Britain wakes up to chaos as May loses gamble
Tories lose majority. Brexit at risk. Knives out for May. Boris Johnson favourite for PM. Corbyn surge. SNP meltdown. Clegg loses seat. Was this Britain’s most incredible political upset?
This morning Theresa May is fighting for her political life after her gamble to call an election spectacularly failed.
The Conservatives have lost their majority, although they remain the largest party in the House of Commons. Many now believe it is a question of “when, rather than if, May resigns”.
Boris Johnson is now favourite to take over. The next prime minister will aim to piece together a coalition government, but the Tories may not even form the next administration.
“The manifesto was a total disaster and must go down now as one of the worst in history by a governing party”, George Osborne said, summing up the vitriol aimed at May’s team from fuming Tories. Anna Soubry MP said the campaign was “Dreadful. Just dreadful.”
Labour, against all expectations, surged. They added 10% to their vote, making gains across the country. Now bookmakers give Jeremy Corbyn a one in five chance of being the next PM.
In London, the party made huge gains, winning in Battersea, Croydon and Enfield. Warwick and Canterbury, seats that had been Tory for nearly 100 years, also turned red.
Labour even made gains in exactly the places the Tories specifically targeted. In pro-Brexit seats like Lincoln and Peterborough large numbers of UKIP voters switched to Labour to oust the Conservatives.
In Scotland, the picture was utterly different. The SNP suffered a battering, being reduced from 56 to 34 seats. The two best known SNP MPs, Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond, lost to the Tories, who won 12 seats north of the border.
The Liberal Democrats made gains, although former leader Nick Clegg lost his Sheffield seat. UKIP appears consigned to history, losing their only seat, while the Greens held Brighton Pavillion.
The pound lost two and a half cents on the dollar as traders reacted to the result.
But on the Labour side there was joy. Deputy leader Tom Watson hailed his party’s campaign of “passion and principle”, while Corbyn declared that “politics has changed”.
Amid the wreckage, one thing is clear: two-party politics is back. Is it here to stay?
Definitely, say some. The refreshing thing about this election was the clear difference between Labour and the Conservatives. The sense that the two major parties were the same sent millions to minor parties. But politics is a matter of left and right, socialist and capitalist. The country has returned to normality.
That is much too simplistic, reply others. The results prove that Britain is a much more complex country than previously thought. An election held at short notice naturally favours the big parties, but the ideological differences within the Labour and Tory camps are huge. Soon, they will break apart again.
- Are you pleased about the result of this election?
- Was this the most incredible upset in British political history?
- Everyone write down one prediction of their own for the next week in politics. Put it in an envelope, and open it a week later to see who was right.
- Choose a party leader and write a speech from him or her responding to last night’s results.
Some People Say...
“Politics isn’t boring after all.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- No party has won an overall majority. The Conservatives are the largest party, but Labour have made gains across England and Wales. Theresa May is facing calls to resign, with Boris Johnson the favourite to replace her. The SNP have suffered severe setbacks. UKIP have been wiped out. Almost nobody expected all this to happen.
- What do we not know?
- What on earth happens next. The Tories will now look to the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland in order to form a government, while Labour would need the help of the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. We do not know the exact reasons why the Tories’ early poll lead was cut so spectacularly, or why the Conservatives’ successful campaign blueprint failed this time.
- Added 10% to their vote
- Labour ended up on 40.3% of the vote, their highest share since 2001.
- Warwick and Canterbury
- These two seats exemplify a trend that showed Labour overachieve in the south, while the Tories outperformed the exit poll in the north. Both of these constituencies contain university towns, and a huge student turnout for Labour was a key reason for last night’s results.
- Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond
- Robertson was the leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, while Salmond led the party through its rise before resigning after the 2014 independence referendum.
- The pro-Brexit party was reduced to just 2% of the vote, having hit 12.6% in 2015.