UK election: Boris Johnson and John McDonnell hold on to seats but vote counts show a deeply divided country

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Early on Friday morning, in the middle of a crowded athletics hall at a university on the fringes of West London, tensions ran high but there was a quiet air of confidence. Earlier that evening, exit polls had predicted a Tory majority of 86 seats, despite overcast clouds and downpours all over the country that many feared would have a negative effect on the Conservative vote.

Key general election battles were fought at the sports hall at Brunel University on Thursday night. It was where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson contested his seat, Uxbridge & South Ruislip.

His opponents came in all shapes in sizes. They included a candidate dressed as Elmo from the well-known television show Sesame Street. Another was a man with a bin covering his face, who policies range from abolishing the House of Lords to nationalising the singer Adele.

“If I'm right, this is going to be the largest Tory majority since Thatcher in '87 . Boris Johnson with a solid majority, it says something about what's happened to the United Kingdom. It's flabbergasting,” Count Binface told The National.

The constituency has long been considered a safe bet for the Conservatives, but the prime minister only had a majority of around 5,000 votes in this seat in 2017. With Mr Johnson being a polarising figure, especially in mainly Labour voting London, some Tory campaigners feared that he wouldn’t be able to hold hold onto his seat.

His biggest threat was Ali Milani, a 25-year-old Muslim Labour candidate, who came to the UK when he was five from Iran. He was looking to make British history by being the first candidate in history to unseat a prime minister. But Mr Johnson saw off a tactical voting challenge from Mr Milani, winning 25,351 votes. The Labour candidate came second winning just over 18,000 votes. As the result was announced, crowds of spectators watched through the windows outside the hall, holding their mobile phones up to document the moment in history.

After winning the seat, Mr Johnson said in a speech: “At this stage it does look like this one nation Conservative government have been given a mandate to get Brexit done – and not just to get Brexit done but to unite this country and to take it forward,” he said, before promising to focus on the National Health Service.

He said he would build another 40 hospitals across the country and pledged to hire another 50,000 nurses. Critics say that these are empty promises and Labour has accused Mr Johnson as using the NHS as a bargaining chip with America over a possible post-Brexit trade deal.

Meanwhile, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also won his seat of Hayes & Harlington, with the results also being held in the athletics centre. But despite winning his seat by a comfortable majority, it was a bittersweet victory for Mr McDonnell.

After the results were announced on stage, he said it was a very disappointing night for Labour and that many members were left “heartbroken” by the results. Halfway through his speech, he was interrupted when one man in the crowd shouted out “IRA, terrorist!”, before a fight broke out and security had to diffuse the situation. The man was likely referencing Mr McDonnell’s past comments about the paramilitary group, voicing his support for the organisation and hunger striker Bobby Sands. The Labour shadow chancellor has since apologised for his comments.

UXBRIDGE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 12: A police officer breaks up a fight while Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell speaks at the vote declaration after retaining his seat on December 12, 2019 in Uxbridge, England. Exit polls predicted Prime Minister Boris Johnson will emerge from this general election with a governing majority, his aim when he called the first UK winter election for nearly a century. Election results from across the country are being counted overnight and an overall result is expected in the early hours of Friday morning. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

As the security staff were stopping the fight, a solemn-looking Mr McDonnell then denounced the rise of the far right in the UK and the increasing political polarisation in Britain. Although he won his seat comfortably with 24,545 votes, Mr McDonnell looked like he was having a tough night.

Speaking to The National after the results, Mr McDonnell said that his party’s failure in this election was down to the divisive issue of Brexit.

“I think we are going through a special period now where Brexit dominates the whole debate," he said.

"In terms of wider policy making, our policies have been extremely popular, it’s not so much a main manifesto or main political programme change it’s this very specific issue and we’ve just got get through it.”

Although it was a successful night for the prime minister and his party won a comfortable majority, the election results at the athletics hall revealed a worryingly divided country.

Updated: December 13, 2019 10:46 AM

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