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#GE2017: Polls open in key British election

Polling stations will close at 10 pm. [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 June, 2017

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Polling stations opened across Britain on Thursday in a snap election to choose who will lead the country out of the European Union.

Polling stations opened across the UK on Thursday in a snap election to choose who will lead the country out of the European Union.

British Prime Minister Theresa May called the vote in April when opinion polls rating the Conservative party were sky-high, but campaign missteps and unpopular manifesto policies have dented her reputation.

Terrorist attacks in London and Manchester have also cast scrutiny on her six years as home secretary, further damaging her reputation as "strong and stable", a key slogan of her campaign.

The Conservative government's record on cutting funding for health and education have benefitted Labour, while May was damaged by a manifesto plan for elderly care that would see some pay more.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, has been criticised by the Conservatives for his anti-nuclear policies and alleged support for Irish paramilitaries.

Corbyn was previously deemed unelectable by a majority of his own MPs, but has led an energetic campaign promising change and an end to austerity.

He has toured the country drawing large crowds to open-air rallies, while May has delivered slogan-heavy speeches to hand-picked groups of activists.

The British PM also refused to participate in a live television debate with the Labour leader, and has restricted her accessibility to media.

On a final campaign stop on Wednesday, she presented herself again as a safe pair of hands for the Brexit talks. "Get those negotiations wrong and the consequences will be dire," she said.

Corbyn, veteran socialist and activist, defied the odds to win the Labour leadership two years ago and urged supporters in Glasgow to think big.

"Wouldn't it be great if on Friday we woke up to... a Labour government that will be a government for all of our communities across the whole of the country," he said.

The campaign was hit by a suicide bombing at a Manchester concert on 22 May, which killed 22 people including seven children, followed by last Saturday's knife and van attack in central London, which left eight dead.

Campaigning was twice suspended in the aftermath of the attacks, which May blamed on "evil" Islamist ideology.

While May remains the favourite, predictions of her expected margin vary widely. A final poll by YouGov on Wednesday put the Conservatives seven points ahead of Labour, while ICM gave May's party a 12-point lead over its rivals.

Such predictions stand in stark contrast to a Monday poll by Survation, which gave a narrow one-point gap. One shock forecast model even predicted May could lose her majority of 17 in the 650-seat House of Commons.

Polling stations will close at 10pm (2100 GMT), with 49.6 million registered voters electing a total of 650 MPs.

May and Corbyn both cast their votes in their respective constituencies of Maidenhead, south England, and Islington, north London.

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