British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have lost her gamble in calling a “snap” election to strengthen her grip on power, and while her Conservatives will likely remain the largest party, they are losing seats, the CNN reported a short while ago.
Results so far suggest that May’s party could struggle to retain its overall majority in Parliament. CNN said it’s a huge embarrassment for May, who called the early election with the aim of gaining a wider majority.
She argued she needed a greater mandate to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations, as Britain prepares to leave the European Union. Now the tone of those Brexit talks, set to start in just 10 days — and even May’s own position — are up in the air.
After the result was declared in her constituency of Maidenhead, May gave a faltering speech. “At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability,” she said, suggesting she would attempt to form a government even if her party loses its majority.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, said the early results showed May had lost her mandate and called for her to resign.
“People have said they have had quite enough of austerity politics,” he said, repeating his campaign promises to push for better funding for health and education.
There were upsets elsewhere in the UK: In Scotland the Scottish National Party was on course for significant losses. The former leader, Alex Salmond, lost his seat, as the Conservative Party made some rare gains in Scotland.
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat Party did not make its hoped-for inroads. Former leader Nick Clegg, a former Deputy Prime Minister, lost his Sheffield Hallam seat. Tim Farron, the current leader, retained his seat with only a narrow majority.
Commentators agreed the results were bad for the prime minister. “This is a major disaster for her personal authority over the country and the Conservative Party, particularly because she made this election all about her ‘strong and stable’ leadership,” Jane Merrick wrote for CNN. “She made the election a referendum on Theresa May and she has lost.”
The BBC’s latest projections predict the Conservatives will get 318 of Parliament’s 650 seats, meaning the party would struggle to govern alone. But opponents may not be able to put together a coalition to take power.
One of many key questions for the coming days will be what approach is taken to the Brexit negotiations, even if May stays as prime minister.
She had promised a “hard Brexit” if Britain did not like the terms of the divorce negotiated with the EU. She vowed to take the country out of the EU’s single market and customs union, essentially a free-trade zone, radically changing Britain’s relationship with one of its biggest trading partners.