British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Conservative Party lost their parliamentary majority in Thursday’s snap election, a contest that had once been considered an easy victory just weeks earlier.
With nearly all votes counted, the Conservative Party now has 318 seats, 12 fewer than when May called the election and eight short of a 326-seat majority, according to the BBC. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party did better than expected and now has 261 seats. The Scottish National Party has 35, and the Liberal Democrats 12. The Democratic Unionist Party has 10 seats but with 649 of the 650 seats now declared, no single party has enough seats for an overall majority.
Nevertheless, May vowed to remain as prime minister after Thursday’s stunning loss in a speech outside 10 Downing Street and to secure a successful Brexit deal. May’s remarks came after she’d met with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace to formally ask permission to form a new minority government.
“This government will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days and deliver on the will of the British people by taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union,” the prime minister promised.
Under the British parliamentary system, May has the option of creating a formal coalition government with another party, as David Cameron did in 2010, or of making a less binding deal with one or more of the other parties. May announced she would be working with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and was sure she could count on the help of “friends” to form a “government of certainty” that could lead the country forward during a “critical time.”
The DUP, which holds just 10 seats in Parliament, opposes same-sex marriage and has been accused of denying climate change.
May herself had called for the snap election just seven weeks ago, hoping to increase her party’s majority and to strengthen her leverage in the upcoming Brexit talks with members of the European Union, which are due to begin on June 19. Polls in April had predicted a strong win for Conservatives but critics, including fellow Conservative Anna Soubry, accused May of running a “dreadful” campaign. Two recent terrorist attacks in Britain did not help May’s case.
Meanwhile Corbyn, who easily won reelection and whose Labour Party had just picked up 29 seats, said it was time for May to “make way” for a government that would be “truly representative of the people of this country.”
“We are ready to serve the people who have put their trust in us,” Corbyn told the BBC but he also emphasized that he would not enter into any “pacts or deals” with other parties.
“We are ready to do everything we can to put our program into operation,” Corbyn told reporters at Labour headquarters. “There isn’t a parliamentary majority for anybody at the present time, the party that has lost in this election is the Conservative Party, the arguments the Conservative Party put forward in this election have lost.”
Thursday election, it’s worth noting, was also disastrous for Britain’s far-right, pro-Brexit party, United Kingdom Independence Party, which received less than 2 percent of the vote and currently holds no seats in Parliament. Under Nigel Farage’s leadership in 2015, the UKIP received 12.6 percent of the vote. Paul Nuttall, the party’s current leader, resigned immediately, after finishing an embarrassing third in his own race, with a mere 3,300 votes.
– Danielle Bizzarro