UK election result: May worse than Cameron?

If at one point it was considered possible that the UK snap election would send a clear signal about London’s  relation with EU, it was short-lived. Yesterday’s UK election was not an election about Europe, it was rather a very European election.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to travel to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen's permission to form a minority government, in London, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to travel to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen's permission to form a minority government, in London, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Theresa May’s election gamble backfired after election results suggested a disastrous loss of seats for the Conservatives. Despite polls suggesting the Tories could secure a landslide majority, they got a much slimmer majority than was expected a month ago.

The Tory Prime Minister currently has 331 seats in the House of Commons, and a majority of 17. If the early numbers are confirmed, then this will be reduced to 318 seats, 8 short of an overall majority (326).  Meanwhile, the Labour Party has been projected to win 261 seats in Parliament, up 29 seats from the results two years ago. The Scottish National Party   (SNP) has been predicted to be on 35 and Lib Dems on 12. 

Implications of the vote

1. Among conservatives there will be a lot of  dissatisfaction directed at May for blowing what was considered a precious opportunity to build a stronger majority. She has called an early election when she didn’t have to and thrown away the majority her party had won just two years ago. Her strategy has backfired spectacularly. As a result, her authority as leader will be badly compromised.

2. The results raise questions about whether either major party will have enough support to form a government without resorting to forming a coalition: a scenario that points to a hung parliament, with chaotic consequences, at least in the first hours.

3. Conservative might seek to carry on, which seems the most likely scenario, according to May’s latest statements. Assuming Theresa May is still Prime Minister, she is likely to reshuffle her Cabinet, changing the people in some of the top jobs. But she will also need to work out how she can govern the country without a majority. She may need to do a deal with another party. The Lib Dems have said they will not go into coalition. This means Northern Ireland could be crucial for Theresa May's majority.  

4. Yet, such a result could open the door for Jeremy Corbyn to lead a minority Labour government. Will Jeremy Corbyn be Prime Minister? At the moment it's impossible to say, and seems more unlikely than likely. But the fact we're even pondering if Corbyn could make it, is a striking development nevertheless. The only way Corbyn would end up becoming Prime Minister is if May fails to win a majority and he is able to form a coalition Government with parties like the SNP, Lib Dems and Greens. But even then, he may still need to form a loose coalition with independent MPs and parties in Northern Ireland.  In spite of whether Corbin can lead the next government, we can say that he has been able to energize the young vote.

5. This scenario is likely to increase political risks and uncertainty for the Brexit process. If there is a  Conservative government, it would not be able to agree on Brexit strategies that lack unanimous support. This would mean that the prime minister would face the need for regular compromises to get them through parliament, with many situations requiring at least partial opposition support, a scenario that would make the government comparatively fragile. This could translate in a more volatile and unpredictable negotiation strategy.  The Prime Minister's potential dependence on minorities such as hard Brexiteers or hard Remainers would raise the risk of 'chaotic Brexit', but also the chance of a much softer Brexit than it is currently aimed for.

6. The SNP's quest for Scottish independence would furtherly complicate the workings of parliament, slowing down Brexit and other legislative procedures.As political turmoil and uncertainty are looming on the horizon, stay tuned for further updates.

@GiuScognamiglio

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