The British Conservative Party has lost its 2015 majority, in what was a striking rebuttal of Theresa May’s attempt to increase her majority and strengthen her negotiating position for Brexit. Luckily for the Tories, they will most likely be able to form a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Theresa May has also alluded that she will continue as PM, despite intense pressures to resign.
This is a very humiliating defeat for Prime Minister May
When May came to power, after Brexit and Cameron’s departure, her coverage (from friendly media) couldn’t be more positive. Comparisons with Margaret Thatcher ensured, the Tories were leading Labour even by 25 points in the polls, and such confidence the Prime Minister felt that she called a snap election to strengthen her position even more for the Brexit negotiations.
How the mighty have fallen. The election showcased an energized Labour party, mobilization from both young voters and the Remain camp and a disastrous Conservative campaign manifesto. May emerges from the election weaker than before, with less of a strong hand for Brexit, and more dependent on the moods of the DUP to pass laws through parliament.
This is a loss for the Tories, but also a loss for UKIP
With 0 seats and only 1.8% of the vote share, the UK Independence Party seems to have lived its life. Most of its votes went back to the Conservatives, but Labour picked up some too. The results, as they happened, show a close Tory-Labour result, both parties improving on their 2015 vote share. The Lib Dems didn’t improve on their 2015 result, but the fallout from the Scottish National Party and the huge gap created by UKIP allowed them to gain 3 seats. The SNP and the Tories are the biggest losers, with 19 and 12 seats lost, respectively. The biggest winners are by far Labour, with 31 seats gained.
The biggest swing was recorded by Labour, a 9.5% increase compared to 2015. Despite losing seats, the Conservatives also improved on their 2015 score by 5.5%. UKIP dropped 10.8%, down to 1.8%. The Lib Dems, SNP and Greens also recorded small losses.
The chart above compares the overall percentage of votes a party got in the election with the overall percentage of seats, to see who is “punching above their weight” and who isn’t. Despite heavy losses, being the winning party is of great help to the Conservatives, who got about 5% more seats than votes. As always, the Liberal Democrats lose out by being third, getting 2% of seats for 7.5% of the votes.
Going Forward: Is June really the end of May?
Theresa May claimed that if her party loses as little as 6 seats, she will resign. In the election fallout, she seems to have backtracked on that statement and is now seeking to form a government. Her position within the Tory Party will most likely take a brutal hit, and questions will arise concerning her ability to keep the party in check. Aside from dealing with Tory backbenchers, she would also have to deal with the DUP’s own pleads.
This is a big win for Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn has encountered visceral opposition from the media and his own party. To many, he is indeed a controversial political figure, but, after this election, Corbyn has some bragging rights. Labour got 12.8 million votes and 261 seats, a clear improvement over Miliband’s 2015 result, and more than Gordon Brown’s 8.6 million votes and 355 seats in 2010. This is Labour’s best result since 2005’s Tony Blair 400+ win. Despite a failed coup attempt from his own party, Corbyn proved that he is a good campaigner, and even though he probably won’t be prime minister, he did manage to successfully increase the Brexit pressure on the Tories. A soft Brexit is more likely now.
How did we get here and what’s next
Some would think this election relied heavily on post-Brexit issues, but that was only a part of the discussion. One could say that a big chunk of the Lib Dem vote contains the angriest Remain voters, as the Lib Dems did promise another Brexit referendum, while all other parties moved on. However, this was a very “business as usual” election. The Tories paid a heavy price for their “dementia tax”, and for May’s constant refusal to give any details on concrete governing plans, relying arrogantly on people voting the Tories in first. Labour’s own manifesto was on the generous side, increasing benefits, nationalizing key industry sectors and abolishing tuition fees. Perhaps, after 7 years of Tory governance, some cracks are starting to show. Nevertheless, the next election is set for 2022, and, should a Tory-DUP government emerge, maybe this time the Conservatives will learn to be more cautious about invoking referendums or snap elections in the future.