An exit poll suggests the Labour Party is headed for a huge majority in the UK’s election, riding a wave of frustration with 14 years of conservative rule.

The poll released moments after polls closed on Thursday, July 4 indicates that Labour leader Keir Starmer will be the country’s next Prime Minister. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party has been in power since 2010.

Britain’s exit poll is conducted by pollster Ipsos and asks people at a number of polling stations to fill out a replica ballot showing how they have voted. It usually provides a reliable –though not exact – projection of the final result. Early Thursday, polls opened at 40,000 stations, including churches, a laundromat and a crematorium.

“Nothing has gone well in the last 14 years,” said London voter James Erskine, who was optimistic for change. “I just see this as the potential for a seismic shift, and that’s what I’m hoping for.”

Younger generations looking for change

In Henley-on-Thames, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of London, voters like Patricia Mulcahy, who is retired, sensed the nation was looking for something different. The community, which normally votes Conservative, may change its stripes this time.

“The younger generation are far more interested in change,” Mulcahy said. “So, I think whatever happens in Henley, in the country, there will be a big shift. But whoever gets in, they’ve got a heck of a job ahead of them. It’s not going to be easy.”

Britain has experienced a run of turbulent years – some of it of the Conservatives’ own making and some of it not – that has left many voters pessimistic about their country’s future. The UK’s exit from the European Union followed by the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine battered the economy, while lockdown-breaching parties held by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff caused widespread anger.

Johnson’s successor, Liz Truss, rocked the economy further with a package of drastic tax cuts and lasted just 49 days in office. Rising poverty and cuts to state services have led to gripes about “Broken Britain.”

The first part of the day was sunny in much of the country — favorable weather to get people to the polls. In the first hour polls were open, Sunak made the short journey from his home to vote at Kirby Sigston Village Hall in his Richmond constituency in northern England. He arrived with his wife, Akshata Murty, and walked hand-in-hand into the village hall, which is surrounded by rolling fields.

The center-left Labour Party has had a steady and significant lead in opinion polls for months, but its leaders have warned against taking the election result for granted, worried their supporters will stay home.

“Change. Vote for it,” Starmer wrote Thursday on the X social media platform.

Meanwhile, Michelle Bird, a port worker in Southampton on England’s south coast was undecided about whether to vote Labour or Conservative. “I don’t know who’s for me as a working person,” she admitted. “I don’t know whether it’s the devil you know or the devil you don’t.”

Le Monde with AP

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