Thursday 14 December 2017

It's UK Election crunch time: Here's what the papers are saying this morning - and what to expect tonight

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at a rally in Birmingham while on the General Election campaign trail. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at a rally in Birmingham while on the General Election campaign trail. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

D-day, crunch time, the final countdown. Call it what you will, the most important day of the 2017 General Election is upon us - polling day.

The polls opened at 7am and will remain open until 10pm this evening.

On the eve of an election Prime Minister Theresa May returned to her core message that only she can deliver a good Brexit deal, moving on from a heated national debate over security after two deadly Islamist attacks.

May unexpectedly called the snap vote seven weeks ago, seeking to increase her working parliamentary majority of 17 seats ahead of the start of negotiations on leaving the European Union.

But the campaign has seen unexpected twists - a steep decline in May's once-commanding poll lead over the opposition Labour Party, and attacks in Manchester and London that killed 30 people.

Pollsters still expect May's Conservatives to win, although talk of a landslide majority of more than 100 seats has faded. A final flurry of polls put her party's lead in a range between 1 and 12 percentage points, with most of them suggesting she would increase her majority.

Jeremy Corbyn has a selfie taken with a woman at an election rally in Colwyn Bay. Picture: Reuters
Jeremy Corbyn has a selfie taken with a woman at an election rally in Colwyn Bay. Picture: Reuters

The polls started narrowing after May launched a new policy on care for the elderly that proved unpopular. She backtracked days later, prompting opposition parties to pour scorn on her claim to offer "strong and stable leadership".

Then came a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester on May 22 that killed 22 children and adults, and a van and knife attack on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market that killed eight people on June 3, five days before the election.

The attacks threw the campaign spotlight onto security and prompted questions from May's opponents and media about her record overseeing cuts in police numbers during her years as interior minister from 2010 to 2016.

But the security issue was not seen as helpful to her main rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has voted against counter-terrorism legislation and expressed reservations in the past about police shoot-to-kill tactics.

On Wednesday, the eve of the vote, May tried to bring the campaign back to Brexit.

"When it comes to the election tomorrow, I think the choices and the questions that people need to ask are exactly the same today as they were right at the beginning of the campaign," she told a campaign rally in Norwich, eastern England.

"And the first is a question of who do you trust to actually have the strong and stable leadership that is going to deliver the best deal for Britain in Europe."

May has sought to portray Corbyn as the weak leader of a spendthrift party which would crash Britain's $2.5 trillion economy and lead the country to ruin in chaotic Brexit negotiations.

Corbyn, a veteran left-winger who unexpectedly won the Labour leadership in 2015 after three decades on the party fringe, has hit back that Conservative fiscal austerity has hurt the poor and increased social inequalities.

Labour propose to build a fairer society through policies such as increasing tax for the richest 5 percent, boosting workers' rights, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds in infrastructure.

"The choice is quite simple. Five more years of a Tory government, five more years of austerity, five more years of cuts. Or something different," Corbyn told supporters in Colwyn Bay, north Wales, to cheers and applause.

For May, the challenge is not only to win but to surpass handsomely the 12-seat majority her Conservative predecessor David Cameron won in 2015.

A narrow victory would undermine her authority both inside her party and at talks with the 27 other EU leaders.

Up to five more opinion polls are expected before voting begins at 0600 GMT on Thursday.

Britons have until 2100 GMT to vote, and there will be an exit poll as soon as voting ends. The first handful of seat results are expected to be announced by 2300 GMT, with the vast majority of the 650 constituencies due to announce results between 0200 GMT and 0500 GMT on Friday morning.

After a campaign that saw twists, turns and terrorist atrocities, Britain's newspapers have given their final assessment as voters go to the polls:

:: The Daily Mail accuses Labour of telling "many lies" during the campaign and offers a "tactical voting guide" to boost the Tory majority.

:: The Guardian mourns a missed opportunity to debate Brexit during the campaign and criticises Theresa May's approach as potential divorce negotiator-in-chief, warning "a farce might follow a Brexit drama".

:: The Times urges voters to "beware old Labour", saying that a vote for Jeremy Corbyn's left-wing party "would reward an ideological maverick when the country needs experience and pragmatism".

:: On the other hand, the Daily Mirror, warns voters not to "condemn Britain to five more years of Tory broken promises" under the headline: "Lies, damned lies and Theresa May" on its front page.

:: The Daily Telegraph attempts to coax any readers suffering "voter fatigue" to the polling booth with a warning that Jeremy Corbyn's supporters need to be "countered by those who think the prospect of a neo-Marxist Labour government would be a national disaster".

:: The Sun tells voters: "Don't chuck Britain in the Cor-bin" on its front page, urging them to back Mrs May or risk destroying 35 years of "spectacular progress and prosperity" by putting the Labour leader in charge.

:: In the Financial Times, columnist Bill Emmott says Mrs May has "shown herself to be poor at strategy and campaigning", but when voters get in the polling booth her leadership and policy stances may prove to be more trusted than Mr Corbyn's.

:: The Daily Express instructs its readers: "Vote for May today" on its front page, warning it is "for the sake of the country, the Brexit process, our economy and our safety".

:: The i judges Mrs May's campaign as "lacklustre" while describing Mr Corbyn's as "bold" and "lively" - but adds: "i does not have an axe to grind, and is unique among UK national newspapers in refusing to endorse a party. You Decide."

Here is a full guide to General Election night 2017 - the key moments to look out for and when and where to see them.

What to watch

BBC

David Dimbleby will be leading the coverage on BBC One and the BBC News Channel as the polls close, from 9.55pm to 7am on Thursday. This will be his 10th time at the helm of the BBC's coverage, joined by graphics whizz Jeremy Vine and reporters Emily Maitlis and Mishal Husain.

