The SNP is gaining momentum and has just over 30 seats left to win a fourth term in government, but it is still too early to call whether the party will enter Scottish Parliament with a majority or rely on support from allies such as the Scottish Greens.
Nicola Sturgeon said earlier the prospect “hangs in the balance”, admitting it was always going to be a “very, very long shot” for her party to achieve a majority at Holyrood after early results suggested swings to Labour and the Conservatives in key Scottish seats.
Scotland’s first minister did however say she was “extremely happy and extremely confident” that her party was on course for a victory after some major successes including gaining East Lothian from Scottish Labour, and Ayr and Edinburgh Central from the Conservatives respectively.
Meanwhile, London’s mayoral election, seen as a two-man race between Labour’s Sadiq Khan and Conservative Shaun Bailey, is a lot closer than initially predicted. So far, it has been announced that Mr Bailey received more votes in the West Central constituency than Mr Khan, with 53,713 votes to 51,508. Mr Khan’s party are blaming a low turnout for the close margins.
In Wales, the Tories gained the Vale of Clwyd for the first time in the seat’s history. It was previously held by Labour’s Ann Jones since 1999 before she stood down ahead of this election, but was taken today by Conservative Gareth Davies.
Earlier, Boris Johnson’s party took Labour’s “red wall” stronghold seat of Hartlepool, winning the constituency for the first time since it was created almost 50 years ago.
Tory candidate Jill Mortimer won a stunning majority of almost 7,000 at the crucial by-election contest. Mr Johnson credited “bouncing back” from the Covid crisis, and “getting Brexit done”, for the early election successes.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has been urged to “change direction,” as he faces a furious backlash from the left. “Not possible to blame Jeremy Corbyn for this result,” said Diane Abbott, a close ally of the ex-leader.
Johnson on course for clash with Sturgeon over independence
Boris Johnson has set himself on course for a constitutional clash with Nicola Sturgeon if she pushes ahead with plans for a second Scottish independence referendum.
Counting continues in the Scottish parliamentary contest, with the SNP leader's hopes of achieving a majority on a knife-edge.
It is almost certain the SNP will win its fourth term in power at Holyrood, and Ms Sturgeon said: "when the time is right" she will offer Scots "the choice of a better future" in a second independence referendum.
But Mr Johnson has insisted he would not support an "irresponsible" referendum.
Achieving the 65 seats needed for an outright victory could make it harder for Mr Johnson to refuse another plebiscite, although if the SNP falls short of that target it could still achieve a majority in Holyrood for a referendum with the support of the Greens.
Ms Sturgeon said the SNP would introduce the legislation for a referendum "and if Boris Johnson wants to stop that he would have to go to court".
"If this was in almost any other democracy in the world it would be an absurd discussion," Ms Sturgeon told Channel 4.
"If people in Scotland vote for a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, no politician has got the right to stand in the way of that."
Mr Johnson said a referendum would be "irresponsible and reckless" in the "current context" following the pandemic.
Pressed on what he would do if Ms Sturgeon pushed ahead with a referendum without Westminster's consent, he told the Daily Telegraph: "Well, as I say, I think that there's no case now for such a thing ... I don't think it's what the times call for at all."
Matt Mathers8 May 2021 00:40
ICYMI: MP quits Starmer’s frontbench with swipe at ‘woke warriors’
Labour MP Khalid Mahmood has quit Keir Starmer’s frontbench, warning that the party has been taken over by “a London-based bourgeoisie, with the support of brigades of woke social media warriors”.
Our politics editor Andrew Woodcock reports:
Matt Mathers8 May 2021 00:11
Tory tanks parked all over Labour’s lawn, shadow minister says
Lucy Powell has said the Tories have parked their tanks "all over our lawn" in a damning assessment of Thursday’s election results.
Labour’s shadow business minister said her party’s so-called 'red wall' had been crumbling for "20 years”.
She told BBC Newsnight: "[The] people of Hartlepool and elsewhere are voting for change.
"We have been talking to ourselves too much... people want decent, secure jobs, close to their homes.
"We do need a new reckoning on the economy, we need an economy which works for everyone all over the country.
"We're facing a Conservative party which has parked their tanks all over our lawn."
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 23:39
ICYMI: Liverpool elects black female mayor in historic vote
Liverpool has elected its first black female mayor, as Labour retained the mayoralty despite a storm of corruption allegations surrounding the previous incumbent.
My colleague Jane Dalton reports:
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 23:35
How the pandemic boosted Boris Johnson’s popularity
It seems in bad taste to even contemplate such an idea, given the grievous loss of life, almost including his own, but it would seem that the Covid pandemic has – in purely political terms – served Boris Johnson well, writes our associate editor, Sean O’Grady.
Read his analysis here:
Despite a series of major errors during the pandemic and presiding over Europe’s highest Covid death toll, Boris Johnson woke up to news this morning that his Conservative Party had won the Hartlepool seat for the first time in 62 years. Sean O’Grady explores why voters are still turning to the Tories
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 23:18
Johnson eyes a decade in power
Boris Johnson is eyeing a decade in power after the Conservatives strong showing at the ‘super Thursday’ elections, according to the front page of The Times.
According to the paper:
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 23:06
Recap: a look back at some results from the big races
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 22:41
Labour hails ‘extraordinary’ results in Wales
Mark Drakeford’s Welsh Labour has declared its strong Senedd election performance as “an extraordinary set of results in extraordinary times” as the party look favourite to retain control of the Welsh government.
The party has exceeded expectations as election counting continues, having so far lost just one of its seats and taking Rhondda from Plaid Cymru’s former leader Leanne Wood.
Polling at the start of the campaign suggested Labour was facing its worst-ever result and was at risk of winning as few as 22 of the Senedd’s 60 seats, a loss of seven from 2016, though later polls suggested a stronger showing.
After voting closed at 10pm on Thursday, party sources said retaining all of its seats in the Senedd remained “a massive challenge”.
Commenting on the “remarkable turnaround” on Friday evening, a Labour spokesperson said: “It is increasingly clear that people across Wales have put their faith in Welsh Labour and Mark Drakeford to lead the next Welsh Government and lead Wales out of the pandemic.”
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 22:15
SNP ‘likely to be one or two seats short'
More from Prof Curtice - he says results so far suggest SNP ‘likely to be one or two seats short' of an overall majority.
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 22:00
Mark Drakeford holds Cardiff West with increased majority
Labour’s leader in Wales and first minister, Mark Drakeford, has held his Cardiff West with an increased majority.
Mr Drakeford secured 17,664 votes (48.35%), increasing his share by 12.74%
The Conservative Party’s Sean Driscoll came in second with 6,454 votes, with Plaid Cymru’s Rhys ab Owen in third with 5,897 votes.
Matt Mathers7 May 2021 21:58