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UK ELECTIONS

Will crucial UK polls seal the fate of Brexit?

Dark skies over Westminister at the eve of national elections in the United Kingdom, 12 December 2019.
Dark skies over Westminister at the eve of national elections in the United Kingdom, 12 December 2019. RFI/Jan van der Made

Polls are open in the United Kingdom for crucial elections that may finally sign the fate of the UK’s position regarding the European Union. Polls show Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party closing in on the Conservative party of Boris Johnson.

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After a sunny Thursday, dark clouds gathered with rain predicted throughout election day.

In a final poll taken by the Opinium Agency, the Conservatives hold 45% of the vote, but over the last days, Labour managed to increase its share to 33% up from 31% last week.

The Liberal Democrats trail behind with 12 %, while the Brexit Party and the Greens share a meagre 2 % of the predicted outcome.

Opionion says that “one in ten (9%) of voters still yet to make up their mind on how they will cast their vote, with over two in five (43%) not committing to any party until polling day itself.”

There are more than 4,000 polling venues across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with 650 seats up for grabs.

Bulldozer

For Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservative party, today’s elections are all about Brexit. In one of his many campaign stunts, a grinning Johnson was driving a bulldozer through a white brick wall with the letters “Gridlock” and on its massive blade, the words “Get Brexit Done.”

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn seems to be doing everything to steer the elections away from the Brexit theme. He has accused the Conservatives for example of trying to sell off the National Health Service (NHS) to US investors.

No chance of winning outright

Other polls suggest that Corbyn hardly stands a chance to win an outright majority today. But he may become the first Labour Prime Minister since Gordon Brown in 2010 with the support of the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP), both pro-remain parties.

According to a poll by agency YouGov, the SNP is heading towards winning 41 seats, against 15 seats for the LibDems.

Corbyn’s (and Labour’s) position on Brexit was never clear cut. According to Ibrahim Dogus, Labour MP in the West Midlands constituency of West Bromwich East, if Labour wins the elections, the party “will achieve a deal that will work for working people of this country, and we will go back to people and say: if you’re happy with this deal, we are living with this deal, if you’re not happy with this deal, then you have the option to choose to remain and reform the European union,”

This may – or may not – mean a second referendum.

Social Media

Meanwhile, campaigning has taken a more aggressive form on social media platforms.

An investigation by non profit organization First Draft checked thousands of online advertisements that the Tories and Labour published on Facebook and found out that “nearly 90% of Facebook ads paid for by the Conservative Party in the first few days of December contained misleading claims.

For examples: a total of 5,132 ads claim that the Conservatives will build “40 new hospitals”, while fact-checking organision Full Fact had pointed out that “Boris Johnson’s government had actually announced plans to build six hospitals, not 40.”

The Conservatives also claimed in 544 ads that they will create jobs for 50,000 more nurses. But the Independent newspaper quotes “party sources” who confirmed that the 50,000 figure includes an estimated 18,500 existing nurses who will be encouraged to remain within the NHS or attracted back after leaving by new measures to improve career development opportunities.”

It is now up to the individual voters to make sense of the flood of information – true or false -  and decide which direction their country will take in the coming months and years.

Polls opened at 7am GMT this morning and will close at 10pm. Vote count will start as soon as the polls close and will continue through the night.

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