May to Stay in Power with Support of Northern Ireland Unionists

Theresa May is determined to stay in power, despite losing her Conservative Party’s majority in the election.

British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11
British prime minister Theresa May speaks with the American secretary of defense, James Mattis, at Lancaster House in London, England, May 11 (DoD/Jette Carr)
  • Britain’s ruling Conservatives have lost their majority in Parliament, going down from 329 to 318 seats.
  • But they should be able to govern with support from the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which has ten seats.
  • Labour won 40 percent support — close to the Conservatives’ 42.4 percent — and 261 seats.
  • Labour could only form a government with support from all other parties except the Conservatives. That seems unlikely.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May, the Conservative Party leader, has said she will not step down today, but a leadership challenge is expected at some point.
Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201710:03 AM

Final results

Good morning! Welcome to our post-election live blog.

Results are in from 648 out of 650 constituencies:

  • The Conservatives are at 317 seats, a loss of twelve and nine short of a majority.
  • The Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland has won ten seats, up two, and would be able to give Theresa May a majority — but it would be a narrow one.
  • Sinn Féin, the Irish nationalist party, has won seven seats in Northern Ireland. They traditionally refuse to sit in Parliament, which means that in practice only 322 seats are needed for a majority.
  • The only good news for the Conservatives is that they have picked up twelve seats in Scotland, where they now have thirteen. The Scottish National Party lost 21 seats and have 35 left.
  • Labour has won 261 seats nationwide, including seven in Scotland, an overall gain of 29.
  • But that masks the scale of its victory. Support for Labour went up almost 10 percent across the country, at the expense of the Greens, Liberal Democrats, Scottish nationalists and United Kingdom Independence Party.
  • The Liberal Democrats picked up four seats and have twelve. The Greens still have one. UKIP lost its only seat in Parliament.
Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201710:10 AM

May not stepping down (yet)

Theresa May is not stepping down yet, telling constituents in Maidenhead that, as the largest party, it is incumbent on the Conservatives “to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do.”

I’m not sure how long she can get away with that. Before the election, I wrote here that the knives would come out for May if she didn’t expand the Conservatives’ majority. She has done worse: she lost it.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201710:12 AM

Labour rules out coalition

Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Conservatives to “make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country,” but his deputy, John McDonnell, has already ruled out a coalition, saying, “We’ll put ourselves forward to serve the country and form a minority government.”

It doesn’t look like that would work. The Conservatives and Democratic Unionist Party have a majority between them and could prevent Labour from taking power.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201710:36 AM

Precarious time in Northern Ireland

The possibility of the DUP going into government nationally, or at least supporting a minority Conservative administration, comes at a precarious time for Northern Ireland.

In 2015, a power-sharing agreement between the unionists (of which the DUP is the largest party) and Irish nationalists (Sinn Féin) broke down. Now Brexit has made everything more complicated. There could be a border again between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. There has already been talk of a referendum about unification, which would be a nightmare for the unionists. Northern Irish politics has polarized. In this election, both the DUP and Sinn Féin won. The two smaller, more moderate unionist and nationalist parties — the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party — were wiped off the map.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201710:37 AM

Conservatives likely to gain two more seats

The expectation is that the two constituencies which haven’t declared yet will both go Conservative. That would increase their plurality to 319, seven short of a majority.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201712:11 PM

We don’t know how many young people voted

It is said 72 percent of young voters turned out, but BuzzFeed reports that’s a myth. We don’t know how many young people voted yet. Pollsters say it will take several days to establish turnout per age group.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201711:21 AM

Second referendum unlikely after voters punish SNP key

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond attends a meeting in California, June 20, 2012
Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond attends a meeting in California, June 20, 2012 (Scottish Government/Feature Photo Service/Matt Petit)

The SNP had hoped Brexit might convince a majority of Scots to vote for independence a second time around, but gains for the unionist Conservative Party, who picked up twelve seats in Scotland, as well as Labour, who got an extra six, bely that assertion. A majority of Scottish voters (still) don’t want to secede from the United Kingdom, despite them voting to remain in the European Union last year when the majority of people in England and Wales opted to get out.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201712:50 PM

May picked the wrong side in culture war: Osborne

George Osborne blames May in his London Evening Standard editorial for moving away from his and David Cmaeron’s economic and social liberalism:

The strident tone on immigration and the anti-business rhetoric put off metropolitan Britain. The Conservatives lost their majority because they left the center ground. If the country is, as some say, dividing between those who favor an open, modern society over those wedded to a closed, backward-looking one, then the Tories should be on the side of the open optimists while helping those who feel left behind. The alternative is a dead-end for Conservatism.

