May’s UK election gamble backfires as Tories lose majority in Parliament
LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May’s gamble in calling an early election backfired spectacularly as her Conservative Party lost its majority in Parliament, throwing British politics into chaos.
UK media, citing sources they did not identify, reported early today that May has no intention of resigning despite calls for her to step down.
The shock result could send Britain’s negotiations to leave the European Union — due to start June 19 — into disarray.
The pound lost more than 2 cents against the dollar.
With 636 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, the Conservatives had 310 to the Labour Party’s 258. Even if the Conservatives won all the remaining seats, the party would fall short of the 326 needed for an outright majority. Before the election the Conservatives had 330 seats and Labour 229.
May called the snap election in the hope of increasing her majority and strengthening Britain’s hand in exit talks with the European Union with a “strong and stable government.” Instead, the result means the Conservatives will need to rely on support from smaller parties to govern, with more instability and the chance of yet another early election.
“This is a very bad moment for the Conservative Party, and we need to take stock,” Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry said. “And our leader needs to take stock as well.”
Left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was among those calling on May to resign, said this morning that people have had enough of austerity politics and cuts in public spending. He ruled out the potential for deals or pacts with other progressive parties in Parliament.
“Politics has changed.” he said. “Politics is not going back into the box where it was before.”
The results confounded those who said Corbyn was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.
As she was resoundingly re-elected to her Maidenhead seat in southern England, May looked tense and did not spell out what she planned to do.
“The country needs a period of stability, and whatever the results are the Conservative Party will ensure we fulfill our duty in ensuring that stability,” she said.
Many predicted she would soon be gone.
“Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government, then she, I doubt, will survive in the long term as Conservative Party leader,” former Conservative Treasury chief George Osborne said on ITV.
Corbyn said May should “go … and make way for a government that is truly representative of all the people of this country.” Speaking after being re-elected to his London seat, Corbyn said the election result means “politics has changed” and voters have rejected Conservative austerity.
The result was bad news for the Scottish National Party, which lost about 20 of its 54 seats. Among the casualties was Alex Salmond, a former first minister of Scotland and one of the party’s highest-profile lawmakers.