LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson called on Britons on Friday to put years of bitter divisions over the country’s EU membership behind them as he vowed to use his resounding election victory to finally deliver Brexit next month.

Mr Johnson’s Conservatives won their best result for three decades on Thursday night after promising to get Britain out of the European Union on Jan 31.

But in a victory speech in Downing Street, the former London mayor vowed to listen to those who opposed Brexit and lead an inclusive, “One-Nation” government.

“I urge everyone to find closure and to let the healing begin,” he said, a few hours after visiting Queen Elizabeth II to be reappointed prime minister.

PM Imran congratulates Johnson on his UK poll victory

Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated Johnson on his victory and said he looked forward to working with the British premier to improve relations between their countries.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Prime Minister Khan said: “I look forward to working with him and continuing the cooperation between our two countries.”

However, there was at least one result from the election over which Mr Khan would not be too happy. His former brother-in-law Zac Goldsmith, who was the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park, lost to the Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Olney. Mr Goldsmith lost the election by a margin of about 7,700 votes.

A former candidate for the post of London’s mayor, Mr Gold­smith lost his seat as an MP for a second time in three years.

The gamble that paid off

Mr Johnson had called the election to break the deadlock in parliament over how to implement the 2016 referendum vote for Brexit, in which he had played a leading part.

It delivered a stunning victory for the Tories, who secured 365 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons — the biggest majority since the 1987 landslide during the heyday of Margaret Thatcher.

By contrast, the main opposition Labour party suffered its worst result since 1935, forcing leader Jeremy Corbyn to announce he would be stepping down.

The pro-Brexit Liberal Democrats also had a dismal night, falling to just 11 seats and losing their leader, Jo Swinson.

London stocks and the British pound jumped on the result, amid hopes of an end to years of Brexit uncertainty that has had an impact on economic growth as well as sown social division.

Johnson said his party had an “overwhelming mandate from this election to get Brexit done — and we will honour that mandate by Jan 31”, the next EU deadline.

Anti-Brexit campaign groups expressed dismay at the result, which spells the end of attempts to keep Britain in the European Union, although many voters welcomed a decisive result.

“At least it’s clear,” said lawyer Gordon Hockey in London. “It’s not necessarily what I wanted but at least we know where we stand and Brexit will happen in some form or other.”

Parliament will reconvene on Tuesday and Johnson is expected to publish legislation before Christmas needed to ratify the Brexit deal he agreed with Brussels in October.

The result of Britain’s third election in almost five years signals a personal victory for Johnson, who remains a polarising figure.

He was a liberal London mayor for eight years but his tendency to play to the crowd — particularly with anti-immigrant rhetoric during the Brexit campaign — drew accusations of divisive populism.

The collapse

Labour’s support collapsed on Thursday, with the Tories taking many former strongholds in northern England and Wales that voted to leave the European bloc.

The party lost 59 seats to end up with 203, after what Corbyn admitted had been a “very disappointing night”.

He said he would be stepping down after a period of “reflection”, and would not be leading the party into the next election, which is due by 2024.

Corbyn had promised a second referendum on Brexit in a bid to appeal to half of British voters who still want to stay in the EU. But he had focused Labour’s campaign on a radical programme of economic change, including re-nationalising some key industries, which failed to woo traditional voters.

Corbyn is personally unpopular and dogged by accusations of sympathising with proscribed terrorist groups and failing to tackle anti-Semitism within the Labour party.

After Labour’s fourth successive electoral defeat — and the second under Corbyn — the party’s ruling executive body will meet in January to consider the next steps.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2019


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