He is also critical of a “confidence and supply” arrangement with Northern Ireland’s unionists:

The “confidence” in her leadership is precisely what the British people failed to give her and “supply” will mean London taxpayers sending yet more money to Northern Ireland. In this topsy-turvy world, decisions that affect London will be taken in Belfast.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20171:22 PM

May’s dream of mandate lies in ashes

Matthew d’Ancona, a liberal conservative, argues in The Guardian that the dignified option would be for May to go:

This country does indeed need “a period of stability”. But it is not going to get one with her at the helm or in the near future. Her dream of a personal mandate lies in ashes, her plan to negotiate an orderly Brexit suddenly at an end.

It is absurd, he adds, to suggest that a lame-duck administration could go on to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union with confidence or credibility.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201712:28 PM

Election exacerbates Britain’s blue-red divide key

A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014
A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014 (Ray Wewerka)

Britain’s general election result confirms that the political divide in the country has shifted from the traditional left versus right to what I call “blue” versus “red”.

We saw this divide open up around the time of the EU referendum, as I reported here at the time. But the Conservatives and Labour were split then. The former had a powerful cosmopolitan faction led by David Cameron and George Osborne; social democrats in the latter resisted Jeremy Corbyn and the hard left’s takeover of the Labour Party.

Now the two are more homogenous. Cameron and Osborne have gone. Corbyn saw off a leadership challenge and looks more secure than ever.

Polarization is politically convenient for both parties. The Conservatives have been able to cannibalize the United Kingdom Independence Party in this election. Labour has grown at the expense of the Greens and Liberal Democrats.

But it has risks for Britain’s stability.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20171:49 PM

Voters reject hard Brexit

Ian Dunt argues that one thing is clear from the result: Voters have rejected the “hard” Brexit May chose when she prioritized immigration control over membership of the single market.

Theresa May was a UKIP prime minister. When she announced a commitment to reducing immigration to the tens of thousands, she really meant it — regardless of the crippling economic consequences of doing so. […] She thought entirely in terms of imagined victimhood and resentment, of closing borders and retreating to a past image of Britain.

That’s not what a majority of British voters long for after all.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201712:56 PM

May hails “strong relationship” with DUP key

May delivers a mostly bland statement outside 10 Downing Street after meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

No unambiguous reference to a deal with the DUP, but she says the two unionist parties have a “strong relationship” and that she is confident they can work together.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20175:30 PM

Only 76 percent of Labour voters want Corbyn as prime minister

Interesting poll from Lord Ashcroft: 98 percent of Conservative voters said Theresa May was best prime minister; only 76 percent of Labour voters said same of Corbyn. “The election was about other things for them.”

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20176:07 PM

Revenge of urban, internationalist voters

Janan Ganesh doesn’t have much faith in May’s ability to navigate Brexit with informal support from the DUP, writing in the Financial Times that the outcome could be purgatory: “a weak government living hand to mouth as the clock runs down on the most important diplomatic work in the nation’s postwar history.”

But he is optimistic that Brexit might just turn out better. Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd, two of May’s most plausible successors, are pragmatists.

They will also see where the Tories lost seats: cities, university towns. The bits of Britain that are at ease with the outside world.

May botched her policy on social care, but her real mistake, argues Ganesh, happened earlier:

She chose to make the most extreme interpretation of a close referendum result. She chose to renounce membership of the EU single market, to seek exit from the customs union and, later, to entertain the idea of departing the bloc with no deal at all. These were choices. None of it was ordained. She then couched these choices in a rhetoric that left urban, internationalist voters wondering if they had a place in her Britain.

They exacted their revenge on Thursday by flocking to a Labour Party they knew didn’t stand a chance of winning anyway.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20176:12 PM

How does Labour interpret its result?

Nick Pearce, a professor of public policy at the University of Bath, argues in the Financial Times that Labour’s short-term future depends on how it interprets this election result: as the first rejection of neoliberalism in British politics or, more mundanely, as a delayed response to grinding cuts and real wage falls.

