The 2017 general election result is yet another to be added to the long list of unexpected political shocks in the last year or so. It was thought that this general election would finally settle the Brexit debate with a large majority of the country expected to endorse Theresa May’s ‘strong and stable’, hard-line Brexit government. Instead, we awoke to a hung parliament, with the Conservative party having massively underperformed in the election and Labour having exceeded all expectations. In the unlikely event that you have managed to avoid the political turmoil of the last few days, here is the fallout from Britain’s general election so far.
The Conservatives remain the largest party in the House of Commons with 318 seats and 42.4% of the vote. Labour secured 262 seats, an increase of 30, and received 40% of the vote. No party has managed to achieve an overall majority of seats (326) and so the Conservatives, as the largest party, reserves the right to either form a minority government, or as seems to be their current intention, form a formal or informal coalition with another party.
Whilst the SNP have retained their position as the third largest party in Westminster, overall they suffered during the general election, losing 21 seats and seeing their vote share drop 1.7%. The Green Party held on to their only seat, with one of the party’s co-leaders, Caroline Lucas managing to double her majority. However, on the whole it was a disappointing night for the Greens with a 2.1% drop in their vote share and a failure to gain any seats.
UKIP suffered the most at the ballot box; their vote share dropped by 10.8% and they failed to win any seats. With the EU question having (apparently) been settled by the referendum last June, the ‘Leave’ voters that UKIP had previously hoovered up were split between the two main parties, with an unprecedented swing favouring Labour. UKIP’s poor electoral performance resulted in the leader, Paul Nuttall, announcing his resignation the morning of the results.
In Wales, the blue tide failed to sweep up the electorate, with the Conservative party failing to take high ‘Leave’ areas such as Wrexham away from the Labour party. In fact, despite the gloomy predication that Labour would suffer a monumental and embarrassing loss, the party actually achieved their best vote in Wales since 1997. The Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, hoped to make fairly significant gains however only increased their number of seats by one.
Indeed, the nationalist wave appears to have lost momentum with the Conservatives gaining twelve MPs in Scotland off the back of a strong anti-IndyRef2 campaign. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all snatched seats from the SNP, suggesting a real lack of appetite for another Independence referendum. The SNP’s continued push for Independence has lost them big political players in this election, such as Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond.
In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) made fair gains in the election bringing their total number of MPs to 10. Sinn Féin gained three seats, but none of their 7 MPs will take their seat in the House of Commons due to the party’s long-standing tradition of absentionism.
So where does this leave us? For now, Theresa May is trying to solidify her position as Prime Minister despite the cross-party calls for her to resign and reports of political manoeuvring within the Conservative party (cue Boris). In order to form a majority, Theresa May is seeking an alliance with the DUP. This has been met with heavy criticism across all parties including May’s own due to the DUP’s anti-LGBTQI and anti-abortion stance. The DUP also has historical links with Unionist paramilitary forces and many fear that a coalition with the DUP would unsettle the already highly unstable political situation in Northern Ireland.
Some predict another general election to be called before the year is out; others seem confident that it is merely a matter of time before May resigns, or is forced out of office. With Brexit negotiations due to begin in just under a week, it is essential that the UK addresses the current political uncertainty. Ironically, whilst this general election was meant to produce a ‘strong and stable’ government for the difficult years ahead, it feels like British politics is more muddled than ever.