Bad night for Tories and SNP
May resists pressure to quit as gamble flops
Theresa May resisted pressure to resign this morning despite her election gamble backfiring.
She will remain in Downing Street as head of a minority government and will seek a ‘working majority’ with Northern Ireland’s DUP.
The Conservatives are the biggest party but are eight seats short of an overall majority, meaning there will be a hung parliament.
Mrs May forfeited a 17 seat majority, while Labour – 20 points behind in the polls when the election was called seven weeks ago – made huge gains.
It was also a bad night for the SNP, losing a swathe of seats including Gordon where Alex Salmond, the party’s former leader, was defeated by the Tories. SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson was also defeated by the Tories.
Former LibDem leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg was another high profile casualty, losing his seat in Sheffield. Vince Cable, former LibDem Business Secretary in the coalition, and Zac Goldsmith for the Tories, were among those returning to the Commons.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Mrs May to resign, saying “The Prime Minister called the election because she wanted a mandate. Well, the mandate she has got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that is enough to go.”
Mrs May appeared determined to hang on in the hope of returning to Downing Street. Addressing her constituents after being re-elected in Maidenhead, she said: “If as the polls have shown the Conservatives have the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to make sure we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do,”
The Conservatives will have 318 seats (-13), Labour 262 (+30), SNP 35 (-21), Lib Dems 12 (+4).
In Scotland the Tories enjoyed a spectacular night, adding 12 seats to its previous one. Labour also performed better than expected, adding six seats to take it to 7. The LibDems gained 3 to hold 4 seats.
Stephen Gethins won Fife North East by just two votes after four counts.
Mrs May’s advisers were this morning at Tory HQ and a former minister Anna Soubry has called for her to “consider her position”.
An exit poll last night predicted the Conservatives would have 314 seats (down 17), Labour 266 (up 34) while the SNP would lose 22 seats, leaving it with 34 seats. The Lib Dems were forecast to have 14 seats, up six.
It has proved to be a disastrous night for Mrs May who gambled on getting a clear majority ahead of the Brexit negotiations beginning on 19 June. There were suggestions this morning that these negotiations will need to be postponed as the formation of a new government is uncertain.
The investment bank JP Morgan said the likelihood of the UK needing to request a delay in the Brexit process has now risen significantly on the prospect of a hung parliament.
Malcolm Barr, economist at the bank, said: “Perhaps the most obvious conclusion is that the likelihood of the UK needing to request a delay in the Brexit process has risen substantially, given the chance that political developments in the UK disturb what is already a time-compressed process.”
It will also be a difficult result for Nicola Sturgeon who will have to explain why her party has lost so much ground. The prediction, if it turns into a result, will undermine her own standing and her call for a second independence referendum.
Sterling fell 1.7% against the dollar to $1.274 on the prospect of a hung parliament. The FTSE 100 rose when the markets opened as most of its constituents make their profits in dollars. When sterling weakens then dollar revenues, once converted back into sterling, are worth more.