Conservatives win UK election… barely
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Conservatives win UK election… barely

It is hard, following the UK’s snap general election last Thursday, to think of anyone as a winner. None of the political parties running secured a large enough share of the vote to form a government. The British people will not benefit from the ‘strong and stable’ leadership pledged by Theresa May, nor Jeremy Corbyn’s promise to govern ‘for the many’. Nonetheless, some losers fared better than others. This is how results played out on Friday morning, and what they mean for the country.

The Conservative Party won more votes than its peers, picking up 318 of the 326 Parliamentary seats needed to form a government. On first glance, this might seem like a ‘win’ – but it is likely that very few Conservatives see it that way. When Prime Minister Theresa May decided to call the general election, the Conservatives had more than two years left in power, and a healthy majority.

She took the country to voting booths because the perception at the time was that the main party of opposition, the Labour Party, was at its weakest in decades. May was hoping to win a larger majority, giving her a mandate for the hard Brexit she’s planning, and increasing her chances of pushing through thorny legislation. However, weeks of dreadful campaigning resulted in the erosion of what were once highly positive polling and approval figures. The Conservatives are considerably weaker now than they were before she called the election, and it is difficult not to view it as entirely her fault.

Meanwhile, the leader of the UK’s major opposition, the Labour Party, is seemingly jubilant. Jeremy Corbyn was regarded by many as a disastrous leader – a step backwards in time before Tony Blair’s New Labour; before, even, Neil Kinnock took the party towards the center over three decades ago. Corbyn faced press ridicule, a vote of no confidence from his own Parliamentary party, and a leadership contest last year that he was expected to lose.

However, if other politicians seem to dislike Corbyn, his traditionally socialist message has resonated with a larger proportion of the electorate than predicted. Corbyn has been elected leader of his Party twice on the overwhelming support of grass roots members – and while they weren’t enough to hand him the keys to Number 10 Downing Street, they did help to spur Labour’s flagging momentum.

During the weeks of his campaign, Corbyn managed to increase his Party’s support more than any other leader of any other political party since 1945. It is also, perhaps, notable that he won as much of the popular vote as Tony Blair in 2005 – something his detractors considered impossible just a few months ago.

While Corbyn may have helped to change the face of UK politics in the near term – some of the widely derided claims he made that proved to be true include the idea that young people who haven’t voted before can become enthused by politicians who speak directly to them; and that socialism still has mainstream appeal – he didn’t come anywhere near winning the contest. Labour gained 266 Parliamentary seats – so few that (despite being the second largest Party in the Commons) they would require the support of pretty much every non-Conservative MP in the country to form a government.

This result – a ‘hung Parliament’ – was considered to be a worst-case scenario. However, reaction in the markets has so far proved fairly muted, and even the pound – which tanked when exit polls predicted a situation very close to that which emerged – has recovered.

May will now deliver a Queen’s Speech to deliver to Parliament (to form a government, she must convince the House to vote in favour of it). She is in negotiations to secure the backing of the Democratic Unionist Party (a controversial Northern Irish party that lives on the far right, and has 10 MPs in the Commons), which should give her 328 of the seats – enough to govern. Barely.

Disclosure

The opinions in this article do not reflect those of Dominion Fund Management Limited, and in the instance of any forward-looking statements, these should not be construed as advice. 


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