more quickly.’

Mr Oettinger said that the European Union was ready for Brexit talks which are due to begin on June 19.

But he warned that time was running out to reach an agreement which could be approved by all 27 remaining governments within the two-year deadline set out in Article 50.

Theresa May’s decision to hold a snap election had delayed matters, he said: ‘There is only 15 or 16 months left.’

She added: ‘Theresa did put her mark on this campaign and she takes responsibility, she always does and I know she will, for the running of the campaign as well.

‘It was a tightly knit group and it was her group who ran this campaign’ 

Katie Perrior, Mrs May’s former director of communications at 10 Downing Street, said it would be ‘incredibly difficult’ for her former boss to stay as Conservative leader.

She told Sky News: ‘It depends whether or not the Conservative Party says ‘Look, we’re 10 days away from the start of the Brexit negotiations, what we need right now is a stable leader to rally around but we will look at this in a month or two and come back to it’.

‘But that is whether or not they’re willing to do that.

‘There are a lot of bruised people out there this morning … they’re bruised because they may have had lower majorities or indeed they’ve got friends who have lost their seats.’

Ms Perrior said it was ‘damaging’ for Mrs May not to take part in the televised debates, adding: ‘I think the communications for the campaign have been pretty awful.’

But Brexit Secretary David Davis said he would ‘fight tooth and nail’ to keep Mrs May in post, and dismissed suggestions he might be a contender to replace her.

‘The simple truth is we have a Prime Minister, she is a very good leader, I’m a big supporter of hers,’ Mr Davis told the Press Association.

‘I’ll fight tooth and nail to keep her in place.’

In his victory speech as he was re-elected MP for West Bromwich East, deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said: ‘Theresa May’s authority has been undermined by this election.

‘She is a damaged Prime Minister whose reputation may never recover.’

Labour’s John McDonnell said the result would ‘change the nature of politics’ in the UK.

‘I tell you why – if you listen to what people are saying, Theresa May promised on seven different occasions that she wouldn’t go for a snap general election,’ he told the BBC.

‘And she went for it on the basis that she wanted to secure a mandate that she already had. People just saw through that. 

‘They saw this as an election which was for party advantage rather than the interests of the country. And it looks as though they’ve rejected her as a result.’ 

Mrs Thornberry went on the attack, saying: ‘Just think only seven weeks ago the hubris of the Prime Minister who was 20 points ahead, who wanted to have a blank cheque, she wanted to do whatever she wanted with the country with Brexit, with the economy, with our National Health Service and we said no and we meant it.

‘And we put forward a popular manifesto with a leader of the party who has withstood the most extraordinary personal attacks, and has actually shown if anybody was strong and stable it was him.

Former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s political humiliation was completed when he lost his Sheffield Hallam seat today

Nicola Sturgeon had a bruising election with the SNP losing more than a dozen MPs, mainly to the Tories

Nicola Sturgeon had a bruising election with the SNP losing more than a dozen MPs, mainly to the Tories

Nicola Sturgeon had a bruising election with the SNP losing more than a dozen MPs, mainly to the Tories

The blue surge north of the border was driven by Ruth Davidson, who has managed to revive the Tories' fortunes after decades in the doldrums

The blue surge north of the border was driven by Ruth Davidson, who has managed to revive the Tories' fortunes after decades in the doldrums

The blue surge north of the border was driven by Ruth Davidson, who has managed to revive the Tories’ fortunes after decades in the doldrums

As the EU reacted to the news, German MEP Manfred Weber said Mrs May had ‘brought chaos’ to the UK (left) while the EU parliament’s chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said she had scored ‘yet another own goal’ 

‘And this is a great result, if it’s true.’

Ms Thornberry said Mrs May should ‘consider her position’ as she will have ‘manifestly failed’ if the exit poll turns out to be correct.

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.’ 

TURNOUT UP FOR GENERAL ELECTION 

Reports indicate that turnout is up by three points on the General Election in 2015. 

By the end of the night, it may hit pre-1997 levels, of around 70 per cent.  

After 131 results, the turnout stood at 67.31 per cent, an increase of 2.28 per cent. 

Total turnout for 2015 was 66.1 per cent. 

Some constituencies reporting a high level of turnout include:

Tooting, 74 per cent, up from 70 per cent in 2015

Macclesfield, 72 per cent, up from 69.5 per cent

Oxford West and Abingdon, up 79.6 per cent from 71.8 in 2015

Mr Osborne told ITV he doubted that any party would be able to form a stable government.

