After Election, Britain Wonders: What Now?

Neither of the three largest parties secured a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

Westminster Bridge in London, England with the Houses of Parliament in the fog, December 9, 2005
Westminster Bridge in London, England with the Houses of Parliament in the fog, December 9, 2005 (Yuichi Shiraishi)

People in the United Kingdom woke up to a morning of continued political uncertainty on Friday. With election results pouring in all through the previous night, no decisive Conservative victory, let alone a viable majority, has emerged as of yet. In spite of last night’s expectations, they won’t come close to gaining an outright majority in the British Parliament with just a dozen voting districts still unaccounted for.

Currently, the Conservative Party has gained 94 seats compared to 2005 and come to a total of 301 — 25 short of a majority. Labour lost 88 seats to end up with just 255 while the Liberal Democrats, in spite of winning almost a quarter of the popular vote, actually lost a few constituencies as well to win just 55 seats in Parliament.

If the Conservatives were to govern, there is no way for them to circumvent the liberals by working with smaller parties from Northern Ireland or Scotland instead.

Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said that the party with the greatest number of seats has the right to form a government. With his support, the Conservatives could have a stable majority in Parliament but David Cameron and his crew are not at all interested in the electoral reform proposed by the liberals — likely to be their first demand in exchange for participation in government.

Although tradition dictates that the prime minister is allowed to try to come to a coalition regardless of the outcome of the elections, it seems highly unlikely that Labour should stay in power. Only a broad coalition of all parties in Parliament but the Conservatives could win a majority at this point, and only just. A minority government under Conservative leadership makes more sense though in that event, analysts predict that the United Kingdom might well face new elections within less than a year.