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The U.K. Parliamentary Elections

Theresa May will remain prime minister with the help of the Democratic Union Party, but her electoral gamble has failed.

Clodagh Kilcoyne / Reuters

Theresa May will remain U.K.’s prime minister with the help of the Democratic Union Party (DUP), a Northern Irish political party that won 10 seats in Thursday’s parliamentary elections.

The results are setback for May, who’d sought early elections in April to capitalize on a 21-point lead in the polls over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour. But that was not to be: Britons worried about the approach May’s Conservatives had to the country’s health system, Brexit, as well as terrorism voted to usher in what’s likely to be a period of political and economic uncertainty.  

The official results so far have borne out what the exit polls predicted. Of the 649 (of 650) seats announced so far, the Conservatives won 318 (a loss of 12 seats), Labour won 261 (up 31), the Liberal Democrats won 12 (up 3), and the Scottish National Party won 35 (a decline of 19).

The last time a party failed to win a parliamentary majority was 2010 when the Conservatives formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Before that, it was February 1974—a government that lasted until October of that year.

We’ll providing updates below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -4).


No new updates

May Promises Government of 'Certainty'

Theresa May says her Conservatives will form the next government with the help of the Democratic Union Party (DUP) to provide “certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country.”

Her remarks were made outside Buckingham Palace, where she told the queen she intended to form the next government.

May’s political gamble in April, when she called for elections two years early, has failed. Thursday’s election resulted in a hung parliament. The Tories with 319 seats are seven seats short of a parliamentary majority. The DUP has 10 seats, giving the government a three-seat majority. But Sinn Fein, the Northern Irish party that won seven seats in the election, won’t take its seats in Parliament, in keeping with its political positions, giving May a slightly larger working majority in Parliament. The party had a 17-seat working majority in the last Parliament.

May, With Support of a Smaller Party, Will Remain Prime Minister

Theresa May is seeking the help of the Democratic Union Party (DUP), a political party from Northern Ireland that won 10 seats in Thursday’s parliamentary election, to form the next government.

May’s Conservatives won 319 seats, short of the 326 needed to form a majority government, but remained the largest political party in the 650-seat House of Commons. Labour has 261, the Liberal Democrats 12, and the Scottish National Party 35.

May’s will be a minority government, which, with the help of the DUP, will have a bare majority in Parliament.

This has happened twice before: Harold Wilson’s 1974 government lasted less than a year. In 2010, David Cameron’s Conservatives formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats to govern for the full five years.

Prime Minister Addresses Her Staff, Prepares for Defeat

As of 1:00 a.m., the BBC and The Guardian are officially reporting the outcome of the election to be a hung parliament. With results confirmed in 629 out of 650 seats, the Conservatives have received 42 percent of the votes, while Labour has received a close 40 percent. The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, tweeted early Friday morning that Prime Minister Theresa May has addressed her staff, thanking them for their service—though she did not mention whether she plans to resign. According to Kuenssberg, this “puts the chance of resignation on the table.”

When it became clear that a hung parliament was the most likely outcome, politicians from both sides of the aisle began calling for May’s resignation. On Friday morning, Anna Soubry, a Conservative member of parliament, said May should “consider her position.” “This is a very bad moment for the Conservative party and we need to take stock and our leader needs to take stock,” Soubry said. Another Conservative reportedly told The Guardian that May “needs to go.” May is expected to give a speech at 10 a.m. local time.

While the final results continue to roll in, many are speculating as to what went wrong with May’s campaign. A Guardian analysis revealed that more than half of May’s campaign stops were in Labour-held seats like Halifax in Yorkshire, Ealing Central and Acton in London, and Bridgend in Wales. Corbyn, meanwhile, took the opposite approach, campaigning in areas where the Labour Party already held a firm majority. John Curtice, the BBC’s elections expert, also pointed out that snap elections have a tendency to backfire on the incumbent candidate.

Adding to the series of surprises is the fact that voter turnout was unexpectedly high. At 12:36 a.m., the Press Association’s Ian Jones reported that turnout was nearly 69 percent with just 27 seats left to declare—the highest for a general election in the U.K. since 1997.

Britain's Conservative Majority Teeters on The Edge

Toby Melville / Reuters

It’s almost 4 AM in Britain and it’s becoming a nailbiter for the Conservatives. The BBC currently projects the Tories will end up with 318 seats, placing them just outside the 326 seats needed for an absolute majority.

If the Conservatives fall just short of that number, Theresa May’s likeliest chance at keeping power is an alliance with the Democratic Ulster Party, a staunchly unionist party in Northern Ireland that’s traditionally aligned with the Tories.

In brief remarks at her constituency of Maidenhead, a visibly pained May said the country needs a “period of stability” and that it’s up to the Conservatives to ensure that stability if they receive the most votes and most seats. “Whatever the results are, the Conservative Party will ensure that we fulfill our duty in ensuring that stability, so that we can all as one country go forward together,” she said.

Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, looked upbeat as he thanked supporters for his victory in his constituency of Islington North. He also had tough words for May as his Labour Party made gains across the country. “The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate,” Corbyn said. “Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go actually.”

