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Conservatives set for historic UK election defeat, polls suggest

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Sir Keir Starmer is predicted to win power in a Labour landslide on Thursday, leaving Rishi Sunak’s Conservative party facing one of the worst defeats in its history.

Opinion polls suggested Starmer was on course to win a House of Commons majority of more than 200 — beating Sir Tony Blair’s 179 majority in 1997 — and giving Labour its first general election victory since 2005.

Polling stations will close at 10pm by which point the scale of Sunak’s expected defeat will become clear. Polls suggest the Tories could win fewer seats than the 156 they won in 1906, their worst result.

“I’ve changed the Labour party,” Starmer wrote on X on Thursday. “If you put your trust in me by voting Labour, I will change the country.”

Even before any votes had been counted, Sunak’s close ministerial ally Mel Stride declared that the election was “likely to see the largest Labour landslide majority that this country has ever seen”.

Starmer said earlier he had told his team not to be complacent about winning, but added that Labour had done “a lot of preparation for government”.

“So, while we have not been getting ahead of ourselves, genuinely, we have been preparing hard on the basis that this needs to be hitting the ground running on day one, which is what we intend to do,” he said.

Sunak has warned of the dangers of giving Labour a “supermajority” in a last-ditch attempt to persuade voters to stick with the Tories and to ensure his party could at least provide an effective opposition.

The mood of despair hanging over the Conservative campaign — a six-week catalogue of errors and self-inflicted damage — intensified on the eve of the election when Rupert Murdoch’s Sun gave its support to Starmer. “The Tories are exhausted,” the tabloid newspaper said.

It was compounded by a series of MRP mega-polls suggesting Labour would win by an unprecedented margin.

A YouGov poll on Wednesday was typical, projecting Labour would win 431 seats compared with the Conservatives securing just 102 and the Liberal Democrats obtaining a record 72, beating the 62 the party won in 2005.

The survey gave Nigel Farage’s Reform UK just three seats, but the populist party has been draining support away from the Conservatives across the country, helping to facilitate a Labour win. The Scottish National party was forecast to fall into second place in Scotland with 18 seats, behind Labour.

Under the YouGov scenario big Conservative names would be toppled, including chancellor Jeremy Hunt, defence secretary Grant Shapps and leader of the Commons Penny Mordaunt.

Liz Truss, former Tory prime minister, is locked in a tight race with Labour in her Norfolk seat, although the polls suggest Sunak himself should hold on to his Richmond constituency in Yorkshire.

The Conservatives’ latest internal projections forecast that the party would confidently retain about 80 seats, with another 60-odd constituencies viewed as being “in play”, according to a senior Tory insider.

It suggests that, even in an optimistic scenario, the Conservatives may only return about 140 MPs, down from 365 at the previous election. A Tory spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ahead of what looks likely to be one of the bleakest nights in Conservative history, Sunak admitted that some voters were out for revenge after years of squeezed living standards, poor public services and political chaos.

“I appreciate people have frustrations with our party, of course I do. We haven’t got everything perfectly right,” he said, before adding: “Tomorrow’s vote is not a by-election on the past, it is a vote about the future.”

Some Conservatives are already discussing the battle for control of the party in the ashes of defeat, with former home secretary Suella Braverman calling for a more Faragist approach.

However, Boris Johnson, former Tory prime minister, belatedly entered the election fray and warned against any rapprochement with Farage, whom he called “Putin’s pet parrot”.

Labour strategists fear some voters may decide to stay at home on Thursday on the grounds that the result already appears certain.

Starmer called Stride’s comments “voter suppression” and an attempt “to get people to stay home rather than go out and vote”.

Sunak hopes some Tory waverers will come back into the fold, warning repeatedly that an untrammelled Labour government would put up taxes and reopen Johnson’s Brexit deal, allowing a return of free movement.

With many constituencies on a knife edge, the result is far from clear and the Conservatives could yet fare better than polls suggest. Labour has had a consistent 20 percentage point lead.

Sunak faces a darker and much less likely scenario — within the margin of error of some polls — in which the Tories crash to such a bad result that they finish third behind Sir Ed Davey’s Lib Dems.

A final MRP poll by Focaldata gave Labour a 238-seat majority, while a More in Common survey gave Starmer’s party a 210-seat margin of victory. A JLP poll gave Labour a 234-seat majority.

If the polls prove to be correct, Starmer’s victory would be confirmed in the early hours of Friday morning with a transfer of power from the Conservatives to Labour taking place later.



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