British Prime Minister sought a strong majority for Brexit negotiations, instead she’s been handed a likely minority government
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a polling station in north London. Right: British Prime Minister Theresa May voting in Maidenhead
Madrid: British Prime Minister Theresa May took the biggest gamble of her political career in calling a snap general election.
But early results and exit polls show the Conservative leader was the loser – failing to win the increased majority she so desperately wanted to negotiate a Brexit deal with the other 27 members of the European Union.
On dissolution May’s Conservatives held an overall majority of 330 seats of the 650 in the House of Commons.
Exit polls and seat-projections immediately after Thursday’s general election showed her party on course to take just 314 seats – still the largest party in Westminster but 12 seats short of an overall majority.
Early headlines in the London Sun tabloid newspaper screamed MAYHEM! At the prospect of a hung Parliament, where no party held enough votes to form a government on its own.
If the results pan out as expected, May’s position as leader of the party is vulnerable, her Brexit negotiating hand is considerable weakened and she may have to rely on support from any Members of Parliament elected by the Democratic Unionist Party and the Official Unionist Party, both based in Northern Ireland. The DUP said it would be willing to work with May.
She is unlikely to tempt the Liberal Democrats into a governing coalition as former Prime Minister David Cameron did in 2010.
The Lib Dems look like winning 14 seats but tweeted after the polls closed that they would not be holding talks or entering coalition deals with any party. The Lib Dems want a second referendum on Brexit.
The last time there was a hung Parliament in Westminster was in February 1974, with a second general election following six months’ later.
Kenneth Clarke, the longest-serving MP who has been at Westminster since 1970, told the BBC: “A hung Parliament would be the worst possible outcome for the nation.”
Brexit negotiations are due to begin on June 19.
Labour, under Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, looked likely to pick up 266 seats, up from the 229 the party held on dissolution.
But one of the biggest losers of the night appeared to be the Scottish National Party. Heading in to Thursday’s vote, the party held 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland. Exit polls suggested the SNP would hold just 40 or so.
Ukip, the United Kingdom Independence Party, that had pushed for last year’s Brexit referendum, saw its vote collapse nationwide, with its previous support shifting almost evenly to Labour and Conservative in early returns.
May called the general election two years into a five-year fixed term in search of a strong mandate for the Brexit talks. When the snap election was called at the end of April May’s party had a 20 percentage point lead over Labour in opinion polls.