‘If the poll is anything like accurate this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,’ he said.

‘It’s difficult to see, if these numbers are right, how they would put together the coalition to remain in office.

‘But equally it’s quite difficult to see how Labour could put together a coalition.

‘It’s on a real knife-edge.’

He added: ‘Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government then she I doubt will survive in the long term as Conservative party leader.’ 

Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls, appearing alongside Mr Osborne on ITV tonight, predicted ‘another general election soon’.

Ed Miliband, who stood down as Labour leader following election defeat in 2015, says: ‘We know Theresa May can’t now negotiate Brexit for Britain because she told us losing a majority would destroy her authority, and it has.’ 

As the results flowed in, it soon became clear that both Labour and the Tories had gobbled up votes from the smaller parties.

But in defiance of expectations, Ukip support did not appear to have flowed wholesale to Mrs May. Instead the picture was highly localised. 

In Newcastle Central, Labour’s vote was up 9.9 per cent and the Tories’ 5.7 per cent, while Ukip fell 10.9 per cent. That equated to a 2.1 per cent swing from the Conservatives to Labour

But bafflingly, in Houghton & Sunderland South there was 3.5 per cent swing from Labour to Tories.

In Sunderland Central there was a 2.3 per cent swing towards the Tories, and in Sunderland West the figure was 2.1 per cent. All four were ultra safe seats for Labour.

RECORD 192 FEMALE MPS ARE ELECTED 

A record high of 192 female MPs have been elected.

There were 191 women in the last parliament, accounting for 29.4 per cent of MPs. 

And that was a big improvement on 2010, when 143 women were elected – at the time a record high.

In Sunderland South there was a 3.5 per cent move from Labour to the Conservatives – the opposite to what the exit poll found. In Sunderland Central there was a 2.3 per cent swing to the Tories. 

The Conservatives held Swindon North, but their majority was reduced as Labour picked up votes.

The swings raised Tory hopes that they could outperform the exit poll.  

But as time went on, it became clear that they had not won any of the crucial seats – like Darlington or Wrexham – they needed to secure an overall majority.

They also lost key battlegrounds like Bury North and Enfield Southgate. 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd survived by the skin of her teeth in Hastings, winning by around 300 votes after a full recount. But Canterbury fell to Labour for the first time in a century.

London was a horrorshow for the Conservatives as the Remain-backing city turned on a slew of MPs.

Education Secretary Justine Greening only just managed to hang on in Putney, and Treasury minister Jane Ellison lost in Battersea after a 10 per cent swing to Labour. 

Ruth Davidson inspired a huge surge for the Tories north of the border that effectively saved the party from an even worse election night  

Ruth Davidson inspired a huge surge for the Tories north of the border that effectively saved the party from an even worse election night  

Ruth Davidson inspired a huge surge for the Tories north of the border that effectively saved the party from an even worse election night  

The shock exit poll flew in the face of research during the campaign that consistently gave the Tories a big lead

The shock exit poll flew in the face of research during the campaign that consistently gave the Tories a big lead

The shock exit poll flew in the face of research during the campaign that consistently gave the Tories a big lead

Labour's Bridget Phillipson won the Houghton & Sunderland South seat in one of the first results to declare, as ominous signs emerged for the Tories

Labour's Bridget Phillipson won the Houghton & Sunderland South seat in one of the first results to declare, as ominous signs emerged for the Tories

Labour’s Bridget Phillipson won the Houghton & Sunderland South seat in one of the first results to declare, as ominous signs emerged for the Tories

Sunderland is traditionally one of the earliest seats to declare its results. It is a safe Labour constituency

Sunderland is traditionally one of the earliest seats to declare its results. It is a safe Labour constituency

Sunderland is traditionally one of the earliest seats to declare its results. It is a safe Labour constituency

Former chancellor George Osborne , pictured acting as a pundit for ITV alongside former political foe Ed Balls last night, said the forecast appeared to be 'catastrophic' for the Tories

Former chancellor George Osborne , pictured acting as a pundit for ITV alongside former political foe Ed Balls last night, said the forecast appeared to be 'catastrophic' for the Tories

Former chancellor George Osborne , pictured acting as a pundit for ITV alongside former political foe Ed Balls last night, said the forecast appeared to be ‘catastrophic’ for the Tories

In total eight minister have been ousted, including Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer from Ipswich, Gavin Barwell from Croydon Central, Nicola Blackwood from Oxford West, Rob Wilson from Reading East, Simon Kirby from Brighton Kempton, Edward Timpson from Crewe and Nantwich, and James Wharton from Stockton South.

