Voters throughout Britain went to the polls yesterday to vote in a “snap election” called by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. Unlike in the United States, elections in the U.K. aren’t necessarily on a set timetable. Instead, the Prime Minister can call an election with permission from the Queen.
In this particular case, May gambled her slim majority in the House of Commons to try to expand her mandate. Polls going into this election showed major Conservative leads, and Labour in trouble. Here’s what you need to know.
1. May’s Gamble Backfired
May entered the day with a slim 4-seat majority. Unfortunately for her, this majority was not all on the same page regarding Brexit (the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU). She thought that she could expand the majority to get things done easier with this snap election.
Instead of a mandate, May was rebuffed. While Conservatives remained the largest party, the May-led Tories lost 11 seats and Labour gained.
2. May Can Still Govern
Conservatives are now a few seats shy of a majority, but Labour is even further off from being able to govern. Again unlike the United States, the U.K. is often governed by “coalitions” which create a majority government. The Tories look to have the seats, along with the Democratic Unionist Party out of Northern Ireland, to continue governing.
Labour leadership will seek to call this a disaster for May and Jeremy Corbyn, their party head, has already said he can govern. Unfortunately for Labour, their 262 seats is far shy of the 326 needed to form a government, even with Scottish National Party and Liberal-Democrat backing.
3. Tories Need to Find a Message
I’ll direct you to a post on The Jeffersoniad by D.J. McGuire to really delve into what went wrong with Theresa May’s messaging. She initially tried to expand the election into a referendum on more than Brexit, which appears to be a mistake. She also didn’t message Brexit in the right way, per McGuire’s analysis.
Beyond that, May’s reactions to recent terror attacks was viewed by some as weak. One also has to wonder about the “Trump effect”, and if statements by some Tories supporting the U.S. President tarnished the party a bit. Donald Trump is not very popular in the U.K., regardless of your views on him here.
4. Scotland Saved the Conservatives
While the Tories lost their outright majority, their ability to still govern was maintained by wins in Scotland, of all places. Recently, many Scottish voters abandoned the traditional Labour-Conservative divide to vote for the Scottish National Party.
SNP was wiped out as voters returned to the old guard parties, which actually hurt Labour more than anticipated. 21 seats flipped from SNP, and 12 of them were picked up by Tories, while only 6 were snagged by Labour and 3 by the Liberal-Democrats. If the SNP had held those seats, they could have formed a coalition with Labour.
It was an interesting election, and a lot of analysts think the proposed Conservative-DUP government will have a difficult time governing. Time will tell.