Tories Four Seats Shy of Majority in Revised BBC Projection

The BBC has updated its exit poll, which previously predicted that the Conservatives would win 314 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, while the Labour Party would win 266. The latest update places the Conservatives even further ahead with 322 seats (up eight since the previous poll), and the Labour Party slightly behind, with 261 seats (down five since the previous poll). If these results pan out, the Tories will be just four seats shy of the 326 seats needed to secure a parliamentary majority. This could theoretically allow them to pass a budget and a Queen’s speech—essentially a list of laws they’d like to see approved by Parliament—assuming they receive support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

Labour Gains Upper Hand in London

Results in just under 100 of the 650 seats have been announced so far, and we’re starting to see some trends. An increasing worrying one for the Conservatives—and a heartening one for Labour—is the Tory collapse in London. Jane Ellison, a Conservative frontbencher in the Treasury, lost her seat in Battersea by a wide margin while Labour increased its majority in Tooting, the former seat of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The British capital voted strongly to remain in the European Union during last year’s referendum, and it appears like voters there may now be eschewing May’s hardline stance on the Brexit negotiations.

If the trend holds throughout London, it would be hard for the Conservatives to gain an outright majority of more than 325 seats. Labour has already made gains elsewhere in the country, including the Vale of Clwyd in Wales, Stockton South in northern England, and Rutherglen & Hamilton West in Scotland. Jeremy Corbyn’s party has yet to lose a seat anywhere in the United Kingdom, although a great many results are still unannounced.

But it’s not lights out for Theresa May yet. One notable bright spot for the Tories is in Scotland, where the Scottish Conservatives have become the main opposition party against the ruling Scottish National Party there. Double-digit swings away from the SNP and towards other parties allowed the Conservatives to pick up seats in Angus and Elgin, with more gains likely to follow. Those wins could be crucial as the prospect of a hung parliament remains.

Corbyn Responds to Exit Poll

Updated at 10:24 p.m. ET

In a statement on Thursday, Labour Party candidate Jeremy Corbyn said his campaign had “changed the face of British politics”:

I’d like to thank all our members and supporters who have worked so hard on this campaign, from door knocking to social media, and to everyone who voted for a manifesto which offers real change for our country. Whatever the final result, we have already changed the face of British politics.

Later in the evening, Corbyn added:

The prime minister called the election because she wanted a mandate. Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support, and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go, actually.

As I reported earlier, Corbyn’s rise from a fringe political candidate poorly regarded by his own party to someone capable of nabbing the general election is an impressive victory in its own right.

What Happened to May's Lead?

If the results of the U.K. parliamentary election are unexpected—the Conservatives were expected to add to their majority but, if exit polls are to be believed, will end up merely the largest party in a hung parliament—so was the very fact of the election itself. As Sam Earle wrote earlier this week in The Atlantic, Prime Minister Theresa May’s April 18 decision to call the election contradicted her six separate prior vows not to do so.

Back then, she had a comfortable 20-point lead in the polls, and framed her choice as an effort to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations. And then …

[S]uddenly things began unravelling. And how. It started with what many saw as her first campaign policy: an absurd declaration to bring back fox-hunting, revoking a ban on foxes being devoured by dogs that eight out of 10 Brits were said to support keeping in place. Soon followed a U-turn on an unpopular manifesto pledge, dubbed the “Dementia Tax.” The plan was to make seniors pay means-tested contributions towards their own social care—not entirely unreasonable—but without any cap on how much they might have to spend. May swiftly backtracked on the latter part, vaguely alluding to the fact that a cap would be introduced. The press lapped it up: It was framed as the first time a party had reversed on a manifesto policy before an election.

Then came one terrorist attack, in Manchester in late May, in which a suicide bomber killed 23 people including himself. And then came another, on the London Bridge in early June, when eight people died. These followed a late-March attack near Westminster Bridge. As Krishnadev has written, there’s no predictable way in which terrorism effects elections, but it suddenly became a campaign issue that as Home Secretary May had overseen cuts to the police force. And then there was Donald Trump tweeting criticism at London’s popular mayor in the London Bridge attack’s aftermath, and demands that May rescind an invitation to Trump for a state visit. Ian Dunt noted in The Atlantic that what was meant to be an election about Brexit turned out not to have much to do with Brexit at all.

But the results will almost certainly affect how Brexit unfolds, as Krishnadev explains below.

What Does a 'Hung Parliament' Mean?

With the Conservatives appearing to have fallen short of an absolute majority, Britons face the possibility of having a hung parliament, which occurs when no single party wins enough seats to form a government on their own. This isn’t the first time this has happened—the 2010 election resulted in the U.K.’s first hung parliament in decades after the Conservatives won the most seats of any party, but still fell 20 seats short of commanding an absolute majority. If the exit poll results stand and the Conservatives fail to achieve the 326 seats needed, then Theresa May, as the sitting prime minister, would be given the first chance at forming a coalition government. If not, then Labour, as the second-largest party, would have the chance to form a minority government. Though Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgen, whose party is projected to take 34 seats, said she would be open to forming a minority Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrats, which claimed 14 seats, reaffirmed that they would not, tweeting: “No Coalition. No deals.

