Eight things we learnt from the British elections
Corbyn defies expectations as May flounders following collossal gamble
Morning commuters cross Westminster Bridge on Friday with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in the background. Photogrpah: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
Here are eight things we learned on a night of high political drama in Britain.
1 Theresa May’s future as prime minister appears far from strong and stable. After repeatedly ruling out calling a snap election, she went to the country in the hope her party would secure a larger majority ahead of Brexit negotiations. On Friday morning it became clear the gamble had backfired spectacularly as the poll ended in a hung parliament — a prospect the Tories could scarcely have comprehended when the election was called. As speculation over her future mounted, Mrs May said the country “needs a period of stability”, while Tory sources indicated she would continue in Number 10.
2 Jeremy Corbyn defied expectations. At the start of the campaign the Labour leader was — as for much of his political career — an outsider. But his campaign gathered momentum as the weeks went on and, though it was not enough to secure a victory, the outcome was far from the dire defeat many had predicted. As the Tories surveyed the wreckage, Corbyn called for May to quit as PM.
3 The results raise question marks about Brexit talks. It was seen as a key issue in the campaign but, if anything, the election has left Britain’s preparations for negotiations with the union more uncertain. Talks are due to start in just ten days. Brussels officials have indicated that the date is not set in stone, but the clock is ticking ahead of the UK’s expected departure in 2019.
4 The Demoratic Unionists could find themselves as kingmakers. Having won 10 of the 18 seats in the North - with Sinn Féin taking seven and Independent Lady Sylvia Hermon the other - the DUP is in a strong bargaining position if it chose to prop up a Conservative-led government.
5 The exit poll was on the money. There was disbelief and shock across the political spectrum when a survey for broadcasters forecast that the Conservatives would lose their majority. But as the night wore on it became clear the poll of 30,450 people at 144 polling stations would prove broadly accurate. Voters will be learning to expect the unexpected, the latest surprise coming after the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election.
6 Big names were booted out or given an almighty shock. Ex-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and Scotland’s former first minister Alex Salmond were high-profile casualties, while the Tories lost a host of ministers. Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Education Secretary Justine Greening hung on to their seats by the skin of their teeth, with much-reduced majorities.
7 Comebacks are in fashion. The Liberal Democrats were celebrating the return of former ministers Sir Vince Cable, Sir Ed Davey and Jo Swinson two years after they lost their parliamentary seats, while Zac Goldsmith was back for the Tories in Richmond Park, albeit with a wafer-thin majority,
8 Britain’s parliament will have its highest number of female MPs. The 2017 intake has surpassed 200, outnumbering the 196 women elected to the House of Commons in the last parliament after the 2015 election and subsequent by-elections.