By: Kunal Damaraju
It’s been roughly two months since the most surprising snap general election in UK history came to an end. The Conservative Party was expected to win more seats in Parliament, maintain their mandate over Brexit negotiations, and solidify unity and strength within the party. Instead, the Conservative Party lost thirteen seats, losing the power and control that they once had to oversee their vision of successful Brexit negotiations. So what exactly happened that took the world by storm?
The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act of 2011 had laid out the procedure and timeline for each general election in the UK, stating that it must occur every five years. However, it also states that snap general elections can be called before the five-year term only when two-thirds majority of Parliament vote in favour of an election to be held. But with the Conservative party already holding a majority in the House of Commons with 331 seats, what was the need to call a snap general election?
For Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK and leader of the Conservative Party, the reason is simple: Brexit. With approval ratings of the Conservative Party high, it seemed like an opportunity for tighter political power over Parliament for the Conservative Party. In a statement to the citizens of the UK, she stressed that "If we do not hold a general election now, their political game-playing will continue... and the negotiations with the European Union will reach their most difficult stage in the run-up to the next scheduled election." The political games Theresa May was referring to involved the other MP’s from parties such as the Labour party, SNP, and the Liberal Democrats who aimed to make the process of negotiating for Brexit very hard for the Conservative Party. The additional time from an extended five-year term, it seemed, would also allow May and the Conservative Party to create free trade agreements for UK’s post-Brexit era.
Before the election occurred, the Labour party held 230 seats, while the SNP and LD held fifty-four and nine seats respectively. The Conservative party held 331 seats, and it was expected that the number would grow. However, overnight, the results were not what most expected. The Labour party gained an unprecedented 32 seats and now have 262 MP’s. The Liberal Democratic Party gained three seats and now have twelve MP’s, while the Scottish Nationalist Party lost seventeen seats and now have thirty-five MP’s. The biggest surprise was for the Conservative Party, who lost thirteen seats. In Parliament, a 326 seat majority is needed in order to gain control. Since no party reached the required number of seats, Theresa May and the Conservative Party were forced to form a minority government. Under this process, the party with the most MP’s is allowed to form a coalition with another party in order to reach the required 326. In this case, the Conservative Party chose the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, who hold ten seats in Parliament. The Democratic Unionist Party also support Brexit, but do not want Labour Party leader James Corbyn to have power in Parliament due to his relationship with Ireland Republicans, making the party a candidate for May to form her minority government. Minority governments tend to be weak and short lived. Stanley Baldwin, a former Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party, formed a minority government in 1923 that lasted for only 10 months.
While some praise the election results, others find it to be grimacing. Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, believes that the UK’s future with Brexit is unclear. She states that "One year after their referendum, we still don't know the British position in the negotiations on Brexit and it seems difficult to predict when we will.” Only time will tell to show the world the consequences of the UK’s 2017 snap general election.