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May Hangs on After Tortuous UK Election

Michael J. Geary

Riding high in the opinion polls just 6 weeks ago and with a governing majority of 12 from the 2015 general election, British PM Theresa May and her Conservative Party woke up to a very different political landscape this morning.

May Hangs on After Tortuous UK Election

Riding high in the opinion polls just 6 weeks ago and with a governing majority of 12 from the 2015 general election, British PM Theresa May and her Conservative Party woke up to a very different political landscape this morning. With all votes now counted, Britain will have a hung parliament with May's majority wiped out and her leadership in the balance after a personally disastrous campaign. No party will have enough seats to govern alone.

With Brexit negotiations starting in 11 days, the election has thrown the country into disarray. Within hours of polls closing, it looked apparent that May would not have the numbers to govern alone and quickly struck a deal with Northern Ireland’s right-of-center Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), a party that also strongly supports Britain leaving the EU. The Conservatives will remain the biggest party and will mostly likely govern alone albeit with DUP support from the backbenches. The DUP, who secured 10 seats in the election, will be looking for a better Brexit deal for Northern Ireland especially on issues like a soft border with the Republic of Ireland and commitments to strengthen the union with London.

As political miscalculations go, this is a monumental one for May and her strategists who had thought her unassailable lead in the pre-election polls would translate into a landslide majority in the House of Commons. Instead, it now looks increasingly likely that this is May’s first and last election as Conservative leader and PM. While there is no immediate appetite to replace her and she is insisting she will not resign - to do so would lead to a lengthy leadership contest on the eve of Brexit negotiations - her days at No. 10 Downing Street are numbered and Britain might well be facing another general election before the end of the year.

About the Author

Michael J. Geary

Michael J. Geary

Global Fellow,
Associate Professor, Modern Europe and the European Union, Faculty of Humanities, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
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Global Europe Program

The Global Europe Program addresses vital issues affecting Europe’s relations with the rest of the world through scholars-in-residence, seminars, international conferences and publications. These programmatic activities cover wide-ranging topics include: European energy security, the role of the European Union and NATO, democratic transitions, and counter-terrorism, among others. The program also investigates comparatively European approaches to policy issues of importance to the United States, including migration, global governance, and relations with Russia, China and the Middle East.  Read more