General election 2017: Conservatives set to fall short of an overall majority, exit poll suggests
PUBLISHED: 22:14 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 05:23 09 June 2017
Britain was bracing itself for a hung parliament after the publication of the exit poll at the end of voting in the 2017 General Election.
The poll, commissioned by the BBC, ITN and Sky predicted that the Conservatives would be the largest party – but would be short of an overall majority.
It predicted that the Conservatives would win 314 seats, 12 short of an overall majority.
Labour is predicted to win 266 seats – up 34 on two years ago. The Liberal Democrats are predicted to increase their number of seats to 14 and the SNP could go down to 34.
Whatever the actual results overnight, the political shape of Suffolk and north Essex is unlikely to change dramatically as a result of the general election.
Five of the seven seats in Suffolk have returned Conservative MPs for almost 70 years – even at the high water mark of the Blairite New Labour revolution they stayed resolutely Tory.
Suffolk Coastal, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, South Suffolk, West Suffolk and Bury St Edmunds are very unlikely to change hands.
There is a similar story in north Essex. Between 1997 and 2005 Labour did hold the old Harwich and Braintree seats – but since then there have been substantial boundary changes to create four different seats and these all look like safe Conservative seats now.
The main interest in north Essex is the fate of the Clacton seat which UKIP’s Douglas Carswell held in 2015. His decision to resign from the party and not to stand coupled with UKIP’s difficult year has meant that the Tories have been favourite to win back the seat ever since the election was first called.
The seats where interest is focussed are Ipswich and Waveney in Suffolk and Colchester in Essex.
In Ipswich Cabinet Office Minister Ben Gummer is defending a majority of 3,733 over Labour. He is being challenged by Sandy Martin, leader of the Labour group on Suffolk County Council – a well-known Ipswich figure.
The results of the exit poll will have caused concern among his supporters at the start of the count in Ipswich Corn Exchange.
In Waveney Conservative Peter Aldous is defending a majority of 2,408, again over Labour. His main challenger is Sonia Barker, leader of the Labour opposition at Waveney District Council.
In Colchester one of the shocks of the night two years ago was when veteran Liberal Democrat Sir Bob Russell was defeated by Conservative Will Quince by 5,575 votes.
Sir Bob is trying to win back his seat this time, but as well as Mr Quince he was also up against a tough campaign from Labour’s Tim Young – a veteran councillor himself.
The seat is also one of the fastest growing towns in the region with a strong student vote – it remains to be seen how this will influence the result.
All the party leaders voted earlier yesterday in their own constituencies.
The Prime Minister greeted reporters and photographers with a cheery “hello” as she arrived with husband Philip to vote at Sonning guide and scout hut on the outskirts of Maidenhead.
Mr Corbyn greeted reporters as he arrived at Pakeman Primary School in Holloway, north London, to cast his vote on Thursday morning.
He smiled, waved and spoke to voters, before telling of his pride in Labour’s campaign when he emerged from the polling station.
He told the press gathered outside: “Thank you very much, all of you, for coming here today. It’s a day of our democracy. I’ve just voted. I’m very proud of our campaign. Thank you very much.”
There was a concerted attempt by celebrities to persuade people to vote – especially younger adults. A high turnout could indicate this was successful.
Adele, Andy Murray and Holly Willoughby are among the public figures urging people to cast their ballot in the election.
Celebrities from across the world of sport, music, TV and film took to social media encouraging followers to “use your voice”.
Murray, who is currently competing in the French Open, posted on Instagram: “Time to go exercise your right to vote today! It’s cool to vote and to care about your countries future.”
Adele simply wrote “vote x” in a post on Twitter while fellow singers Paloma Faith, Dua Lipa and Zara Larsson also offered words of encouragement.