First U.K. election shock as 20-year-old becomes youngest lawmaker since 1667
LONDON (CNN) — One of the closest British elections in recent memory didn’t take long to create its own history in early counting Friday as a 20-year-old Scottish student became the country’s youngest lawmaker since 1667 — ousting one of the opposition Labour Party’s top figures in the process.
Politics student Mhairi Black, representing the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), took Paisley and Renfrewshire South, a constituency outside Glasgow, Scotland, from Douglas Alexander, Labour’s election chief and a former Cabinet minister.
“I pledge to use this voice not just to improve Scotland, but to pursue progressive politics for the benefit of people across the U.K.,” Black told supporters during her acceptance speech.
To make matters worse for Labour, the party’s leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, also lost his parliamentary seat to another nationalist, Kirsten Oswald. The SNP also took former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s old seat of Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath.
Alex Salmond, who led Scotland as First Minister and pushed for the unsuccessful independence referendum last year, also won a seat at Westminster.
It was also proving to be a difficult night for the Liberal Democrats, junior partners in the previous coalition government with the Conservatives, who lost Simon Hughes, a former London mayoral candidate, and Lynne Featherstone, who held several ministerial posts. Current London Mayor, Boris Johnson, won a seat in parliament in the London seat of Uxbridge and Ruislip South.
Earlier Friday, an early exit poll projection indicated the incumbent Conservatives could have gained ground.
Results from an exit poll run jointly by the BBC, Sky News and ITN project Conservatives in the lead and gaining 14 seats in Parliament, going from 302 seats to 316. Official results have only been announced for a few seats, and it isn’t clear whether the exit poll’s projection will hold true. But if it does, it’s a result that would keep Prime Minister David Cameron in power and could strengthen his party’s pull.
“It’s an astonishing result,” said Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, a former British Cabinet minister. “If it holds up … the momentum, the authority that this result would give David Cameron and the Tories would be huge, and the body blow to Labour equally big.”
Front pages of at least two British newspapers described the projections as a “shock.”
But some pollsters cast doubt on the broadcasters’ exit poll prediction that Cameron’s Conservative Party would gain seats and Labour would lose them. Polling before the election, they said, pointed toward a much tighter race.
A top British Labour politician also said the projection didn’t seem to jibe with earlier figures.
“It’s very different from what we’ve been hearing on the ground across the country,” Ed Balls said on CNN affiliate ITN. “I’m not sure this is going to turn out to be right.”
Even though the final tally isn’t in, one thing is clear: This is an election you should be paying attention to, even if you’re not one of the millions of Brits who cast a ballot.
It’s an election that could reshape the country’s global role for years. Britain’s relationships with the European Union, NATO and the United States are hanging in the balance. And the Scottish National Party might get a major boost at the polls that could fuel a fresh push for Scottish independence.