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Britains Conservative party ousted after 14 years in power as exit polls suggest big victory for Labour: AP

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(LONDON) — After 14 years in power with five consecutive prime ministers, the Associated Press’ exit poll suggests the U.K.’s Conservative Party has been voted out of power on Thursday, ceding control to Labour, a center-left party that had run on a platform calling for “change.”

The results were widely expected, as public support for the Conservatives, or Tories, had eroded amid Brexit, COVID and rising inflation.

Based on the AP exit poll, Labour is expected to win 410 seats out of the House of Commons’ 650 seats, while the Conservatives will take 131 seats.

Liberal Democrats are expected to have earned 61 seats, per the AP exit poll, while the right-wing Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, is expected to have earned 13. The Scottish National Party is predicted to have earned 10 seats. The exit poll also suggested the Green Party earned 2, per the AP.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. across the United Kingdom on Thursday, marking the country’s first national vote since 2019. Voters in 650 constituencies were expected to cast ballots for members of the House of Commons.

Prior to Thursday’s election, opinion polls in Britain have for more than two years predicted the Conservatives are heading for a “heavy defeat,” Pippa Catterall, a professor of history and politics at the University of Westminster, told ABC News.

“The Conservatives nonetheless went into the election with the hope that, as usual, the polls would narrow in their favor,” Catterall said. “Instead, it got worse.”

The Labour Party’s leader, Keir Starmer, who is now expected to become prime minister, said he hoped to put an end to the Conservative “chaos.”

His campaign released a “manifesto” laying out some of his government’s plans, including cutting hospital wait times, ushering in a greener economy and improving the U.K.’s post-Brexit trade deals with the European Union.

“From Ukraine to Gaza, Labour’s foreign and defense policy essentially mirrors the current government’s,” Dr. David S. Moon, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Bath, told ABC News. “Starmer’s Brexit plan lacks specifics beyond promising to negotiate a ‘better deal."”

Moon and other political observers said it’s little surprise the Labour Party has focused its messaging on what the Conservatives have done with their time in office rather than campaigning solely on what they hope to accomplish.

Since David Cameron’s victory in the 2010 general election, the center-right Tories have led the country through a period of economic “austerity,” its exit from the European Union, the COVID pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.

“A Starmer victory seems more the product of a media backlash against the Conservatives following the scandal-plagued Johnson and Truss years rather than excitement about policy proposals, with Labour now seen across newsrooms as a safe alternative following Starmer’s shifting of the party to the right,” Moon said.

Cameron had called for the Brexit referendum before stepping down from power in 2016. He was followed in office by Theresa May, who put together a Brexit deal but stepped down before the deal could be completed. Johnson, in his 2019 campaign, promised to “Get Brexit Done,” and the country left in January 2020.

But the Tory’s leadership during the U.K.’s messy exit from the European Union is likely only one of many reasons that support for the party has waned, said Sean D. Ehrlich, associate professor of political science at Florida State University.

Johnson oversaw a chaotic rollout of COVID restrictions, which were then broken by Johnson himself during a Christmas gathering at 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence.

Truss introduced a “mini-budget” in 2022 that included a series of tax cuts aimed a growing the economy, but she reversed course within days amid public backlash.

British inflation then spiked under Sunak, rising to a high of 11% in late 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“The Conservatives are deeply unpopular in large part because they are no longer viewed as competent,” Ehrlich said. “Their struggles to implement Brexit play a large role in this decline in support but the election should probably not be viewed as a repudiation of Brexit itself.”

About six weeks ago, as Sunak announced he was calling a general election for July, he was caught in the rain in front of Downing Street without an umbrella.

The prime minister, who came to power in 2022 via an internal party election, has said Labour’s election would lead to weaker border security and higher taxes. He said Thursday that a Tory defeat could mean “higher taxes for a generation.”

“Labour would increase taxes on every part of your life, including your death,” he said on social media.

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