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UK election 2017 throws up hung House: Gamble in April costs May in June

British Prime Minister Theresa May faces calls to step down after results to an election that she called out of turn put her out of the majority ahead of the crucial Brexit negotiations

world Updated: Jun 09, 2017 13:02 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May awaits results of the vote in her constituency after the 2017 general elections. Expecting a stronger mandate ahead of the upcoming Brexit talks with the EU, PM May’s gamble appears to have backfired with exit polls predicting Conservatives losing overall majority in the British parliament, further muddying the prospect of a smooth British departure from the EU. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May was dealt a crushing blow on Friday when results of an election that she called out of turn for a stronger mandate to conduct Brexit talks showed that she had lost majority in Parliament.

With no clear winner emerging from Thursday’s parliamentary election, May’s opponents asked her to step down, a suggestion made more carefully by her Conservative party colleagues.

With just 9 seats left to declare, the Conservatives won 311 seats, meaning they cannot get an overall majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.

In the seven weeks since she announced the election in April, the Conservatives frittered away a big lead over the opposition Labour.

The pound took a beating soon after the exit poll suggested a hung parliament on Thursday night.

A resurgent Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked May “to go”, while Conservative leaders were soon suggesting that she reconsider her position as party leader. Names of the next possible leader were also being mentioned as results came in.

The uncertainty spawned by a hung parliament has major implications for Brexit talks scheduled to begin in Brussels on June 19. The next government – even if a minority government led by May – will be hobbled by the lack of a clear mandate.

May’s fortunes dwindled as the campaign progressed after a series of her U-turns on sensitive issues such as tax and social care. Contributing to her woes was the strides Corbyn made, both in terms of a popular manifesto and his energetic appearances on live television.

From a Labour leader in whom his own party MPs had expressed no confidence, Corbyn added inches and feet to his political stature to the point that he may well form a minority government supported by the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats and others.

Corbyn said after being elected in Islington North: “Politics has changed. Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.”

“She wanted a mandate. Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go,” he added, to much applause from his supporters.

May appeared disappointed, saying after winning her Maidenhead seat: “If the Conservative party has won the most seats and most votes then it will be incumbent that we will have that period of stability and that is what we will do.”

But there were already demands for her to reconsider her position. Anna Soubry, Conservative MP, said: “It is bad. She is in a very difficult place ... It was a dreadful night. I’ve lost some excellent and remarkable friends. This is a very bad moment for the Conservative party and we need to take stock and our leader needs to take stock.”

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 11:17 IST