Overnight, the stunning exit polls and early results predicting a major Conservative Party victory in the British general election gave way to a triumphant final tally for Prime Minister David Cameron’s party. According to a BBC forecast, “the Conservatives will end up [with] 331 seats in the House of Commons,” crossing the threshold for a majority in the 650-seat parliament.
On Thursday morning, when voting first began, the final pre-election polls showed a neck-and-neck race between Conservatives (or Tories) and the Labour Party, leading some to anticipate that no party would win an outright majority for the second straight election and that it would take days or weeks to figure out who would lead the British government.
Instead, by Friday morning, Cameron was on his way to Buckingham Palace to be invited to form a government by Queen Elizabeth II, and most of Cameron’s rivals—Ed Miliband (Labour), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats), and Nigel Farage (UKIP)—had resigned their leadership posts.
"I think this is the sweetest victory of all," Cameron said on Thursday evening, after becoming the first Conservative prime minister to win re-election since Margaret Thatcher—and leading the party to its first majority in parliament since 1992. Meanwhile, the Scottish National Party proved the only party to match pre-election prognostications, scoring 56 seats to become the third-largest party in Parliament.
Exit polls indicating a surprisingly strong showing by the Conservative (Tory) Party in Britain’s general election on Thursday appear to match the early results.
“Three hours later and—based on the first results—if anything the exit poll may well have underestimated the number of seats the Tories will win and overestimated Labour’s share,” writes Alberto Nardelli at The Guardian. “It’s not even out of the question that [British Prime Minister David] Cameron may get an overall majority.” Other projections show the Tories on track to win 300 seats in Parliament—
Support for the Scottish National Party also seems to be tracking with exit polls, which would make it the third-largest party in Parliament with 58 seats and perhaps create unprecedented pressure for Scottish independence. One of the winners from the SNP is 20-year-old Mhairi Black, who defeated Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign minister and Labour Party campaign manager, to become the youngest person to serve in Parliament in 350 years, according to the BBC.
At an event in Glasgow, SNP head Nicola Sturgeon told supporters, “I think the results we may be about to see unfold in Scotland tonight show that the anti-austerity message that the SNP put at the heart of this campaign has resonated across Scotland.”
Meanwhile, the British pound also appears to be gaining in response to the result. “The British currency advanced 1 percent to $1.5399 at 1:21 a.m. London time,” Bloomberg Business reported, “the biggest jump since March 20.”
On Thursday, British voters went to the polls to vote in an election that many predicted would be a dead heat between Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party and Ed Miliband's opposition Labour Party. The future of the country's EU membership and, perhaps, Scottish independence were among the issues at stake.
The first exit polls were released on Thursday evening, though a final vote tally is not yet available. Defying the pre-election expectations of a close race, one poll suggested that the Conservatives had won nearly a majority of the seats in the lower house of parliament.
Differing Exit Polls
An exit poll commissioned by the BBC, ITV, and Sky News predicted Cameron’s party would win 316 seats in parliament, just short of the 326 seats needed for a parliamentary majority, with Labour securing 239 seats. Reuters noted that the poll also predicted the Scottish National Party would win 58 seats, a result “all but wiping Labour out in its former Scottish stronghold.”
A YouGov poll, however, showed the Conservatives with 284 seats and Labour only some 21 seats behind it. More precise results are expected in the coming hours.
Why Some Doubt the Exit Polls
Exit polls have been reliable in past U.K. elections, but pollsters have urged caution in interpreting the preliminary results this time. “After successfully calling the election results of 2005 and 2010, the team generating the poll faces a much tougher challenge [in 2015] ... as traditional voting patterns fracture amid the rise of insurgent groups such as the Scottish nationalists and the U.K. Independence Party,” noted Bloomberg Business.
Even Nicola Sturgeon, who heads the Scottish National Party, emphasized the preliminary nature of the poll showing her party capturing 58 seats, which was in line with other recent polls but apparently more than Sturgeon herself had expected.
I'd treat the exit poll with HUGE caution. I'm hoping for a good night but I think 58 seats is unlikely! #GE15— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) May 7, 2015
A recent poll suggested her party might secure 56 of the 59 seats allotted to Scotland in the U.K.’s parliament. Those results would mean the SNP, which advocates for Scottish independence from the government in Westminster, might be a crucial force in the formation of that government.
We’ll have more as the election results come in. Please check in with us.