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Prime Minster Theresa May Gambles on a Mandate and Narrowly Retains Power, For Now

UK Election Results: Party by Party

The results of the United Kingdom’s snap election last week once again confounded expectations. With 326 seats required for a majority in the 650-member House of Commons, no party gain a majority, resulting in what is known as a hung parliament. Here’s the party-by-party breakdown.


Previously: 331 seats Result: 317 seats (-14)

This early election was a massive gamble by Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. She lost big. She went into the election with a 20-point advantage over Labour, and the widely expected result was a Conservative landslide. Instead, a lackluster and error-filled campaign ended up with the Conservatives losing their majority while winning the popular vote by just two points.

May is not gone, as many initially expected. With the assistance of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and its 10 seats, she narrowly eked out the votes necessary to form a minority government. Instead of an expanded majority and a political mandate, however, she now finds her position heavily weakened on her hold on power tenuous.


Previously: 229 seats Result: 262 seats (+33)

Conventional wisdom held that Jeremy Corbyn, the far-left Bernie Sanders-like leader of the Labour Party, was deeply unpopular and not viewed by many voters as an acceptable potential Prime Minister. After consistent heavy criticism from his party’s establishment and more moderate leaders, Corbyn came out of the election fully vindicated, if still not as prime minister. His aggressive grassroots campaigning, positive message, and hard-left turn on economics seems to have delivered the final nail in the coffin to Tony Blair’s centrist “Third Way” Labour Party.

In all the giddiness over the unexpected hung parliament and seats gained though, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that Labour still fell far short of a majority, and still lost the popular vote. Corbyn “succeeded” because of abysmally low expectations. Under normal circumstances, this would not be considered a very impressive Labour result.

Scottish National Party

Previously: 54 seats Result: 35 seats (-21)

The Scottish National Party, as usual, only contested Scotland’s 59 seats. It suffered a stinging rebuke. Coming out of the previous election, the pro-independence party, currently is the lead party in the devolved Scottish Parliament, swept nearly all of the Scottish seats at Westminster. This time they still won a majority, but the 21-seat loss to Britain-wide parties has been taken as a rebuke of party leader Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a second independence referendum next year. Brexit remains unpopular in Scotland, a second referendum on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom now seems firmly off the table.

Liberal Democrats

Previously: 9 seats Results: 12 seats (+4)

Traditionally the major third party of British politics, the Liberal Democrats suffered a mixed result. Though gaining a handful seats, the party is still far short of the over 50 seats which enabled them to help form a coalition government in 2010. What was once a “two-and-half-party” political system in Britain has become more conventionally bipartisan, with the LibDems as a rather marginal fringe. The LibDems once again fell behind the SNP in seat totals.

Pleading to have learned their lesson, this time the LibDems insisted they were not running with the intention of forming a coalition government with either Labour or the Conservatives. Instead, the party sought to capitalize on anti-Brexit sentiment by positioning itself as the one unapologetically pro-European Union party. Unfortunately, the traditional LibDem base still seemed to be soured by memories of the 2010 Coalition, wildly unpopular on the left for putting a Conservative-led government in power. Adding insult to injury, its losses included former party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He’s the man who just seven years ago was leading both major parties in some opinion polls of the 2010 election.

Other Regional and Minor Parties

In Northern Ireland, what was once a four-party system of local parties seems to have collapsed into a two-party system.

The Democratic Unionist Party, generally seen as far-right, has completely supplanted the Ulster Unionist Party as the main protestant political party in Northern Ireland. In addition to beating out their more-moderate rivals the UUP, the DUP now finds itself unexpectedly in the spotlight as its 10 MPs (or members of parliament) provide crucial votes to keep Theresa May’s minority government in power. It’s also brought negative attention to the party’s hardline social conservatism: Founded by and heavily associated with conservative protestant churches, the party opposes same-sex marriage and abortion, both of which remain illegal in Northern Ireland despite being legal in the rest of the U.K.

Likewise, the more moderate of the two republican parties in Northern Ireland, the Social Democratic and Labor Party, lost all of its seats. Instead, the more hardline Sinn Fein won all seven of the republican-majority seats. Sticking to their longstanding policy of abstentionism, the Sinn Fein MPs will not be taking their seats in Westminster, nor will they be taking the required oath of allegiance to the Queen.

In Wales, the would-be Welsh counterpart to the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, failed to gain traction. Plaid Cymru held all three of its seats while gaining none. The party continued to poll third in Wales, behind both Labour and Conservative: There’s a lack of interest in greater devolution and regionalism in Wales.

Bringing up the rear, the Green Party retained its one seat, part of a deal with the Liberal Democrats. The United Kingdom Independence Party, having lost its raison d’etre with the successful Brexit vote, failed to win a single seat! Their own party leader placed a distance third in his own constituency.

An Unsettled Future

Going forward, Theresa May’s Conservative government will likely remain in power. Her tenure as her party’s leader is an open question. The election was expected to produce a landslide political mandate. It has instead produced a result where all parties are chastened and nobody can really claim an unequivocal victory. Even Britain’s political future vis-à-vis Brexit remains unclear. Negotiations between the prime minister and the European Union were set to begin shortly, with a two-year deadline to complete.

(Caricature of Theresa May by Donkey Hotey used with permission.)

Andy Craig

A writer and political consultant in Milwaukee, WI, Andy Craig is active in several roles within the Libertarian Party, including two campaigns for public office, re-establishing official party status in Wisconsin, and receiving over 11% of the vote for Congress. He works with candidates on recruitment, strategy, messaging, ballot access, and endorsements, overseeing the latter for the Johnson/Weld campaign.

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