Prime Minister Boris Johnson won a huge majority in Thursday’s UK general election after voters backed his pledge to “get Brexit done” and take Britain out of the European Union by the end of January.
The Conservatives picked up about 365 seats, which translates to an 80-seat majority in the 650-seat House of Commons. (The magic number was 326.) It’s a huge win for the party, and it should be more than enough to pass Johnson’s Brexit deal legislation through Parliament and finalize the UK’s divorce with the European Union.
“You’ve been paying attention,” Johnson said Friday morning, in his victory speech. “Because this election means that getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people.”
Johnson and the Conservatives were favored to win, although many polls predicted they’d do so by a much narrower margin. Johnson’s victory is fairly remarkable: Conservatives have been in power since 2010, and Johnson is a divisive figure in UK politics. Instead, he led the Conservatives to the biggest victory since 1987, under Margaret Thatcher.
Labour, the main opposition party, suffered a stunning defeat, losing more than 40 seats and sending just 203 lawmakers back to Parliament. Conservatives took seats in parts of England that have historically gone to Labour, but also tended to vote Leave, perhaps a sign that the Brexit debate is realigning traditional party loyalties.
Johnson’s main rival, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, was also unpopular with voters, as he’s perceived by some as being too left-wing. He faced additional scrutiny during the campaign over serious allegations of anti-Semitism within the party, and some pushback for Labour’s somewhat complicated Brexit policy. Labour has now been out of power for almost a decade, and this humiliating defeat — possibly Labour’s worst defeat since 1935 — will likely bring the end to Corbyn’s tenure.
The third-largest party in the UK Parliament remains the Scottish National Party (SNP), winning more than a dozen seats to bring its total up to about 48 members of Parliament.
Other parties filled in the rest, including the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats with just 11 seats — and whose leader, Jo Swinson, narrowly lost her constituency. The Brexit Party, which was just created in April, doesn’t look to have won any seats in Parliament, a sign that most of their voters ended up falling in line and voting for Conservatives, recognizing them as the only real option to deliver Brexit.
Johnson’s landslide win mean the UK is leaving the European Union on January 31, 2020. It will quell the rebellion in Parliament that roiled the Brexit debate over the past year. But even with Johnson as prime minister, and with a huge majority behind him, Brexit is far from being done — and he still may have a politically perilous road ahead.