Surprise Setback for Britain’s Conservatives As May Wins, But Lacks Majority in Parliament

By Patrick Goodenough | June 8, 2017 | 8:04 PM EDT

British Prime Minister and Conservative leader Theresa May (Photo: Jay Allen/Crown Copyright)

( – Official exit polls in Britain indicate that the Conservative Party may have lost its parliamentary majority, following Prime Minister Theresa May’s risky bid to call a snap election in the hope of winning a stronger mandate for negotiations on the country’s exit from the European Union.

While official results are some way off, exit polls suggest that May’s Tories will get 314 seats in the House of Commons – 12 fewer than the minimum 326 to give a party an overall majority.

A string of opinion polls in the run-up to Thursday’s election had pointed to a Conservative majority.

May could yet get a reprieve: Exit polls in the last election gave the Conservative Party 14 fewer seats than it eventually ended up getting, and she will be hoping this year’s ones are equally inaccurate.

The exit polls, conducted by NOP/Ipsos MORI for the BBC, ITV and Sky, gives Labour 266 seats, the Scottish National Party 34 and the Liberal Democrats 14. The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) looks set to lose its only seat.

If that is borne out, it means the Conservatives will have lost 17 seats, Labour will have picked up 34, the SNP will have lost 22 and the Lib Dems will have gained six seats.

The latter result – the Lib Dems almost doubling its representation – could prove pivotal in a “hung parliament” situation. The party’s leader, Tim Farron, could team up with May’s Conservatives to form a coalition with a small majority.

The center-right and liberal parties have served in a sometimes uneasy coalition before, after the 2010 election produced a hung parliament for the first time in more than three decades. The partnership lasted until the Conservatives won an outright majority in 2015, paving the way for the Brexit referendum a year ago.

Whether Farron would consider a coalition with the Tories remains to be seen, but the last marriage of convenience ended extremely badly for the junior party, with the Lib Dems shedding 49 of its 57 seats in 2015.

A former Lib Dem leader, Menzies Campbell, told the BBC Thursday that the party had its “fingers burned” by coalition.

“I find it very, very difficult to see how Tim Farron would be able to go back on what he’s previously said and indeed to persuade the membership of the Liberal Democrats that a coalition would be a good idea from our point of view,” he said.

Some British pundits commented that if May forms a small-majority coalition but is unable to get crucial legislation passed, the Queen may then ask Labour’s left-leaning leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to cobble together an alliance of center-left parties – Labour, SNP, Lib Dems and Greens.

If he managed to do so, that would hand Corbyn the keys to 10 Downing Street.

“If this poll turns out to be anywhere near accurate, it would be an extraordinary result,” the Labour Party said in a statement. “Labour would have come from a long way back to dash the hopes of a Tory landslide.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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