UK’s Hung Parliament will distract from preparations for Brexit talks

PLMR looks at the state of British politics, 10 days before negotiations with the EU begin.

UK General Election leaves no clear winner: Defying almost all polls, the UK election has resulted in no outright winning party.  Of the 650 parliamentary seats, the Conservatives have the most, at 318 but have lost their majority.  Labour grew to 262 seats, with parties such as the Scottish National Party holding the rest.  Under the UK’s unwritten constitution, a Prime Minister can govern without a majority if they can command “the confidence of the House”, put passing legislation will be difficult.  Theresa May remains Prime Minister for now but an internal party challenge is possible and perhaps even likely.  Markets have reacted negatively.

All this comes at a time when the Prime Minister and her Cabinet and negotiating teams should be focussing entirely on preparing for difficult talks with the EU which begin on 19 June.

Attention instead has now turned to how a workable administration could be formed. Reports so far this morning suggest that May has no intention of standing down and will instead seek agreement with the DUP which would deliver a small overall majority. It is, of course, important to note that any discussions of potential administrations are at a very early stage.

  • Having taken a calculated risk in calling a snap election, May’s decision has spectacularly backfired. The plan to deliver a strong Conservative majority, easing the pressure on the government in its Brexit negotiations, has failed with the government now in a substantially weaker position.

 

  • The result also represents a remarkable turnaround for Corbyn’s Labour Party. Whilst they remain a way off the Conservatives as the largest party, Labour has not only repelled expected Tory advances that were required for May to increase her majority but also, currently, picked up an additional 29 seats. Labour’s vote share is up by 9.5% (with the Conservatives up 5.5%) which is a strong achievement given the party entered the election up to 20 points behind in the polls.  Nevertheless, a Labour recovery is of no help to the negotiating team headed for Brussels.

 

  • High-profile casualties include Ben Gummer (who drafted the Conservative manifesto), Jane Ellison (former Conservative health minister), Gavin Barwell (former Conservative housing minister) as well as Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat and former Deputy PM during the coalition) and Alex Salmond (former Scottish National Party leader) who all lost their seats.

 

  • Equally remarkable is that the Conservatives appear to have been saved from further humiliation as a result of picking up seats from the SNP across Scotland. Overall the SNP has lost 21 seats, representing a massive blow to party and their plans for a second independence. For the Conservatives, Ruth Davison (the Scottish Conservative leader) has emerged as one of the leading figures in the Conservative party.

 

  • Initial analysis suggests Labour has benefitted from a huge increase in youth turnout (18-24 years old). It is suggested that youth turnout may have reached 72%, a huge increase from previous elections. In addition, across certain areas of the country (notably London) Labour appears to have benefitted from a ‘Remain backlash’.

 

  • Whilst May has so far insisted she will continue as PM, we can expect significant backlash among the Parliamentary Conservative party against May. This was a campaign run almost as a Theresa May  ‘presidential’ style campaign. Conservative MPs as well as the wider grassroots party will want answers as to how a position of such seeming strength was squandered. Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd have already been suggested as potential replacements should Conservative MPs opt to push May out.