CURTICE’S EXIT POLL PROVES RIGHT AGAIN

The exit poll commissioned by the BBC, Sky and ITV is a vast, secretive exercise overseen by elections expert Professor John Curtice.

It was carried out by NOP/Ipsos MORI and asked 30,450 people at 144 polling stations how they voted in today’s general election – far more than the normal 1,000 person sample. 

The data was all filtered back to an election centre in London.

In recent elections exit polls have been close to the result – getting it almost exactly right in 2001, 2005 and 2010.

The exit poll stunned Westminster in 2015 by showing David Cameron as on course for victory after a campaign thought to have been neck and neck.

Historically the record is more mixed. 

In 1992 it pointed to a hung parliament, but the result was a slim Tory majority.

In October 1974, the exit poll predicted a majority of 132 for Harold Wilson – he actually secured a majority of 3. 

There was no exit poll after the EU referendum last year – one of the reasons the final result was a shock.

Mrs May called the election seven weeks ago while enjoying record-breaking advantages and was never thought to be behind during the campaign.

The loss of seats will raise immediate questions about who is best placed to take the country forward.

There could now be days or even weeks of political horse-trading before the final form of the next government is settled.

With 650 MPs in Parliament, 326 seats are needed for an absolute majority in the House of Commons.

But in practice, a working majority requires just 320 MPs, as the Speaker does not vote and Sinn Fein has so far declined to take up its seats.

Mrs May would be able to pass this crucial figure with the support of the DUP but the Ulster party will demand significant concessions in return for propping up her administration.

The Brexit-supporting party has boosted its number to 10 with two gains, giving it a potentially pivotal role.

If that cannot be made to work, Mr Corbyn could seek a ‘rainbow coalition’ with other parties like the Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party’s sole MP in an effort to secure numbers.

But in sharp contrast to 2010, a whole series of parties have already forsworn any involvement in a formal coalition.

Other arrangements short of a coalition could involve a ‘supply and confidence’ agreement under which smaller parties would pledge to back the Government’s budget and programme without taking up ministerial positions in the new administration.

Failing those options, the Tories or Labour could attempt to form a minority government and win support on a vote-by-vote basis.

The first big deadline is the Queen’s Speech on June 19, when the sovereign will unveil a new legislative programme. 

Even though Brexit talks are looming and the timetable for getting a deal is fixed, the nation could be forced to head back to the polls within months.

There has already been a major backlash about Mrs May’s campaign – which was widely regarded as the party’s worst since 2001.

CENTURY OF TORY RULE IN CANTERBURY IS OVER 

The snap election caused a stir in Canterbury today after a non-Conservative MP was elected to the seat for the first time in 100 years.

The constituency as it is known today was formed in 1918 after the narrow parliamentary borough (which existed from 1295) was widened to form the Canterbury County constituency.

Prior to this, Canterbury had been under Conservative control since 1841.

Between 1295 and 1841, the seat was held by both the Conservatives, Whig and the Liberal Democrats.

Ronald McNeill was the first Conservative MP to hold the seat of the newly-formed Canterbury county seat. From then, it was classed as a Tory ‘safe’ seat.

More recently, Sir Julian Brazier was elected as the MP for Canterbury in 1987 and has held the seat for the past 30 years.

However, today Labour candidate Rosie Duffield was elected as the MP for the constituency by a tiny margin of just 187 votes.

The Conservative manifesto backfired after measures to curb costs of social care were branded a ‘Dementia Tax’, forcing Mrs May to perform a painful public U-turn.

There was also significant fallout from the PM’s decision to refuse to take part in televised debates. 

Meanwhile, she was ridiculed for her robotic repetition of the phrase ‘strong and stable’ and refusal to answer questions directly. 

Meanwhile, Mr Corbyn was seen to have performed above expectations, with the Labour manifesto being relatively well received and the leader even managing to dress more smartly.

As a result the polls narrowed dramatically over the course of the past three weeks, with some showing the gap down to as little as a single point.

But Tories had pinned their hopes on the veteran left-winger’s track record of supporting the IRA during the 1980s, refusal to back the nuclear deterrent, and soft stance on terrorism continued to dog him. 

There were also a series of car-crash interviews by shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, ending when he was forced to sideline her from the post citing ‘illness’.

Just yesterday a final model produced by Lord Ashcroft suggested Tory support has ‘hardened’ in recent days and Mrs May was on course for a majority of 96.

