In an extraordinary blow to the Conservatives, the election has ended in a hung parliament. Despite burgeoning pre-election confidence and a staggering 17-point lead when the Prime Minister called the snap election back in April, the Conservatives have failed to form a majority — securing just 318 seats of the required 326 in the House of Commons. Labour, meanwhile, has vastly exceeded expectations by securing 262 seats, 30 of them new acquisitions and 9 of which they took from the Conservatives.
While Theresa May has entered negotiations with the DUP (the Democratic Unionist Party, who performed well in Ireland to win 10 seats) to arrange some kind of deal to form a minority government, it as yet unclear what form this will take.
‘since the result there has been relative tory radio silence’.
These results have badly punctured May’s ‘strong and stable’ narrative. A snap-election allegedly called to acquire an indisputable majority mandate for an efficient Brexit process, the whole enterprise has become an embittered political gamble on the part of the Conservatives.
Questions about the Conservative party’s stability are being raised, with Tory sources during results night suggesting a 50/50 possibility of May’s resignation. Older accusations from leftist (and some conservative) quarters that this snap-election was a needless power-grab seem somewhat vindicated now that many Tories are asking why the election had to be called in the first place when they already had a strong majority.
Since the result, there has been relative Tory radio silence. May spoke briefly yesterday, apologising to colleagues who lost their seats and visiting Buckingham Palace to request to form a government almost immediately in an attempt to keep up a front of stability and direction. May yesterday also confirmed that all five of her cabinet ministers, including Home Secretary Amber Rudd who only retained her seat in Hastings and Rye by 300 votes, will be staying for the moment.
‘one tory mp outside westminster described the conservative manifesto as the “worst ever'”
One Tory MP, who lost his seat to Labour, spoke on the BBC this morning about the conservative campaign and how he thought it influenced the results. ‘We lost because we had a lack of positive vision about where we were going to take people’ — indeed, internal Tory critics are already pointing to the character-assassination-centred Tory campaign against Jeremy Corbyn and related lack of positive messaging as one reason for its issues — ‘the social care debacle’ contradicted claims of stability, he continued, and the focus on Brexit, he said, the ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ narrative suggests to him that ‘there was only one segment that we were being listened to by and that was those hard-bent on taking Britain out of the EU for any price’. Asked about the Tory cabinet, he responded that ‘if I was the PM I’d have a thorough shake up of those in number ten. Anyone who had things to do with the manifesto really has to do a lot of thinking about where they are’. Another Tory MP outside Westminster described the Tory manifesto as the ‘worst ever’.
Theresa May’s closest advisors Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill have resigned following immense pressure from Tory MP’s pledging a leadership challenge on Monday unless they were sacked — such is the disquiet and unhappiness in the party. Many Tories wanted Timothy and Hill out because of their alleged influence, as Norman Smith suggests, ‘over the manifesto and their alleged hold over [May]. They are incredibly close, there is deep resentment among some ministers that these two individuals may adopt ‘arrogant’ attitudes towards them’, he said. Smith suggested that the ‘basic problem’ of the Tory campaign was that it was being ‘fought around the cult of May — that she was going to get the mandate. It was only in the dying days that figures like Johnson were brought back in. The thinking is that Hill and Timothy are to blame for this’.
‘nearly three-quarters of 18-24 year-olds voted and a record 207 female mps have been elected’.
What does this all mean for Brexit and why are many, including Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, wary of a Tory coalition with the DUP? Confidence at the DUP conference yesterday morning was high — this was the best election result the party had ever achieved and, owing to the Liberal Democrat’s steadfast opposition to making any deals, they are in the heady position of being May’s only hope to form a government. The DUP’s demands so far are relatively unclear as discussions are ongoing but one potential issue that is emerging is their clash with the Conservatives on the form of Brexit and how this impacts trade. The DUP are anxious to remain in the customs union in some form to retain free trade with the Republic of Ireland, their key trading partner, and inevitably contradicts May’s hard stance that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’. Others, like Ruth Davidson, are sceptical of the DUP’s stance on myriad issues including their former environment ministers denial of climate change (he called it ‘mad’, and the Paris agreement ‘window dressing for Climate chancers’) and their anti-LGBT and women’s right’s stances with respect to equal marriage and abortion.
The voter turnout for this election stands at 69% — the highest since 1997. Nearly three-quarters of 18-24 year-olds voted and a record 207 female MPs have been elected. Labour has enjoyed big swings in pro-remain seats and the Conservatives swings in Brexit seats. The main factors at play in Labour’s resurgence appear to be the surge in younger voters, the anti-austerity campaign based on positive political messaging well handled by Jeremy Corbyn, the ‘remainer’s revenge’ effect and the disastrous Conservative campaign.