The election is now over. Probably, at least. There’s some wording in the Fixed Term Parliamentary Act where another election must be called if no party can form a government within two weeks, but let’s pretend we didn’t hear about that and can remain enthused. Despite retaining the largest number of seats, the Conservative Party has lost both the majority they wanted and the hold of any majority at all. Meanwhile, Labour and the other parties have made impressive gains to prevent that majority, albeit not to the amount that they could make a majority coalition themselves.
The election is filled with winners and losers who are technically not either of those things. The Conservatives won because they have the most seats, but actually lost because they don’t have enough. Labour lost because they don’t have enough to win, but actually won because they’ve prevented a Conservative majority. The SNP lost because they’re down by 21 seats, but won because they still own the most seats of any party in Scotland. It goes on.
To properly go into the results of this election, I have to go through them by each party’s individual results.
1. The Conservatives and the Labour Party
In terms of both goals and intentions, the Conservatives messed this up bad. The entire reason this election was called was so that Theresa May could increase her majority in parliament and not only did she fail to increase her majority, it lowered to below the threshold for the amount considered for any majority. It was a terrible move on her part and clearly revealed her as putting party before country in what she valued. I think anyone could understand why many are now calling for her to step down as leader. In this election, it seemed almost deliberately bad in how they handled their campaign, with campaigning constantly using the same “strong and stable leadership” slogan on every issue, u-turns on policies such as the dementia tax, refusing to attend debates with the other leaders, etc. In any case, they have become almost the absolute losers of this election.
On the other side, Labour and Jeremy Corbyn have considerably won, managing to hold off a Conservative majority and prove to doubters – myself included – who believed Corbyn was “unelectable”. Corbyn took on not only the establishment of his own party, which was split between the Blairites and the more traditional Labour members like himself, but also the accusations of the media, the Conservatives, and other figures who piled onto this message. If Jeremy Corbyn remains as leader of the Labour Party, I could easily imagine him becoming Prime Minister in 2022 with the results he gained here. While they may have not gained enough to create either their own or a coalition government, they should be proud of what they accomplished considering the amount of people ganging up against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and campaign.
2. The SNP and the Lib Dems
Having won 56 seats in the last general election, people could have easily expected the Scottish National Party to keep winning through this election. But as the results came through Scotland’s seats it came through that they had figuratively lost, going down not only by 21 seats but also losing two of their biggest figureheads in parliament – Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson. While remaining as the largest party in Scotland seeing who was taken down can show that we are seeing the party be slowly taken down. In the case of their losses, it wasn’t the factor of the number they lost, it is more worthy to pay attention to who they lost as the absence of two of their biggest party figures, Salmond and Robertson leaves them with very little authority in Parliament, with the 22-year-old Mhairi Black seemingly now left as their new leader in the House of Commons.
Being a member of the Liberal Democrats, I may be looking at it through a more favourable eye but I think they did very well considering their place in the numbers. They have managed to gain another four seats and it’s also worth noting that in a lot of seats where the vote was close, they almost won those seats. In terms of how close, if they were able to muster up just 469 more votes between these close seats, they would have been able to elect another four MPs to their number. I can’t act like it isn’t a big blow for them to lose the political heavyweight in Nick Clegg, which was one of the biggest shocks of this election, but I think it may have been an eventuality. The reason the number of Lib Dem MPs went down from 57 seats in 2010 all the way to just eight in 2015 was due to the coalition, and what that represented for the promises they made in the 2010 election. As Nick Clegg was the leading figure of this, it seems only natural that voters would target their revenge on him. As difficult as that loss may be, with Clegg gone the Lib Dems may be able to distance themselves away from that coalition stigma that has swayed voters away from them.
3. Plaid Cymru and the Greens
Relatively, both Plaid Cymru and the Green Party did as well as the polls were saying they would. Personally, (maybe a little too hopefully) I expected to see a few more Green MPs with the likes of strong candidates such as Molly Scott Cato, Natalie Bennett or Larry Sanders, but it seems the voters did not go for them. Plaid Cymru have managed to gain an extra MP, which I think will have been down to Leanne Wood’s performance in the debates making them look like a good candidate for Labour-wary voters in Wales. While the Green Party’s voting numbers have gone down significantly (from 2015’s 1,156,149 votes to just 524,604 votes) I think this will have been purely down to tactical voters opting to play safe with Labour candidates with a smaller swing needed, and not due to a bad campaign performance by themselves.
4. The DUP and Sinn Fein
Seemingly, as it stands right now, the Conservatives will manage to cling onto power with the assistance of the Arlene Foster and the Democratic Unionist Party, the largest party in Northern Ireland, who managed to win ten out of the 18 total seats in Northern Ireland. Many are concerned with the DUP’s presence due to their strong stances on abortion, gay marriage and EU membership, and rightfully so considering how important these issues are to people. Personally, I think while this coalition could give Northern Ireland a bigger voice in parliament, it could also likely backfire on the Conservatives to ally with a party so firm on these issues when we already have a handful of gay Conservative figures – Ruth Davidson, Justine Greening and Alan Duncan to name a few – and it would take just four MPs to go rogue for this deal to fall apart. It’s also worth mentioning their rival party in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin led by Gerry Adams, who won seven of the 18 seats in NI. Sinn Féin have long been the rivals of the DUP, representing Irish republicanism against the DUPs British unionism, and democratic socialism against the DUPs right-wing populism. While their views may show them as a worthy rival to represent Northern Ireland against the DUP, it’s also worth noting that Sinn Féin follow a policy of abstentionism which means they will refuse to attend parliament, meaning that they cannot stand up for Northern Ireland’s interests against the DUP even if their people wanted it.
5. The Others
The other parties in Northern Ireland who lost to the DUP and Sinn Fein include the Social Democratic and Labour Party who represent a non-abstentionist Irish republican interest, the Ulster Unionist Party who represent a more centre view on unionism, and the Alliance Party who represent a liberal interest in Northern Ireland. As it being Ireland stuck with only two parties representing them, it’s a shame that these others couldn’t retain any seats. The other major party that I have to mention is of course the UK Independence Party led by Paul Nuttall. The UKIP vote went down from a shockingly high 3,881,099 votes in 2015 to just 593,852 votes in this election. Personally, I believe that UKIP are a dead party after this. The UK Independence Party only ever stood for one policy and that was independence from the European Union. And in this election, one of the major points of the Conservatives was an anti-EU stance, so really there would be no point in voting for them when there is already a larger party who support their view.
Majorly, I think a big point of this election is a failure of the first past the post voting system. If we look at the parties we currently have right now it’s clear to see that the left wing vote is split as opposed to the unified right wing vote. The difference being that the left is split between Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, etc., while the right remains loyal to the Conservatives as they are the only major right wing power. If we had a more proportional voting system going by preference rather than just one choice, these voting figures would be better represented with seats being held by who the people wanted and not what the numbers want. Under the first past the post system, typically around 75% of the vote can be discounted purely on the basis of split between the parties, and a more proportional system could fix this and elect MPs who better represent their voters.
But as the classic Casablanca quote goes, “We’ll always have Lord Buckethead.”