UK voters decide who they want to resolve Brexit impasse
LONDON (AP) — U.K. voters were deciding Thursday who they want to resolve the stalemate over Brexit in a parliamentary election seen as one of the most important since the end of World War II.
Voting was underway across the country in a contest that pits Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who says he will take Britain out of the European Union by Jan. 31, against opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who promises another referendum on Brexit.
With so much at stake, political parties have pushed the boundaries of truth, transparency and reality during five weeks of campaigning.
Johnson’s Conservative Party was criticized for using misleading tactics on social media, while Corbyn’s Labour Party sought to win votes by promising to tax the rich, boost government spending and nationalize industries such as railroads and water companies. One of the focal points of the ugly campaign was the National Health Service, a deeply respected institution that has struggled to meet rising demand after nine years of austerity under Conservative-led governments.
Jill Rutter, program director for the Institute for Government, said one of the things that stood out during the campaign was the shamelessness of the politicians. She cited Johnson’s claim that the Conservatives would build 40 hospitals. In fact that number includes many existing facilities that will be renovated.
“Normally, if you point out to people that something doesn’t stand up, it’s actually sort of fiction, you slightly expect them to start … replacing that with a different new fact,″ Rutter said. “But here, actually, you’ve seen this from No. 10 under Johnson that they’re prepared to run a deeply manipulative operation.’’
All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs in the election, which is being held more than two years ahead of schedule.
The prime minister called early elections in hopes of breaking a logjam in Parliament that stalled approval of his Brexit agreement in October. Johnson didn’t have a majority in the last Parliament and was stymied once he lost the support of the Democratic Unionist Party because of concerns about how Northern Ireland would be treated under his deal with the EU.