The one takeaway from the 2017 general election in the UK that we can all pretty much agree with is that Theresa May has almost completely bungled it. Her Conservative Party had a thoroughly broken Labour Party as its main opposition, they had a majority government and they started the campaign with a massive lead in the polls, and they have somehow ended up, by June 9th, with a hung parliament.
People will, quite rightly, put a lot of the blame on May herself for even calling this snap election in the first place, and I suspect some will believe that May had secretly made a bet that she could still win an election while running an awful campaign. While Labour, once they had gotten passed the barrier of ‘unelectability’ it had put in front of itself, campaigned mainly on tangible, personal things – things like the NHS, school lunches, food banks and college fees – the Tories gave off an air of timeless snobbishness, with the debate on legalising fox hunting being an almost cartoonish stand-out example of how out of touch the Conservative Party were. Indeed, if the Conservatives wanted to bring something else to the table it was rather difficult, as May repeatedly refused to debate Corbyn in public, and the focus on Brexit lead many to believe this election was really a referendum for a “clean-break Brexit” for May.
The main hope for Corbyn’s Labour was set to be young voters. Corbyn’s brand of politics definitely proved popular with younger people on social media and at supporters rallies, but many doubted that they would actually mobilise and result in votes. Research conducted by Sky News showed that in constituencies that saw an increase in turnout of more than 5% almost all went to Labour, with the DUP & Sinn Féin winning roughly the same amount of these constituencies as the Conservative Party. If one believes that the vast majority of young people identify with Corbyn’s Labour, then this shows that the young did turn out for Labour when & where it mattered.
It was an election of upheaval, with former Deputy Prime Minister & Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg losing his seat, and SNP stalwarts Alex Salmond & Angus Robertson losing their long-held seats. The political scene in Northern Ireland has completely shifted, essentially becoming a two-party state overnight. Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party have completely wiped the SDLP & UUP off the political map, with Northern Ireland’s 18 seats being split between SF (7), the DUP and one Independent candidate (Lady Hermon, North Down). Arguably the most valuable seat for Sinn Féin to win was Foyle, an SDLP stronghold and former seat of legendary civil rights activist John Hume. This was the fourth general election in just over a year, and it is still yet to be seen whether Sinn Féin and the DUP will be able to agree to power-sharing this time around.
Prior to the election it seemed that the SNP’s grip on Scottish politics would never loosen, and that Labour’s inability to gain a foothold there may prove their downfall this time around. However, the SNP suffered loses to Labour, the LibDems and the Conservatives, the latter of which serve as the major unionist group in the Scottish parliament. Indeed, the Scottish Tories may have really saved Theresa May in the end, gaining 12 seats from the 2015 election, where the only elected candidate was Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. Having lost 21 seats, many believe that this election has killed off any momentum a second independence referendum campaign may have had.
The election was also harsh to smaller parties, with only one independent candidate being elected, one Green Party member (Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavillion) and 4 Plaid Cymru MPs; the Lib Dems fared much better than expected, gaining 12 MPs, an increase of 4 on the previous election. A Farage-less UKIP were utterly decimated this time around; having claimed to only expect the return of their one seat in parliament, not even their leader Paul Nuttall was able to get the necessary votes to win, or even be runner-up, as he came third in his constituency. UKIP had pledged to tell its supporters to vote Tory in constituencies they did not run in, but this seems to have backfired on a multitude of levels: in places UKIP didn’t run, their votes seemed to be split fairly evenly among both the Conservatives and, bizarrely, Labour. Even then, quite a few UKIP voters simply didn’t turn out for the Tories, which could show that these voters were only ever engaged by UKIP’s unique brand of politics. It is doubtful that Nutall will stay on as UKIP leader, despite key party figures like Farage saying he should stay on.
With Nutall seemingly on the way out, you may wonder about the other party leaders: Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron is likely safe, as the Lib Dems gained much more than it was thought they would. Sinn Féin and the DUP should be happy with their leaders, as will the minor parties in NI, but the UUP and SDLP may want to take a long look at themselves in the coming weeks. Despite losing 21 seats the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon is almost certainly safe, especially with the loss of other senior party members who may have taken over; her opposite number in the Conservative Party of Scotland, Ruth Davidson, has come out of this smelling of roses, with a small number of people singling her out for a key role in the general Tory Party in the future. Though his detractors have been calling for his sacking for quite some time, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour have been too successful in this election for them to believably switch things up at this stage, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried. Last but not least, and despite saying that she has no intention of resigning, Theresa May’s position as leader of the Conservatives and as Prime Minister have become untenable – front-runners to succeed May include Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and ‘Minister for Brexit’ David Davis.
Before talking about the future of the government, it would be remiss of me to not mention the amazing “joke” candidates only the British elections seem to be able to produce (outside of America’s Vermin Supreme, of course). Two of the best ran in Maidenhead, the same constituency of the PM: Lord Buckethead and Elmo, the latter of which only received three votes. The most significant of these ‘gag’ candidates, outside of the Monster Raving Looney Party at least, was Mr. Fish Finger, who ran against the LibDem’s Tim Farron, pulling faces & snarling throughout Mr.Farron’s speech.
As it stands, the United Kingdom is left with a ‘hung parliament’. This means that no party has received the requisite amount of votes to qualify as a majority government. The Conservatives need help from the DUP to form a majority government, whereas Labour need help from every available Party, including some like the Lib Dems who have already ruled out a coalition government, and Sinn Féin, who do not take their seats in Westminster. At this point it is most likely that Theresa May seeks the DUP’s support, and with Brexit negotiations around the corner, DUP leader Arlene Foster holds all the cards. While we generally only look at the DUP in its direct context, or simply as antagonists for Sinn Féin, it must not be ignored that the DUP are an incredibly Conservative, regressive party, comparable to a stereotype of the GOP in America – so DUP in government, and what the Tories must promise to get their help, is a scary prospect.
Either this, or May will try to lead a minority government into power, a situation which she couldn’t possibly have foreseen when she called this election. While it’s still possible that Jeremy Corbyn is your next Prime Minister, it’s not particularly likely. I don’t think Sinn Féin and the DUP will be able to come to terms with the “red-line issues” that has stalled power sharing for the past few months since Martin McGuinness’ passing, and the people of Northern Ireland will be heading to the polling stations yet again (or face the wrath of direct rule from Westminster).
Turnout – 68.7%
Conservatives – 315 seats, Labour – 261 seats, Liberal Democrats – 12, Scottish National Party – 35, Democratic Unionist Party – 10, Sinn Féin – 7, Plaid Cymru – 4, Green Party Eng & Wales – 1, Independent – 1.
At the time of writing (08:14 09/06/2017) 4 results had yet to be returned, as the results were too close to call, and ballot counters had become too tired to continue. Figures & opinions will be updated when possible.