Jeremy Corbyn has said his campaign has made politics a “better place” as he was made favourite to be the next Prime Minster by two bookmakers on an astonishing night that threatens to upend the political landscape.
With exit polls predicting that the UK is heading for a hung parliament, Theresa May will have to face the possibility that her gamble of a snap election could see her rival Jeremy Corbyn take her job.
The poll put the Tories on 314 seats – 12 short of the 326 they need for a majority to control the House of Commons.
It has sparked speculation over what coalitions could form as the political parties try to form a government ahead of the start of Brexit negotiations in Brussels.
Mrs May herself previously voiced concern that a loss for her would put Jeremy Corbyn, as Prime Minister, in charge of those negotiations.
While former Ukip leader Nigel Farage questioned Theresa May’s continued leadership of the Conservatives, a senior Labour source also noted that Mrs May had said repeatedly during the election campaign that if she lost six seats she would no longer be Prime Minister.
“If this exit poll is correct, her credibility is completely shot,” said the source.
And as results began to unfold, bookmakers predictions of who would be the next prime minister at 3am placed Corbyn as the favourite to be in Downing Street.
Mr Corbyn posted on Twitter that “whatever the final result, our positive campaign has changed politics for the better”.
John mcDonnell, the shadow Chancellor, said that Labour “will form a government at the first opportunity”.
Asked what Labour would do if the exit poll proves to be accurate, Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told Sky News: “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.”
Despite the potential need for deals between the parties, many have ruled them out.
Instead, Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP have spoken about the possibility of a minority administration being propped up on a vote-by-vote basis.
Even with the support of Northern Ireland unionists, the Conservatives would struggle to form a viable administration without reaching out to other parties.
Meanwhile, a so-called “progressive alliance” bringing together Labour, Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens would fall short of an absolute majority and produce a total only a few seats larger than the Tories on their own.
The one combination which would creep over the crucial 326 mark would be a repeat of the 2010 Tory-Lib Dem coalition – something Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has ruled out in the past.
And tonight former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell reinforced the message, telling BBC News: “Tim Farron made it very clear, he said no pact, no deal, no coalition.
“We’ve had our fingers burned by coalition, I don’t need to tell you that, so I find it very difficult to see how Tim Farron would go back on what he has already said and indeed to persuade the membership of the Lib Dems that a coalition was a good idea from our point of view.”
Former chancellor George Osborne said the exit poll indicated a “catastrophic” night for the Conservatives and it was difficult to see how the Tories would put together a coalition to stay in office.
“But equally it’s quite difficult to see how Labour could put together a coalition,” he told ITV.”It’s on a real knife-edge.”
Martin Trepte, the Editor of the Maidenhead Advertiser, which is the local newspaper in Theresa May’s constituency, told Yahoo News there was an “air of anticipation” at the count.
“There is certainly surprise in the room,” he said. “There is an air of expectation about what it could mean for the Maidenhead candidate. I really don’t know if she’ll go if the poll is accurate – it’s too early to say.”