Labour on course for Downing Street as exit poll predicts huge majority

The Labour Party stood on the verge of returning to power after 14 years in opposition as vote counting got underway on Thursday night.

Exit polls suggested a Labour landslide, with the party on course to scoop 410 seats and secure a majority of 170, just less than the majority of 179 won by Tony Blair in 1997.

While it may not be the majority of more than 200 predicted by some polls in the run-up to election day, it is still a stunning recovery from 2019, when Labour suffered its worst defeat since the 1930s and many commentators believed it would take at least a decade for the party to recover.

As polls closed at 10pm, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: “To everyone who has campaigned for Labour in this election, to everyone who voted for us and put their trust in our changed Labour Party – thank you.”

Deputy leader Angela Rayner told Sky News she thought the Conservatives were being “punished” for the past 14 years, but stressed the results were not in yet.

The party stands to make gains across the Midlands and North, winning back seats in the “red wall” that it lost in 2019 and making deep incursions into traditional, Tory-held territory following a final-week blitz of more rural seats by Sir Keir Starmer.

It is also on course to make significant advances in Scotland, with exit polls suggesting the SNP have been reduced to just 10 seats.

Bellwether seats such as Worcester, Northampton North and Loughborough are all expected to go to Labour, according to the exit poll.

But things may not all go Labour’s way. A close-fought battle in Islington North could see former leader Jeremy Corbyn, now an independent candidate, retain the seat, while shadow cabinet member Thangam Debbonaire could be at risk from the Greens in Bristol Central.

General Election 2024
Labour’s Bridget Phillipson became the first MP elected in the 2024 General Election, holding Houghton and Sunderland South for Labour with an increased majority (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The exit poll suggested Bristol Central had a 99% chance of turning Green, while Islington North was too close to call.

Reform UK was also projected to pick up both Barnsley seats and Hartlepool from the party.

Early indications of the exit poll’s accuracy began rolling in shortly after 11pm on Thursday night, with shadow education secretary holding on to Houghton and Sunderland South, doubling her majority and increasing her vote share while the Conservatives slumped to third place behind Reform UK.

Ms Phillipson said in her victory speech: “Tonight the British people have spoken, and if the exit poll this evening is again a guide to results across our country as it so often is, then after 14 years the British people have chosen change.

“They have chosen Labour and they have chosen the leadership of Keir Starmer. Today our country with its proud history has chosen a brighter future.

Basildon and Billericay at about 12.15am on Friday will provide an indication of how much progress the party has made in traditional Tory areas.

Conservative chairman Richard Holden could cling on, having abandoned his North West Durham seat, with the exit poll giving him a 56% chance of holding the seat but describing the result as “too close to call”.