This would have been a substantial increase on the majority of 12 seats the Tories got in the 2015 election. 

The latest figures from Lord Ashcroft were based on surveys carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday which showed that Tory supporters indicated that they were more likely to go out and vote than they had in previous surveys. 

Mrs May shocked the the nation when she called the snap election in a surprise speech on the steps of no 10 in April.

She described the election as the most important in her lifetime and stressed that only she can be trusted to stand up to Brussels and deliver Brexit.

But the campaign was overshadowed by the terror attacks in Manchester and London.

Mr Corbyn has claimed that he has changed the face of British politics by putting forward a tax and spend manifesto which exerts said is the most left-wing in the party’s history.

Prof John Curtice - who ran the exit poll - admitted it was possible the Tories could have a 30 seat majority

Prof John Curtice - who ran the exit poll - admitted it was possible the Tories could have a 30 seat majority

Former YouGov chief Peter Kellner suggested if the outcomes from Newcastle Central and Houghton & Sunderland South were replicated across the country the Conservatives could actually romp home

Former YouGov chief Peter Kellner suggested if the outcomes from Newcastle Central and Houghton & Sunderland South were replicated across the country the Conservatives could actually romp home

Former YouGov chief Peter Kellner (pictured right) initially raised doubts about whether the exit poll was right but it ended up being very close to the final result

MAY LED A ‘DREADFUL’ CAMPAIGN, SAYS EX MINISTER 

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry (pictured on the BBC this morning)  led the charge against Theresa May 

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry (pictured on the BBC this morning)  led the charge against Theresa May 

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry (pictured on the BBC this morning)  led the charge against Theresa May 

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry led the charge against the embattled Theresa May this morning as she condemned a ‘dreadful’ Tory campaign.

Ms Soubry slammed the Tory campaign for sending out negative messages on key policies like free school meals and social care. 

Ms Soubry added: ‘Theresa did pit her mark on this campaign and she takes responsibility, she always does and I know she will, for the running of the campaign as well.

‘It was a tightly knit group and it was her group who ran this campaign’ 

Criticising the Conservative manifesto, Ms Soubry said: ‘When you talk about the changes we’re going to make to school lunches, you start with the plan that says children from poorer families will now get two free meals a day, you don’t start from the basis that some children will lose a free school meal.

‘All the way along those of messaging were appalling. And then you had the change of heart on social care deeply flawed Theresa May.

‘She didn’t look the strong and stable leader Prime Minister and leader she said she was and that was a very difficult and very serious blow in terms of her own credibility.’

Brexit is at risk: Farage warns UK faces second referendum

Nigel Farage today warned Britain is ‘staring down the barrel’ of a second Brexit referendum ifJeremy Corbyn pulls off an unlikely election victory.

The former Ukip leader claimed the mission of getting Britain out of the EU could prove to be ‘unfinished business’.

Mr Farage told the BBC he was reluctant to return to the political front lines but that he was prepared to do so if needed to defend Brexit. 

Ukip’s vote evaporated tonight as the results emerged but split between Labour and the Tories in defiance of expectations it would flood to Mrs May.  

Brexit talks are due to begin in Brussels in just 10 days time.

If Labour do seize power, they plan to scrap all the work done on Mrs May‘s Brexit mission and push for a softer deal on quitting the EU. 

Nigel Farage (pictured in London tonight) vowed to make a shock return to the political front line if Jeremy Corbyn pulls off an unlikely election victory

Nigel Farage (pictured in London tonight) vowed to make a shock return to the political front line if Jeremy Corbyn pulls off an unlikely election victory

Nigel Farage (pictured in London tonight) vowed to make a shock return to the political front line if Jeremy Corbyn pulls off an unlikely election victory

Mr Farage told the BBC:  ‘What a huge error to pick a Remainer to lead a Brexit party at a Brexit election.

‘Massive mistake, but I think that if we do get Corbyn coalition then Brexit is in some trouble.’

Asked whether he would return to the fray if Brexit was in trouble, Mr Farage added: ‘I would have absolutely no choice but to do exactly that.’

He added: ‘He’s not going to be able to build a government on his own, but if we get a coalition with the SNP and whoever else we may well be looking down the barrel of a second referendum.’

He added: ‘I think let’s say the other result happens, May scrapes through with a majority or forms a minority government, I’m not sure her credibility is going to be very strong in Brussels.

‘The timetable, whatever happens here, is likely to get pushed back.’ 

 

 

 

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