The 2017 UK General Election has resulted in a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives winning 318 seats (a loss of 13), and Labour taking 262 seats (a gain of 30). This is despite seeing a rise in the share of votes going to the Conservatives. The next three parties on the list are the Scottish National Party (SNP) with 35 seats (-21), the Liberal Democrats (LD) with 12 seats (+4), and the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) with 10 seats (+2).
After calling this election because she believed she could not get Brexit through the House of Commons with a majority of 17, it now seems Theresa May and her Conservative Party will have to rely on another party’s MPs to get the job done. The consensus is that Mrs May will seek an informal arrangement with the DUP, where the DUP will lend its support to the Tories on a vote-by-vote basis, known as “confidence and supply”. This means the DUP would back the government in votes of no confidence and budget issues and, in return, the government would support or fund some of the DUP’s policies. However, this is a long way short of a formal coalition and is not guaranteed to last in the long term.
The DUP are pro-union (not Europe but UK), pro-Brexit, socially conservative and has a reputation for its strong and often controversial views. It opposes same-sex marriage and is anti-abortion — abortion remains illegal in Northern Ireland, except in specific medical cases — and its former Environment Minister is a devout climate change denier. There is no doubt, then, that the Tories could find themselves being asked to support policies with which they are not entirely comfortable.
Speaking after her visit to Buckingham Palace, Theresa May said only the Conservatives had the “legitimacy” to govern, despite falling eight seats short of a majority. How long she can remain as leader, however, is another story. Jeremy Corbyn has called on her to resign, saying that the Labour Party was ready to form its own minority government, which would be more truly representative of the people. Some in her own party have also called for her resignation, calling her campaign “disastrous”. Tory MPs have been quoted as saying their party made “a pig’s ear” of the campaign, and that the party had “shot ourselves in the head”. Many feel it’s not a matter of “if” she goes, but “when”. However, other MPs have urged her to stay on, saying that a leadership contest at this point would be a “catastrophe”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister May has stated her government ‘will carry on Brexit negotiations to existing timetable’. The UK has already been warned that time is running out and the lack of negotiations could lead to a “no deal” outcome. Any Brexit negotiations that have taken place so far have been very tough, which has hindered progress. The hope now is that Theresa May will soften her approach to enable a fair deal for all concerned.
To summarise, then, this result has brought disappointment to all parties; the Conservatives lost their majority; Labour suffered its third defeat in a row; the Liberal Democrats found themselves treading water; the SNP’s independence bandwagon came to a juddering halt; and UKIP imploded.
The only winners are perhaps the members of the DUP, who now appear to find themselves in the role of kingmakers.