Voters across the U.K. are heading to the polls Thursday for a general election that is likely to shape the country for decades to come.
The snap vote was called by the government led by Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson because of a parliamentary impasse over the Brexit deal he had negotiated with the EU.
Johnson and his Conservative Party are aiming to win enough seats to give them a majority in the 650-seat parliament that will enable them to pass their Brexit deal, formally known as the "Withdrawal Agreement." The prime minister has repeatedly said a vote for his party means the ability to "get Brexit done."
It is estimated that any winning party must grab in excess of 320 seats for any sort of majority. A hung parliament, in which no one party holds an outright majority, cannot be ruled out given the margin for error in the last major voter poll before the actual vote.
That poll by YouGov/MRP on Tuesday showed the Tories could win 339 seats (22 more than they took in 2017) and a vote share of 43%.The poll also suggested that Labour are set to lose 31 seats — falling from 262 in 2017, to 231 — and take 34% of the vote.
Labour are pledging to give the public a second vote on Brexit, saying that it will secure a "sensible Brexit deal" that it will them put to another referendum against an option to remain. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has drawn criticism for his failure to make a clear personal preference on Brexit.
The reputation of voter polls is on the line too with previous forecasts failing to predict the actual outcome of the 2016 EU referendum or a snap general election in 2017, in which then-Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority in parliament.
But the MRP poll is one of few surveys that roughly predicted the result of the 2017 election, a result that made it ultimately impossible for May to get her Brexit deal passed by a majority in parliament.
Nonetheless, the poll noted that "like all predictions our model comes with some uncertainty, and the margin of error here could put the final number of Conservative seats from 311 to 367. This means that we absolutely cannot rule out the 2019 election producing a hung Parliament — nor can we rule out a larger Conservative majority."
Voting gets underway in the U.K. at 7:00 a.m. London time with polling stations open until 10:00 p.m., although some voters may have already cast their ballot in advance by post.
Party leaders were on the campaign trail Wednesday for a last frenetic day on the campaign trail before the general election is held on Thursday. Both main parties have experienced mixed fortunes during the election race with question marks raised over their trustworthiness, attitudes to Jews and Muslims, and commitments to grand spending pledges.