Britain falls deep into uncertainty
After a disastrous campaign, PM Theresa May wins snap election but loses the commanding majority
9 June, 2017
Jubilant Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The UK is poised to enter a period of deeper than ever uncertainty after last Thursday British voters dealt PM Theresa May a devastating blow in a snap election she had called to better her positions, news wires reported. Instead of gaining more seats and strengthen PM’s hand for the approaching Brexit talks, the Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority, which is on a way to throw the country into political turmoil.
With almost all of the seats declared by last Friday noon, the Conservatives had won 315 seats out of 650, a loss of about 15 compared to the last parliament. Though the biggest single winner, they failed to reach the 326-threshold they would need to command a parliamentary majority. Labour had won 261 seats, gaining 29. Scottish nationalists finished with 35 seats, while Liberals won 13, or 5 up. With talks on Britain's departure from the EU due to start in just 10 days' time, it was unclear who would form the next government and what the fundamental direction of Brexit would be, Reuters commented.
With no clear winner, May signalled she would fight on, while her Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper, said she should step down. With the smaller parties more closely aligned with Labour than with the Conservatives, the prospect of Corbyn becoming PM no longer seems fanciful. That would make the course of Brexit even harder to predict. As party leader, Corbyn unenthusiastically campaigned for Britain to remain in the Union, but has said that Labour would deliver Brexit if in power, albeit with very different priorities from those stated by May.
"At this time, more than anything else this country needs a period of stability," a grim-faced May said after winning her own parliamentary seat of Maidenhead, near London. "If the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do."
After winning his own seat in north London, Corbyn said May's attempt to win a bigger mandate had backfired. "The mandate she's got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that's enough to go, actually, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country."
May had unexpectedly called the snap election seven weeks ago, even though no vote was due until 2020. At that point, polls predicted she would massively increase the slim majority she had inherited from predecessor David Cameron. Instead, she risks an ignominious exit after just 11 months at 10 Downing Street, which would be the shortest tenure of any PM for almost a century.
In the aftermath of yet another sensational election night after last year’s Brexit referendum, politicians and commentators called May’s decision to hold the election a colossal mistake and derided her performance on the campaign trail. From the EU's perspective, the upset in London meant a possible delay in the start of the talks and an increased risk that negotiations would fail. "We need a government that can act," Budget Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. "With a weak negotiating partner, there's a danger that the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides."
The elections were held under the cloud of terror as just days before the vote three islamists killed 7 people and injured 48 others in the centre of London after crashing a bus into pedestrians on London Bridge and later on went on stabbing people at the nearby Borough Market. And two weeks ago, a suicide bomber killed 22 children and adults at a concert in Manchester.