The Conservatives are failing to gain seats and their majority in the House of Commons could even be in doubt as early results come in from the British general election.
An exit poll, issued as polls closed at 10pm, indicated shock losses for the Tories and a loss of their majority. It showed the Tories returning with 314 seats, 12 seats short of an overall majority.
That result was largely being borne out in early results, raising question marks over Theresa May’s future as Tory leader and predictions of months of uncertainty and a possible fresh election.
After four hours of counting and 38 seats declared, only one seat had changed hands -- a Labour gain from the Scottish Nationalist Party -- and the final outcome remains highly uncertain.
The British PM called the election three years ahead of schedule, amid signs she would win a landslide majority after she adopted a hardline approach in support of Brexit. However, that has not worked out.
While she won the expected support of extreme right-wing voters amid a near-total collapse in support for the UK Independence Party over her Brexit stance. However, the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn was seen to have won strong backing from young and disaffected voters, and also a big share of those opposed to Brexit.
SHOCK GAIN FOR SINN FEIN
In the north of Ireland, election boxes were also being counted tonight, with signs of gains for the DUP and Sinn Fein.
The biggest story so far is the expected gain by Sinn Fein’s Elisha McCallion over the SDLP’s Mark Durkan in Foyle. A recount has been called in the Derry constituency after Ms McCallion came out 170 votes ahead, overturning a majority of 6,000.
Pundits are also predicting a possible gain for Sinn Fein in Fermanagh/South Tyrone from the Ulster Unionist Party and in South Down from the SDLP. It is also expected that the DUP will win South Belfast from the SDLP, and South Antrim from the UUP, while holding the highly contested seats of North and East Belfast.
An early result from North Down saw independent unionist Sylvia Hermon retain her seat, but on a much smaller majority, followed by the DUP retaining their seats in Strangford, Lagan Valley and East Derry.
Mainstream media attention in the north of Ireland has already switched to the possibly of the DUP serving as ‘king-makers’ in the next Westminster parliament.
Senior party figure Jeffrey Donaldson said his party could be poised to exert significant influence at Westminster and said his party would talk to the Conservatives if they needed help to form a government.
“If we do have a Conservative majority, it may not be a large one and I think that could be territory in which the DUP could exert quite a degree of influence in Westminster,” he said.
But Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams dismissed his rival’s remarks. “Jeffrey always plays up their [DUP’s] role,” he said.
Amid considerable interest, he also made clear there was “no danger whatsoever” of his party dropping its abstentionist policy. He said Jeremy Corbyn is a “politician of principle” and would “understand the Sinn Fein position”.
He also credited Mr Corbyn with fighting a good campaign despite a media smear campaign. Asked how he would respond if Mr Corbyn offered him a referendum on Irish unity Mr Adams responded: “We are going to get a referendum anyway, that is is a matter of time.”
He added: “I don’t know how Theresa May can survive this - that’s a matter for her party, of course”.