Live coverage: Labour poised for historic victory in UK election

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Voters in Portsmouth, a city famous for its naval base on England’s south coast, streamed into a polling station on Thursday morning. Warmly greeted by poll workers, they arrived in a steady stream: elderly couples holding hands, parents with babies in strollers, and young professionals rushing to work.

According to the latest polls, every vote cast has added weight to what could be the decisive conclusion to 14 years of Conservative government.

“I just want to see change,” said Sam Argha, 36, after voting for Labour. “We need to try something different.”

This sentiment reverberated across the city, where many, regardless of their political leanings, yearned for a fresh start amid national uncertainty. The center-left Labour Party was widely expected to unseat the right-wing Conservatives, marking a significant turning point.

Portsmouth North, a constituency that has historically voted for the winning party in every general election since 1974, has come under intense scrutiny. With results expected in the early hours of Friday, many voters were expecting a shift in the political landscape.

The situation in Portsmouth reflects the wider challenges facing the governing party: a traditional Conservative stronghold now under threat and an electorate disillusioned and frustrated by the quality of life and the perceived lack of leadership.

Since 2010, Penny Mordaunt, a Conservative MP known for her leading role in the coronation of King Charles III, has held the seat. Despite her popularity and potential leadership ambitions within her party, polls suggested that Labour could still overtake Conservative support in this election.

The Liberal Democrats and the far-right Reform UK party were also expected to take votes away from the Conservatives.

“I’m hoping for a much more compassionate government from Friday,” Grahame Milner, 62, said as he walked through the city centre with his husband. Having voted Labour, he was eager to celebrate a new prime minister.

The city centre, marked by shuttered shops and graffiti, has seen better days. Milner, a former naval chef who served in the Falklands War, criticised austerity measures that have left many workers dependent on soup kitchens.

“This is not the Britain I served in the army for,” he observed.

The shuttered, graffiti-covered stores in downtown Portsmouth are a stark reminder of the area’s decline. Lifelong resident Tracy Patton, 59, expressed frustration with politics and decided not to vote this year.

“It used to be vibrant here,” he said. “But now it’s just going downhill. There’s no money in England anymore.”

For younger voters, the future looked uncertain. Daisy Quelch, 28, and Kiran Kaur, 24, after an outdoor boxing class, expressed their concerns about climate change and planned to vote Green.

“Sometimes it feels like our world is falling apart,” Quelch said.

Earlier this year, residents were warned not to swim due to sewage contamination, highlighting ongoing water pollution problems.

On election day, patrons at Dixie’s Bar in Portsmouth debated politics passionately. Former Tory supporters considered switching to Reform UK, led by Nigel Farage, while others remained loyal to the Conservatives despite criticism.

Andrew Revis, 57, defended the Conservatives, citing the pandemic and the war in Ukraine as major factors outside the government’s control.

Kerry Harris, 36, with her granddaughter, spoke about the rising cost of living. She used to be able to fill a £50 shopping trolley, now she struggled to fill a bag for that amount.

“They’re not increasing salaries, are they?” he observed.

Although Harris had voted conservative in the past, she was hesitant this time.

“Everyone promises the world, but nothing ever changes,” he lamented.

As the election progressed, a sign at a polling station in Cosham captured the hopeful mood of the day.

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