“Politics is founded in quicksand,” commented Piers Morgan, presenter of “Good Morning Britain,” the morning after the United Kingdom went to the polls in a snap general election on June 8, 2017. Between Brexit and the U.S. presidential election in November 2016, you would think the electorate on both sides of the Atlantic would be wise to the idea that things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to. But no, once again, an election result has everybody, politicians, pundits and punters, befuddled.
When Prime Minister Theresa May, herself not long in office, announced in April 2017 that she was calling for an early general election in June, her intention was to expand the Conservative Party’s 12-seat majority in Parliament so she could approach Brexit negotiations in Europe with a strong mandate. She believed it would solidify Britain’s position in the negotiations for a better deal when the U.K. leaves the European Union.
She had gravely miscalculated. There are 650 seats up for grabs in Parliament. In order for a single party to petition the Queen for permission to form a government, it needs to secure a minimum of 326 seats. In the 2015 general election, the Tory (conservative) party won 331, giving them a majority of 12 seats. By mid-morning on June 9, 2017, they held only 318, a loss of 13 seats and a loss of its right to govern.
Lib Dem Losses
The Tories weren’t the biggest losers of the night. The Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third party, lost 21 seats. Among them was Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister, who formed a coalition government with David Cameron, then leader of the Conservatives, between 2010 and 2015.
What happens next?
The big “winner” of the night was Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, which gained 29 seats, bringing its total to 261 members of Parliament, well short of the number required to form a government.
So what happens next? Fortunately, Britain does not face three to five years without a prime minister. Usually, the party with the most votes looks for the least unpalatable party with whom to form a coalition government. Theresa May’s knee-jerk reaction was to rush to Buckingham Palace and ask the Queen for permission to form a government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which holds 10 seats. Permission has been granted, but it remains to be seen how long this situation lasts.