WASHINGTON, June 9, 2017 ⏤ British Prime Minister Theresa May called for early Parliamentary elections in hopes of cementing her party’s majority. The gambit failed; no party won the majority of seats needed to form a government. Britain is left with a hung Parliament.
May wanted a stronger hand in her negotiations with the European Union over Brexit. Calling an election now seemed a smart move: Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn was pursuing an anachronistic socialist platform from the 1960s that was almost universally disdained by pundits and the British press. May and her top advisors expected to take enough seats to make her political position unassailable when she faced Europe.
They miscalculated badly, their misreading of the public mood rising nearly to the level of political malpractice. Tory leadership took to anachronistic positions of their own, trotting out Laffer curves and conservative rhetoric of the Thatcher era. Her so-called “dementia tax” on the elderly was widely reviled. Voters who didn’t like Corbyn liked May even less.
Events complicated matters; May was forced to pause her campaign twice due to the recent terror attacks in Manchester and London.
Her catastrophic failure has resulted in calls for May to resign. She has so far rejected them, declaring her intention to form a new government. She received permission from the Queen to do so with support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
May told the press, “What the country needs more than ever is certainty.” And that seems to be precisely what she can’t deliver.
Corbyn has predictably called for May’s resignation so that he can be prime minister. He said he is proud of the results and that they are a “vote for hope for the future.” He added that voters are “turning their backs on austerity.” But voters have not turned to Corbyn. Most of them still find him, his shadow cabinet and his policies deeply troubling. He recently survived a no-confidence vote by his party only with the support of his grass-roots supporters.
Still, election results turn attention to Labour, which, if it can fix its own problems, is in its best position in years to return to power. Young people in particular seem prepared for a turn to the left.
U.K. Independence Party Paul Nuttall took to Twitter to say that May put Brexit in jeopardy by her actions.
The U.K. could face another election later in the summer. Under Parliamentary rules, an election can happen if two-thirds of MPs vote for it. After Parliament is dissolved, there are 25 working days until an election is held.
British voters have ousted top members of Parliament, including Alex Salmond and Nick Clegg, who lost to Labour candidates. After his defeat, Clegg said Britain is a “deeply divided and polarized” country. The Scottish National Party also received some setbacks, but it did win a majority of the seats in Scotland.
Results of the election are unsettling. The British pound plunged against the dollar and the euro when markets opened. Britain now enters Brexit negotiations weakened, and “hard” Brexit will be off the table. Polling failures will create new uncertainty in political calculations. Pre-election polls also failed in the U.S. last November, and pollsters also failed to predict last year’s Brexit vote.
As May attempts to form a new government, her fate lies in the hands of the Tories. There will be calls from within the party for her to resign, and there will be attempts to force a vote of no-confidence to force her from Party leadership. May has delivered uncertainty, not victory, and will now struggle to ensure that this is not her final act as prime minister.