#GE2017 chaos: What happens now?

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June 9, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith


This is the third hung Parliament since 1945. It is also the third failed call of a surprise snap election since 1945. In 1970, February 1974 and now June 2017 those three snap election resulted in failure for those who called them. The first time in 1970 a combination of a World Cup loss to Germany (seriously) and bad economic figures in the week of the election possibly turned it around. In 1974 it was the three day week and the chaos of a Government that had lost control of the country. This time, the election was lost (and it WAS lost, despite them getting the highest number of seats) by a terrible campaign led by a terrible campaigner. 

Theresa May refused to take part in televised debates, despite making the campaign about herself. She used the language of arrogant complacency in talking purely about herself and not her party throughout. She presided over what David Butler, the pre-eminent election historian called the first u-turn over an election manifesto promise (social care) in election history. Butler had said that he found it impossible to predict the outcome of this election. So did I, although in recent weeks I had reported at least on the YouGov poll that predicted a hung Parliament, and maintained that May’s campaign was sinking. But it was a rare person that was ready for the impressively accurate exit poll and now hung Parliament.

Theresa May’s Conservatives have a choice about whether to form a minority government, in which case they will try to get a Queens Speech through Parliament, possibly with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Or she will seek a coalition with the DUP, which is possible. Whether the DUP will want to do that in the midst of a delicate situation with no Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland is another question. But May’s party is not fully named the Conservative and Unionist Party for nothing. 

If it is not possible, then Jeremy Corbyn gets a chance to form a government, which will be extremely hard, although his shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry has repeated tonight the idea that Labour put a Queens Speech together themselves then challenge all the other parties to vote against it and have to explain to their constituents why they put the Conservatives back in charge. My feeling is that the Conservative have too many seats to make this actually possible.

Corbyn had a great campaign, despite a furious onslaught that focused mainly on his past associations. To have got through that and achieved 40% of the popular vote for a socialist mainfesto is an astonishing achievement in one way. Another way to look at it is that perhaps a greater focus on marginal seats might have translated that 40% of the vote into more seats, which could have put him into a position to walk into Downing Street in the next few days. I would imagine he will stay on as leader, and I would imagine there will be pressure for another election. 

Will May stay on as leader? She made the election all about her, and she didn’t win it. This suggests she STILL doesn’t have a mandate to be Prime Minister and STILL doesn’t have a mandate to lead our negotiations on Brexit. I would not be surprised if she there is pressure for her to replaced over the coming weeks.

This can’t be by Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader who has had perhaps the best campaign of all. The SNP lost 20 seats and the Conservatives have picked up many of them. Davidson decided not to stand for this election, so as she doesn’t have a seat she can’t run for leader. Given the SNP went into this election asking for another mandate for a second independence referendum, they haven’t got it. So look out for some clamour to find a way for Davidson to get into Westminster. If she can get as far as she can to win back Scotland, she can do anything. 

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