Prime Minister Theresa May faces humiliation as exit polls in the UK general election predict the Conservative Party will lose 16 seats, leaving the country with a hung parliament.
The PM is already facing calls for her resignation following the publication of the poll, which predicts Labour will gain an additional 34 seats in the House of Commons, bringing it to a total of 266.
Former Tory Chancellor George Osborne, who was sacked by Theresa May when she took office last year, has said if the poll is correct, it would be “completely catastrophic” for the party and the PM.
If the poll is correct and the Tory majority drops from 330 MPs to 314, pundits predict May could be forced to resign, making her one of the shortest serving prime ministers in history.
When May took the extraordinary step of calling a snap election in April, the Conservatives enjoyed a 24 point lead over Labour in the opinion polls.
At the time, the PM denied she was taking advantage of Labour’s weak standing in the polls and instead claimed she was seeking a larger mandate from the country in order enter Brexit negotiations with a strong hand.
Reaction to the polls has come in fast, with a Labour spokesperson telling the Independent the result would be “extraordinary” if it played out and would punish the Tories for “taking the British people for granted.”
“If this poll turns out to be anywhere near accurate, it would be an extraordinary result.
“There’s never been such a turnaround in a course of a campaign … Labour has run a positive and honest campaign – we haven’t engaged in smears or personal attacks.”
Labour’s Shadow Defense Secretary Emily Thornberry called on May to resign if she loses her overall majority, as is currently predicted.
Thornberry told Sky News: “I think she should go, because I think she has manifestly failed.”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC he thinks May’s position is becoming “increasingly untenable.”
Former shadow cabinet minister Clive Lewis was less diplomatic in his language, simply tweeting: “Whatever happens May is TOAST!”
Leave campaigners are concerned that a hung parliament could put the brakes on Brexit.
UKIP leader Paul Nuttall tweeted: “If the exit poll is true then Theresa May has put Brexit in jeopardy. I said at the start this election was wrong. Hubris.”
Conservative heavyweights have been quick to dismiss the exit poll, citing previous elections where the predictions were not correct.
Tory Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC: “Let’s see some actual results to see if this is borne out – this is a projection, I think you made that clear, it is not a result.
“These exit polls have been wrong in the past. In 2015 they underestimated our vote. I think in a couple of elections before that they overestimated our vote.
“So we do need to see some actual results before we interpret this one way or the other.”
If the Conservatives are unable or unwilling to form a minority government, they may look to form a coalition with another party.
However the Liberal Democrats, which formed a coalition with the Tories following the 2010 general election, have ruled this out.
Former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell told the BBC: “Tim Farron made it very clear. He said no pact, no deal, no coalition. We’ve had our fingers burnt by coalition, I don’t need to tell you that. I find it very, very difficult to see how Tim Farron would be able to go back on what he previously said.”
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