The election results are in, and it’s not what Theresa May had hoped for. She had set out to increase her slim majority in order to bolster her mandate, but she lost a total of 12 seats and now no longer has a majority in parliament.
The UK now finds itself with a second hung parliament in seven years, after a night of unexpected results.
The Conservatives remain the largest party and, at the time of writing, are expected to form a government in coalition with Northern Ireland’s DUP and its 10 seats. Yet the results represent a huge blow to the Tories who hoped to make big gains ahead of Brexit negotiations. Now May and her inner circle will be working out how to navigate through uncharted waters.
Labour did far better than even it expected. Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign managed to do what many commentators had deemed impossible – not only reach out to his core vote, but reaching beyond in some areas. In Canterbury, the seat returned its first ever Labour MP – with a 20 per cent Labour swing – ousting former Conservative minister Sir Julian Brazier, who had held it for 30 years.
The night had some high-profile losses – former housing minister Gavin Barwell lost his Croydon Central seat to Labour’s Sarah Jones. While in Sheffield Nick Clegg lost a 2,353 majority – handing over his seat to Labour’s Jared O’Mara.
In Scotland, the SNP suffered some heavy blows – losing former leader Alex Salmond to the conservative Colin Clark. And as was expected, the Conservatives secured 13 seats in Scotland – the party’s best performance in the country since 1983.
In Wales, Labour performed far better than expected – taking back Gower, Cardiff North and Vale of Clwyd from the Tories. They also fought off fierce Tory battles for Bridgend and Wrexham, and won a total of 28 seats, three more than in 2015.
What happens next?
Government and the Conservative party
Convention dictates that the party with the most votes has the first chance to try and form a government. If May can’t form a government, and chooses not to rule as a minority administration, then the opposition parties have a chance to form their own coalition and get the numbers needed to form government.
Right now, May is trying to thrash out the detail of a deal with the DUP. If it falls through and they can’t form an agreement, May will be forced to govern as a minority government. She’ll want to avoid this, knowing that her leadership will be undermined, and passing any legislation through parliament will be nigh-on impossible.
Given the fact the Conservative party has lost its majority, MPs – both backbenchers and some from the front bench – are likely to want to challenge May for a new leadership contest. How she handles this in the next few days is crucial to what happens next.
Expect slow announcements on ministerial posts. Announcements will likely start to fall into place next week, after May has her ducks in a row and the necessary deals have been done.
Housing and development will be low down the priority list of government policies. Brexit and the economy are going to be the main priority in the short term. Although the housing sector should expect May to want to roll out her housing pledges in time – she’ll be aware that failing to tackle the housing crisis will lose her even more votes in the long-term.
She’ll most likely use the alliance or coalition to quietly drop unpopular manifesto commitments, like her politically disastrous social care pledges.
Labour hasn’t won, but for many commentators and the Labour party itself, this is a Labour victory. Above all, it’s a victory for Jeremy Corbyn – he’s unlikely to stand aside, and Labour moderates are now unlikely to call for him to go – recognising his success, and acknowledging that he received more votes than Ed Miliband in 2015.
Of course, May called the election hoping to secure a clear mandate to pursue her version of a hard Brexit. That hasn’t happened, and the future of Brexit is once again unclear.
May had wanted to take the UK out of both the single market and the customs union, but in the early hours of Friday morning the Brexit secretary, David Davis, suggested the election result could prompt a rethink.
Davis said of the Tory’s manifesto pledges on the single market and customs union: “That’s what it [the election] was about, that’s what we put in front of the people, we’ll see tomorrow whether they’ve accepted that or not. That will be their decision.”
The results are in, but across a range of fronts, the outcome remains far from certain.
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