Bad News for Scottish Independence?

The dire Conservative result in the exit poll is topping the headlines right now, but they’re not the only party facing disappointing results. Further to the north, the Scottish National Party is projected to lose more than 20 of its 56 seats. That number may change, but it looks right now like a serious setback for leader Nicola Sturgeon’s push for a second independence referendum after Brexit.

The SNP was expected to lose at least a few of its seats in this election after their unprecedented 2015 result. In that contest, the party rode a wave of support after the failed 2014 independence referendum and leapt from 6 seats to 56 seats. The landslide result that gave it all but a handful of seats across Scotland and the third-largest group of MPs in the last parliament.

Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, had campaigned on the promise that her party would demand a second bid for independence, which would keep Scotland in the European Union as the rest of the United Kingdom left it. If the exit poll projections hold, those efforts could be in serious jeopardy as her party returns to Westminster with a severely shrunken majority and the loss of key constituencies in Gordon, where former leader Alex Salmond holds a seat, and Moray.

What the Results Could Mean for Brexit Negotiations

In April, Prime Minister Theresa May staked her political future on holding early elections. The U.K. was not due to vote until 2020, but May, whose Conservatives enjoyed a 21-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, liked her chances. The Tories had a 17-seat working majority in Parliament, a majority May hoped to increase in the elections so she could have a stronger mandate to negotiate with the European Union on the nature of Brexit.

To be clear, Britons votes overwhelmingly to leave the EU (52 percent to 48 percent), but the issue remains a contentious one in the U.K.—with large majorities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and major British cities like London voting to remain the bloc.

“If we don’t hold a general election now,” May said in April, “their political game-playing will continue and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next general election” in 2020.

The exit poll results are unclear about who will form the next government. If it’s May, and she’ll have to form a coalition, it’s unclear she can forge the kind of strong position she wanted to with the EU when she promised to be “a bloody difficult woman” during Brexit talks. If it’s Corbyn, and he’ll need support, too, most likely from the pro-EU Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, who are also pro-EU, then he’s unlikely to take a hard stance over the nature of the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU—a position that’s likely to give EU negotiators a strong hand. Corbyn’s own position on Brexit has been squishy—as has May’s.

The U.K. and the EU are divided over a host of issues, not least of which is the amount of money the bloc wants the U.K. to pay as part of a divorce bill before any deal on a future relationship is struck. Then there is the question of the rights of EU nationals living in the U.K. and U.K. expatriates following the separation. Also, as I’ve previously written:

Much of the discussions so far have centered on whether it’ll be a “soft” Brexit or a “hard” Brexit. A “soft” Brexit would allow the U.K.’s relationship with the EU to remain mostly unchanged: in other words, with the U.K. having access to the single market, and with the free movement of EU citizens. A “hard” Brexit, on the other hand, would see the U.K. negotiators refusing to compromise on the unrestricted movement of EU citizens, thereby losing access to the single market. In reality, since immigration is one of the reasons Brexit occurred, a final settlement is likely to fall somewhere in between a “soft” and “hard” Brexit.

These and other issues will be discussed when Brexit talks formally begin on June 19.

Pound Falls After Exit Poll

The pound plunged by as much as 2 percent Thursday following the release of early exit polls that showed Prime Minister Theresa May loosing her overall majority, marking the currency’s lowest point since the snap election was called in April. Bloomberg reported the pound falling as much as 1.9 percent, while the Financial Times put it at 1.5 percent. If the results of the exit polls hold true, it could drive the pound down even further.

The Exit-Poll Results

According to the Ipsos MORI exit poll conducted for the BBC and Sky News, the Conservatives will win 314 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons (down from 330), Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party will win 266 seats (up from 229), the Scottish National Party will get 43 seats (down from 54), and the Liberal Democrats 14 seats (up from nine). The U.K. Independent Party will win no seats, according to the projection (from one).

Official results are due Friday.

Can Exit Polls Be Trusted?

The U.K. election results are based on exit polls conducted by Ipsos Mori for the BBC and Sky News. Although it’s probably best to be cautious—especially because the exit-poll results appear to upend what seemed like an easy win for the Tories—U.K. exit polling has a good track record.

Here’s more from the Financial Times:

Genuine exit polls have a good record in Britain. The first was in 1970, when the BBC selected a single seat — Gravesend in Kent — because it was the most demographically and politically representative of the country. The poll was the first indication that the Conservatives had unexpectedly won, and was accurate to within one percentage point in the constituency.

After this, ITN and later the BBC began conducting national exit polls.

The only example of genuine exit polls being wrong came in 1992, when all three broadcasters put the Conservatives and Labour on about 300 seats each, well short of an overall majority.

The error was attributed to Conservative voters being less likely to participate in the exit poll, a problem also thought to have affected — to a far greater extent — the conventional polls that year.

Since 1992, the methodology has been further refined and the broadcasters have pooled resources. At no point in the past quarter of a century has the largest party’s seat total been wrong by more than 15 seats.

If that record holds true, the Conservatives could end up with as many as 329 seats (three more than needed for a parliamentary majority) or as few as 299, which would all but relegate it to the opposition.