UK General Election Delivers Hung Parliament

In what was a crucial election for both the UK and EU, Britain has been left with a hung parliament. Read about the results and the possible implications of this historic election.

The Results – A Hung Parliament

Not all of the results are in yet but it is clear that Theresa May’s Conservatives will have most seats in Parliament. Crucially, however, they will not command a majority. For a single party to gain a majority in parliament they need 326 seats.

UPDATE: It looks likely that the Conservatives will form a government with the aid of the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) – a pro-Union Northern Irish party. While this coalition may not be formal, relying on DUP in parliament would give them a slim majority.

Overall voter turnout so far has been recorded as 68.72% (2015 – 66.4%), a rise likely to have been driven by early reports of increased youth turnout.

 

Party Seats Vote Share
Conservatives 318 (-12) 42.4%
Labour 262 (+31) 40%
SNP 35 (-19) 3%
Liberal Democrats 12 (+3) 7.4%
DUP 10 (+2) 0.9%
Other 13 (-3) 6.3%

“A Country Divided”

This was the term frequently used by politicians, presenters, and analysts throughout the BBC’s election night coverage. Indeed, the UK is a nation that is fraught with divisions and seems to be in the process of exposing them all in public. Britain has divides covering every aspect of society: North/South, upper/middle/working class, leave/remain and recently young/old. This doesn’t even begin to mention the divide between the nations making up the Union itself. The election was supposed to be about “strong and stable” leadership – choosing a party and a leader that would be able to manage these divides, drag Britain through what could be a nasty divorce with the EU and help Britain thrive as a post-EU state.

This election has done none of the above. The two main parties remain bitterly divided on nearly every crucial issue. Conservatives desire further cuts to help balance the books and acknowledged that “no deal” was a valid outcome of Brexit negotiations. Labour stands for a softer Brexit, meaning a desire to stay in the single market and the customs union. They support the highly popular re-nationalization of railways, higher taxes for higher incomes and look to invest further in both the NHS and welfare state. Smaller parties could provide a chance for a coalition government, but it is more likely that a weaker, Conservative minority government will be formed.

One positive for the Union may be the decline in the SNP vote. While still the main Scottish party, their losses to Labour and the Tories may signal diminished support for Scottish independence.

Labour Success and Conservative Blunders

Ultimately, this election was called by May because of Brexit. She wanted – many argue needed – a strong majority to help her with the negotiations with the European Union over Brexit negotiations. It is a source of frustration for many members of the British population. Regardless of which camp they are in, little is known about the British Government’s official position. This frustration was perfectly summarised by David Dimbleby:

“Theresa May hasn’t got the massive support from the country she was hoping to get to allow her to do whatever it is she wanted to do which she never told us.”

The European Union, on the other hand, has been exceedingly transparent in their negotiations. Many EU states have been left both baffled and somewhat insulted at the lack of openness shown by May’s Conservatives.

Interestingly, Labour fought an entirely different campaign. There is a perceived level of fatigue amongst voters for smear attacks. Accordingly, there was a conscious attempt to focus on policies rather than personalities and away from a string of one-line slogans. Widely recognized as a well-fought campaign, Labour gained far more seats than was expected in pre-election polling. It is a testament to their campaign that the Conservative safe seat of Canterbury fell to Labour after 100 years of Conservative representation.

Exit polling

The joint poll between Sky, the BBC, and ITV aimed to improve on previous exit polls. Indeed, it came within a few seats of correctly predicting the result. They were wildly wrong in 2015 and presenters from the BBC claimed they were nervous to present the exit poll last night. Pre-election polling suggested a Conservative majority government. They failed to foresee, however, either a Lib Dem comeback or a collapse of SNP support in Scotland.

The Impact of a Hung Parliament

The two main impacts that this result could have are on Theresa May herself and on the Brexit negotiations. There is no doubt that this result is a catastrophic failure for the Conservatives. They gambled with their majority in the hopes of gaining further seats but support has collapsed. Many from both within the Conservative party and outside are calling for her resignation. She is not likely to resign in such haste but may see her party through the next few weeks. Support for her is, however, very likely to collapse.

The other implication involves Brexit negotiations. The drop in Tory support shows a lack of enthusiasm for both a hard Brexit and extended welfare cuts. Ultimately, Parliament needs to ratify any deal that government negotiators decide upon. A hung parliament is likely to reject any deal which it sees as being too harsh – or too soft.

It could come to pass that another election is called to solve the matter. Ultimately, Britain is in for an exciting few weeks, but perhaps a challenging few months.