Five key battles that tell the story of the UK election
Tory share of vote rises but senior figures among casualties of tactical error
The Liberal Democrats’ gains in London and Scotland were tempered by notable losses, including former leader Nick Clegg. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA Wire
A failed gamble, a hung parliament, a lost Conservative majority, a surge in Labour support, a boost of confidence for a divisive leader, Ulster unionists holding the balance of power, a swing to young voters – it was one of the most remarkable elections in the modern British politics.
Here are five key races to help understand the outcome of the 2017 UK general election.
A revived Labour Party
Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire increased her share of the vote in Bristol West by 30 per cent, outstripping the Conservatives by a whopping 37,336 votes. It was one of the biggest winning margins in the country but, more crucially for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it strengthens him against rebels within his party. Debbonaire had resigned her shadow front bench role last year saying that Corbyn was not the right person to lead the party into the next election but she later returned.
Bristol benefited from Labour’s 10-point gain to 40 per cent. The party won the bellwether of Bristol North West from the Conservatives as the party took four seats in the city. In Canterbury, Labour’s stunning victory, taking the seat from Tory control for the first time since 1918, reflected their support among young voters. Students at Kent University helped increase Labour’s support by 20 per cent there. Overall voter turnout reached its highest level since 1992 as the young came out in big numbers.
The defeat of Ben Gummer, a Conservative cabinet office minister, was symbolic of Theresa May’s failed campaign. He authored the party’s manifesto on which the British prime minister twisted and turned in the damaging “dementia tax” U-turn. He lost his seat in Ipswich to Labour and was one of the big Conservative casualties of the election.
Nationally, the Conservatives increased their overall share of the vote, rising by five points to 42 per cent, but the party counted other senior figures among the casualties of May’s grave tactical error. They included treasury minister Simon Kirby, whose Labour opponent won a majority of almost 10,000, and Jane Ellison, whose majority of almost 8,000 was overturned by the Labour Party.
Mixed election for the Lib Dems
The return of Lib Dem veteran Vince Cable, the former business secretary in Twickenham, two years after he lost his seat to a Conservative, should have been a moment of celebration for the party after its horrendous 2015 performance. But the party’s gains in London and Scotland were tempered by notable losses, including former leader Nick Clegg, a one-time deputy prime minister.
In Wales, the party has been effectively wiped out. The loss of the party’s single seat there to a 23-year-old Plaid Cymru candidate by just 104 votes means there is no liberal MP in Wales for the first time since 1859.
No to Scottish independence (again)
Voters in Scotland turned away from another referendum on independence, taking their frustration out on the Scottish National Party.
The nationalists lost 21 seats, though the SNP is still the biggest party in Scotland. The highest-profile loss was the party’s deputy leader Angus Robertson, its leader at Westminster, whose seat was taken by a young Tory unionist Douglas Ross. Recognising the unpopularity of another independence vote, he hit the SNP repeatedly on the campaign. The other big scalp was former leader Alex Salmond, who was first elected in 1987.
The Scottish Tories were the main beneficiary of the SNP decline, taking 12 seats and recording their best results north of the border for three decades. After this election, don’t expect Scottish voters to be asked again for a while about whether or not they like life in the UK.
Skipping over Ukip
The United Kingdom Independence Party was the biggest loser of the 2017 British general election. The party’s leader, Paul Nuttall, managed to win just 3,300 votes, putting him in a distant third place in Boston and Skegness in eastern England. He resigned immediately, which means the new leader will be third in a year. There was speculation that Nigel Farage might return to take charge.
Support for the party collapsed by almost 11 per cent as the party campaigned on the possibility of Brexit being put to the electorate in a second referendum.
The party’s performance showed how little Brexit, the main purpose for Ukip’s existence, played as an issue in this campaign.