Uncertainty and instability: Reflecting on the British general election results

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The British general election has produced a hung parliament. The polls were wrong again and the country is in shock. As of 9:00 AM GMT June 10 the results are as following: 318 seats for the Conservatives, 262 seats for the Labour Party, 12 seats for the Liberal Democrats, 35 for the SNP, and 23 seats for other parties.

The election results come as a surprise to most British voters as, once again, most people were expecting a different result. Theresa May failed to secure a majority in parliament, and Labour did much better than anticipated. UKIP suffered huge losses that practically wiped out any power it had left after Nigel Farage stepped down. The Party’s leader, Paul Nuttall, resigned soon after the results came out. The SNP also suffered big losses in Scotland which means the chances for a second independence campaign are slim. Also, several high-profile politicians lost their seats in this election, among them were Alex Salmond, Nick Clegg, and Angus Robertson.

So, given the results, an important question to ask is why did so many Britons choose to vote Labour? Under Corbyn, Labour has experienced some of the best gains since 25 years. When he became leader of the party, he promised to deliver “socialism of the 21st century”, nationalise the rail service, and invest heavily in the NHS. For this election, Corbyn ran an anti-austerity campaign and promised to scrap tuition fees for students, increase taxes for the rich, and to increase public spending in health services, housing, and education. Many voters were also attracted to his softer tone on Brexit. Corbyn has stated that the EU referendum result should be respected but that he would like to reset the tone of the negotiations to one that is less harsh than that of the current Prime Minister. The Labour leader has also done a great job at appealing to younger voters, a poll by Sky News indicated that 63 percent of surveyed voters aged between 18-34 voted for the Labour Party.

Some are even comparing this election with that of the United States between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The polls had all predicted Clinton would win and a strong reason for that was because they just couldn’t imagine the other candidate being in power. The rhetoric was similar in the U.K; the polls predicted Theresa May would win — by a lot— and many people, even in his own party, couldn’t imagine Corbyn doing well in these elections, let alone winning. Even though he didn’t win, he once again shocked the country. No one thought he could become the leader of the Labour Party, but he did. No one thought he could stand up to someone as strong-minded as Theresa May and perform well, but he did. Corbyn has repeatedly proved that he can understand the needs of ordinary people and that he can encourage them to go out and vote; these are not opinions, but facts and the results show that. For all this, Corbyn deserves much more credit than he is given.

However, not all parties were pleasantly surprised by the results tonight. The SNP, for instance, had a terrible night. It is clear that Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second independence referendum didn’t go down too well with many Scottish voters and, as a consequence, they decided to vote for other parties instead. The SNP lost a staggering 21 seats that went to both the Tories and Labour. Sturgeon admitted that her call for another referendum might indeed have influenced the election results. Ruth Davidson, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, definitely played a vital role in winning 13 seats for her party in Scotland. In her speech, she also made it a point to express her desire for an “open Brexit” one that puts the country’s economic growth first.

Despite not having won a majority, the Prime Minster says she is confident that the Conservatives can work together with the DUP for the good of the UK. In a speech, she stated that she had secured a commitment from the DUP to support a minority Conservative government. However, this plan may also backfire. The Unionists are now in an incredibly strong position; the Prime Minister needs them and not the other way around, as was always the case before. The DUP is known for being euro-skeptic, anti-abortion and against LGBT rights. They may have agreed to work with the Tories, but this cooperation will undoubtedly come at a price. What exactly that price is might end up weakening Theresa May’s position further and costing her more credibility in the eyes of the people.

Furthermore, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff, made some strong points about the potential dangers of making a deal with the DUP. The British government is supposed to hold a neutral position on the politics of Northern Ireland. If the Conservatives team up with the DUP, then the British government will no longer have a neutral stance. Another issue that will surely come up if these two parties work together is that of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The DUP supported the Brexit campaign last year, and it made it clear they do not want a hard border with Ireland and oppose the idea of Ireland having a special status in the EU.

Theresa May’s gamble did not pay off, and now she has lost all credibility in the eyes of many colleagues and British citizens. Many people blame the Conservatives of shaking up the political landscape of the country in an extremely negative way; first by calling the referendum on EU membership and now by calling this snap election. One difference is that Cameron did choose to resign after his gamble didn’t pay off, but Theresa May is choosing to stay on as prime minister.

It remains unclear if another election will be called or if Theresa May will suffer a Thatcher-like ousting from office. These election results show a strong rejection of May’s policies and must make her understand that she is not in the powerful position she thought she was. She will have to listen to all the voices in her country, not just those who support her.

About Gabriela Bernal 23 Articles
Gabriela Bernal is interested in politics, international relations, and terrorism. She is pursuing a degree in political science and plans on pursuing her postgraduate studies in the U.K. She likes to write, read, play tennis, travel, and learn new languages.

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