Theresa May hopes to remain PM as voters deliver hung parliament

9 Jun

Theresa May hopes to cling on as Britain’s prime minister despite failing to secure a parliamentary majority after the snap general election resulted in a surge of support for Labour.

Senior Conservatives confirmed that Theresa May has no intention of resigning, and is instead working to form a government – most likely by making a pact with Northern Ireland’s DUP, which has 10 MPs. “We won the most seats and the most votes,” one Tory source said.

The DUP is socially conservative and enthusiastically pro-Brexit – and could also press for a boost to public spending in Northern Ireland. Party sources said they were in regular contact with the Conservatives.

The prime minister called the snap poll in the hope of winning a resounding personal mandate, with just days to go before Brexit talks with Brussels begin in earnest.

But high turnout among young voters and an upbeat campaign by Jeremy Corbyn, with the Labour leader addressing jubilant rallies up and down the country, deprived the Conservatives of their majority.

With 646 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives have 315 MPs, 12 fewer than when May called the election. Labour won seats deep in traditional Tory territory, taking their total to 261, up 31.

The Conservatives’ share of the vote stood just above 42%, with Labour just above 40%. Corbyn’s aides said the jump in the party’s share since Ed Miliband’s 30% in 2015, was the largest between two general elections for any party since 1945.

May has the right to remain in office and try to assemble a working government – but she is under intense pressure from senior colleagues, many of whom blame her for a botched manifesto launch and a wobbly campaign.

Meanwhile Labour will press for her to resign, and try to show that it could form a coalition of its own – though the parliamentary arithmetic looks difficult, and the Liberal Democrats have repeatedly said they will not make electoral pacts.

John McDonnell called May a “lame duck” prime minister. “In the interests of the country we are willing to form a government, a minority government, and put forward a programme, a Queen’s speech, as well as an alternative budget and also an alternative programme for the Brexit negotiations and then it is up to other parties whether they support us,” he told Good Morning Britain.

After returning from her own count in Maidenhead, the prime minister spent the early hours of the morning closeted with her senior advisers.

Theresa May says Conservatives will offer ‘period of stability’ – video

Speaking in the early hours of Friday morning after being returned as MP for Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn said the face of British politics has changed: “Politics has changed. Politics isn’t going back into the box where it was before. What’s happened is people have said they’ve had quite enough of austerity politics.”

Corbyn said May had called the election to assert her authority. “She wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough for her to go.”

The Conservative leader appeared crushed as she accepted her victory in the constituency, with a shaky speech in which she repeated her resolve to provide the stability the country needed before Brexit talks.

“If the Conservative party has won the most seats and most votes then it will be incumbent that we will have that period of stability and that is what we will do,” she said.

But Tory MP Anna Soubry broke ranks to say May should “consider her position”.

“It is bad. She is in a very difficult place … It was a dreadful night. I’ve lost some excellent and remarkable friends,” she said. “This is a very bad moment for the Conservative party and we need to take stock and our leader needs to take stock.”

Senior Conservative sources said recriminations were already beginning among cabinet ministers, with David Davis singled out by some of his colleagues for pressing May to gamble on holding the snap poll. “There are a lot of very very pissed off people in the cabinet – and with him in particular,” said one.

Another sources said the chancellor, Philip Hammond, had also been instrumental in pushing for the poll; and revealed that the pair had been told privately that she had decided to take the gamble before other cabinet ministers were informed.

The tight result, first indicated in a shock exit poll on Thursday night that showed the Conservatives likely to be the largest party in a hung parliament, represented a disastrous night for May.

Labour secured a first ever win in the previously safe Conservative seat of Canterbury, and also took control of Peterborough, which was one of the Brexit capitals of the country. There were also gains for Corbyn’s party in Battersea, Stockton South, Bury North and Vale of Clwyd.

A difficult night for the SNP delivered two of the biggest scalps, with the party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, losing his seat in Moray, and Alex Salmond defeated in Gordon.

The former Lib Dem leader and deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, spoke out about the need for the government to be sensitive about huge societal divisions as he was defeated by Labour in Sheffield Hallam.

The party’s leader, Tim Farron, hung on to his seat in Cumbria, while Vince Cable regained the Twickenham seat he lost in 2015.

The Conservative minister, Ben Gummer, a close ally of the prime minister and a key author of the party’s manifesto, lost in Ipswich while the financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, was defeated in Battersea, south-west London.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, faced a recount in a tight race in Hastings but just held on.

It was a bad night for Ukip, in which the party’s leader, Paul Nuttall, came third in Boston and Skegness, and it was crushed in its former seat of Clacton.

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