If it does the first, it could lose the support of urban and middle-class voters again. But if it does the second, Labour might just become a social democratic party again with a chance of coming to power next time.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20175:38 PM

Concern in Northern Ireland about Conservative-DUP pact key

The leader of the cross-community Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, has warned that a Conservative-DUP pact in Westminster could undermine the neutrality of the next secretary of state for Northern Ireland:

This arrangement, if it happens, appears to have been made along a very fine margin and I would not be surprised if it struggled to last any length of time.

It has also made the possibility of successful talks more remote. There is now no credibility for the Tory government to be an independent chair, putting the entire process in real danger of collapsing.

The Alliance got nearly 8 percent support in the election on Thursday but failed to win any seats.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and Nigel Dodds, the head of its parliamentary faction in Westminster, have both said they will not be “parochial” in their relations with the next government. Foster said unity in the kingdom is her “guiding star”.

Northern Ireland itself is still without a regional government since a power-sharing deal with Irish nationalists collapsed.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20176:26 PM

What good is a two-party system if it doesn’t provide stability? key

View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011
View of the Houses of Parliament in London, England, December 21, 2011 (Ben Sutherland)

There is a lazy assumption in much of the British election coverage that the return of two-party politics was the only good news of the night.

Between them, the Conservatives and Labour won 82 percent support on Thursday, up from 67 percent in 2015.

Yet neither party has a majority. The biggest party is in disarray. The second party has no way to form a government. It is quite likely there will be another election later this year or next.

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Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 20177:45 PM

Victory for extremists

George Walden, a former diplomat, writes for The American Interest that “in moderate, pragmatic Britain,” the winners of this election are extremists on either side:

In foreign policy, one of them is anti-NATO and soft on Moscow and the other is anti-European — each of which imply a dilution of British influence in the community of Western nations.

James Pritchett 9 Jun 20179:00 PM

May’s failure

David Cameron, whatever his faults, would probably be picking bits of Corbyn out of his teeth right now had he fought this election.

May’s campaign was very poor, her manifesto lackluster and, of course, she failed to offer a competing condensed, brightly-colored message the voters of “modern Britain” apparently desire.

Despite calls to step down, May has determined to stay on and form a government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, but it is not at all unlikely we could see her replaced in the next two years — or even have another election.

James Pritchett 9 Jun 20179:21 PM

Labour’s success was less about Brexit key

The Conservatives contested the election on two themes: Brexit and the alleged unelectability of Jeremy Corbyn. Both issues will be examined in the next few days and some may see this result as a riposte to the EU referendum itself.

I am not convinced. The election was also contested on domestic issues, perhaps too much for the Conservative campaign to effectively handle.

Corbyn hardly campaigned to avoid Brexit. His party’s success surely owes more to his opposition to austerity and the bogeyman of health care privatization. Young votes were certainly not deterred by the offer of free university tuition in the Labour manifesto either.

Corbyn promised nationalization of industries, deep and wide intensification of the welfare state and social programs, including a “national education service” to educate people through their lives. His Brexit position was not to oppose it, but to accept whatever the EU is willing to give Britain.

Nick Ottens Nick Ottens 9 Jun 201710:20 PM

Right-wing press turns on May key

  • The Daily Mail, for months the prime minister’s biggest cheerleader, now accuses Theresa May of plunging the Conservative Party into “civil war”.
  • The Sun, which yesterday urged its readers not to “chuck Britain in the Cor-bin,” today reads “Theresa Dismay”.
  • The Telegraph puts the blame for Thursday’s election defeat entirely on May, who “called the election without consulting widely, promoted a manifesto that caught the party off-guard and personalized the campaign to the virtual exclusion of all other ministers.”
  • The Times, which defended May’s decision to call an election and called her party “by far the best to deal with the huge challenges that lie ahead,” now reports “May stares into the abyss”.
James Pritchett 9 Jun 201710:42 PM

Conservatives need to reevaluate their beliefs key

British prime minister Theresa May
British prime minister Theresa May (PA/Philip Toscano)

Whatever “Mayism” could have been, it didn’t bring in the goods. It feels like a half-measure between Thatcherite and one-nation conservatism.

For now, the traditional Tory base, Ruth Davidson in Scotland and former United Kingdom Independence Party voters have saved the party from what could have been an even worse defeat. If the Conservatives don’t reflect on their ideology, and how to emphasize its benefits to young voters in particular, they may not be so lucky next time.

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