Britain’s unpredictable election campaign moved to the ballot box Thursday as citizens voted in a race that Prime Minister Theresa May once had solidly in her grip but then was reshaped by terrorist attacks.
May called the snap election seeking to increase her political power ahead of Britain’s exit negotiations with the European Union, pitching herself as the best leader to enter into the complex divorce talks.
But the contest shifted in ways few could have anticipated. In a matter of weeks, her far-left opponent, Jeremy Corbyn, surged in the polls as security issues overshadowed the Brexit talks.
As the campaign wrapped up, May’s seemingly insurmountable lead had dwindled — at least in some polls — to a few points.
May was still expected to pull out a victory. But if she doesn’t, and the Labour Party takes control of parliament — and hands Corbyn the keys to 10 Downing Street — it would rival 2016’s Brexit vote or President Trump’s victory for most implausible political outcome of the past 12 months.
Results are expected late Thursday.
May’s pitch won over Miranda John, a 52-year-old mortgage broker who lives in south London and was one of the first to vote after polls opened at 7 a.m. John said she voted for May’s Conservative Party because the Tories have “a better negotiation team” to handle Brexit.
“I was a Remainer,” she said, referring to those who voted to stay in the E.U. in the referendum held last June. “But I accept that the will is to leave so we need to get the right deal.”
Corbyn has run a “fantastic campaign,” said Henry Wynn, 72, a professor emeritus who described the Labour leader as a “Bernie Sanders socialist” after he voted for Corbyn’s party in the north London neighborhood of Islington.
“I’ll confess,” he added, “we’re in a mildly depressive mood. We face a bleak future with the Tories and I don’t know if we’re going to do it.”