Huw Edwards will then take over until 10am on Friday, joined by Andrew Neil at 1pm. Neil will host the rest of the coverage on BBC Two until 4.30pm.

ITV

Tom Bradby will steer ITV's coverage through the night, starting at 9.55pm. He will be joined by the channel's Political Editor Robert Peston, former Labour MP and Strictly Come Dancing star Ed Balls and Evening Standard Editor and former Chancellor George Osborne.

Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid will take over with a special edition of Good Morning Britain from 6am-9.25am, after which an extended ITV news will run until 2pm.

Channel 4

Channel 4 is mixing comment with comedy for its alternative election night. From 9.45pm the stars of Gogglebox will be giving their views on the election, followed by news heavyweights Jeremy Paxman and Cathy Newman co-hosting with David Mitchell and Richard Osman.

The programme promises to combine serious coverage mixed with light relief until 6am.

Sky News

Veteran news editor Adam Boulton partners with Sophy Ridge to lead the election charge on Sky News, beginning at 9pm. They will be supported by live coverage from 300 constituencies.

Sky's results night will extend to Snapchat from 10pm with rolling coverage on the picture and video sharing platform.

First indication of results

The result of a joint BBC, ITV and Sky exit poll will be released at 10pm - as soon as polling stations close.

The survey will be taken from 144 polling stations across Britain, asking voters at these stations to mark a mock ballot paper to show how they have voted.

Similar exit polls have correctly predicted who would take the keys to Number 10 in the last five elections, and in 2005 and 2010 came extremely close to predicting the exact number of seats.

Results to watch for (timings approximate)

By 12am

The three Sunderland constituencies - traditionally first to declare - should be in. All are safe Labour seats and all three should return women MPs, meaning that by this point in the night the House of Commons should be 100% female.

1am

Nuneaton: The first marginal seat to declare. Marcus Jones (Con) is defending a majority of 4,882 and Labour needs a 5.4% swing to win.

1.30am

Darlington: If the Tories win here in Labour's heartland of north-east England, they are on course for a very good night.

Wrexham: The first chance for the Tories to gain a seat from Labour in Wales.

2am

Bury North, Peterborough and Thurrock: Three Tory marginals are due to declare - all are key Labour targets.

Clwyd South: Can the Tories surge in Wales and grab this seat from Labour?

Hastings & Rye: The seat of Home Secretary Amber Rudd, which would fall to Labour on a 4.8% swing.

2.30am

Islington North: Jeremy Corbyn's result should see him safely returned by a big margin.

Vale of Clwyd and Warwickshire North: Two chances for Labour to make gains from the Conservatives.

Ynys Mon: A close three-way fight between Labour (who are defending the seat), Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives

3am

Dunbartonshire East: The Liberal Democrats are hoping to take this seat back from the SNP.

Ealing Central & Acton and Hampstead & Kilburn: Two marginal seats that could offer the Tories their first chance of gaining from Labour in London.

Exeter: Can Ben Bradshaw cling on to one of Labour's few remaining seats in the South West?

Moray: Might the SNP's depute leader Angus Robertson be defeated by the Conservatives?

Westmorland & Lonsdale: Tim Farron's seat is due to declare. The Lib Dem leader would lose to the Tories on a 9.3% swing.

3.30am

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale: The Tories' only seat in Scotland is being challenged by the SNP.

Enfield North, Ilford North and Westminster North: More Labour London seats at risk from a swing to the Conservatives.

Sedgefield: Tony Blair's former seat would fall to the Conservatives on an 8.9% swing.

4am

Birmingham Northfield, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Walsall North: Three key West Midlands Labour seats at risk from a Tory surge.

Carshalton & Wallington and Southport: Two Lib Dem seats fancied by the Tories.

Gower: The seat with smallest majority in the country (just 27 in 2015), which Labour is hoping to take back from the Conservatives.

Richmond Park and Twickenham: Can Zac Goldsmith (Con) and Vince Cable (Lib Dem) win back their respective former seats?

4.30am

Blackpool South and Wolverhampton South West: Two more Labour marginals eyed by the Tories.

Maidenhead: Theresa May's seat is expected to declare around now.

Sheffield Hallam: Lib Dem former deputy PM Nick Clegg could lose his seat on a swing of 2.2% to Labour.

5am

Boston & Skegness: Ukip leader Paul Nuttall is hoping to win this seat from the Conservatives.

Bristol West: Can the Greens oust Labour and claim their second ever MP?

Brentford & Isleworth, City of Chester and Wirral West: Three of Labour's most marginal seats - all are being challenged by the Tories.

Fermanagh & South Tyrone: Sinn Fein is hoping to win back the seat from the UUP.

Halifax: Theresa May launched the Tories' manifesto here - but can Labour hold on?

5.30am

Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk: The Conservatives are hoping to snap up this SNP marginal.

Hove: Can the Tories seize one of Labour's few remaining seats in south-east England?

6am

Brighton Pavilion: Caroline Lucas is defending the Greens' only seat.

Derby North: On paper, Labour's best chance of a gain from the Tories, who are defending a majority of just 41.

Derbyshire North East and Lancaster & Fleetwood: Two late chances for Tory gains from Labour.

7am

Morley & Outwood: Labour is hoping to win back the seat of the former shadow chancellor Ed Balls.

Thanet South: Tory marginal being defended by Craig Mackinlay, who has been charged with allegedly overspending in the 2015 general election.

By 12pm

After a lull during the morning, the final seats should be declared just before lunchtime - Berwick-upon-Tweed, Blyth Valley and Wansbeck. 

Press Association

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