Well none of us were expecting that! 6 weeks ago, standing on the steps in front of Number 10 Downing Street, Theresa May announced that she would call a snap election. At the time, she had a lead of over 20 points in the polls and the pundits were predicting a Tory landslide. Last night, Theresa May lost 12 seats and in terms of the popular vote had a lead of just 2 points. I’ll do some further analysis on the election as a whole at some point, but for now I’m going to recount the main stories of last night, in terms of who the winners and losers were.
First, the Conservatives. Theresa May called the election expecting a landslide, however, as time progressed it looked like her party would gain fewer and fewer seats. On the eve of the election most pollsters were predicting Tory wins, albeit perhaps with only a net gain of 20 or 30 seats. Losing 12 was a big shock for them, and means that the party has been forced to ask the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland for help in forming a government.
Luckily for the Tories, few big names lost their seats. Home Secretary, and possible replacement for Theresa May if she resigns, Amber Rudd managed to hold on in Hastings by a few hundred votes, as did Education Secretary Justine Greening in Putney. Zac Goldsmith even regained the seat he lost to the Lib Dems a few months ago. However, author of the Conservative manifesto Ben Gummer was unseated. The highest profile casualty of the night, he was tipped for a big promotion had his party won.
For Labour, it was much more positive. The party gained 29 seats on their 2015 result, and as a result Jeremy Corbyn’s position is certainly looking more secure. In Canterbury, they replaced the Tories, who had been in control of the seat since 1918. It was a similar case in Kensington, another Tory stronghold. However, the Labour party still only won 261 seats, nowhere near enough to get them to power even if they were helped out by the SNP and Lib Dems.
The main theme of the night was that the smaller parties were squeezed, with both Labour and the Conservatives increasing their shares of the votes in the vast majority of seats. The Greens failed to win any new seats, although Caroline Lucas did triumph in Brighton Pavilion with a massive 30,000 votes. UKIP meanwhile had a disastrous night, with its vote share falling from 12% to 2%. Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, resigned with former leader Nigel Farage hinting that he could return to politics. In Boston and Skegness, where Nuttall stood for election, UKIP won just 3,000 votes and came in third place. The Tories triumphed with 27,000.
It was a mixed night for the Lib Dems. They had a net gain of 4 seats but showed no indication that they would be overthrowing the SNP as the nation’s third largest party any time soon. Sir Vince Cable regained Twickenham, the seat he lost 2 years ago, while Ed Davey will also make a return to the Commons. However, Tim Farron only just held on to his seat with a majority of 750, while former leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was unseated in Sheffield Hallam. In terms of rebuilding the Lib Dems, there’s more work to be done.
In Scotland, it was rather a different story. The SNP lost 21 seats, likely hit by public backlash over a second independence referendum, whilst the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all gained at their expense. The latter two parties gained 6 and 3 seats respectfully but it was the Scottish Conservatives’ performance that was the most impressive. It’s a running joke in Scotland that there are more pandas in the nation than Tory MPs – 2 vs 1. However, leader of the Scottish Tories Ruth Davidson led her party to 12 gains, giving them a total of 13 seats, the most since 1983. Without these gains, May’s party would be in a pretty dire position as Corbyn could have potentially put together a coalition. As for the SNP, big names such as former leader Alex Salmond and current Deputy Leader Angus Robertson were unseated. It wasn’t a great night for Nicola Sturgeon’s party.
And finally, Northern Ireland. It seems fitting to talk about what’s happened there given that the Conservatives will be doing some sort of deal with the DUP, and like in Great Britain, the results in Scotland were very polarised. The more moderate Ulster Unionist Party and SDLP lost all of their seats, leaving Sinn Fein and the DUP controlling every single constituency bar one in Northern Ireland.
I could talk more about all this, and probably will, but for now I’ll leave it here at this reasonably brief overview of the results. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be writing blog posts on what the future holds for May, Brexit and UK politics as a whole, exploring how and why the Tories lost their majority, and also taking a closer look at the DUP. Until then, I’m off to catch up on some sleep…