09 June 2017

Theresa May's Snap Election Hurts Conservative Party


Theresa May called a snap election in the U.K. that was held on Thursday, three years earlier than she had to after just two years in office. This, in hindsight, was a very bad call

Her party has lost its parliamentary majority and will now have to form a coalition government to remain in power, mostly likely with the Democratic Unionist Party, the right leaning party of Northern Ireland. Labour has to include everyone but the Conservative Party in its coalition to form a government. and that is likely to be a harder sell. For example, while the leading unionists and anti-U.K. parties of Northern Ireland had a unity government in Northern Ireland's devolved government for almost a decade, that coalition has since collapsed making the parties less than natural fellow coalition partners.

Two political parties in Northern Ireland and the far right U.K. Independence Party are no longer represented in parliament. The UKIP received one in eight votes in 2015, despite winning only one seat in parliament, but only one in fifty votes in this election.

Voter turnout was 69%.

The Results

Theresa May's Conservative party went into the election with a thin majority. Post-election, the Conservative Party will still be the largest party in parliament, but will lack the 326 seats out of 650 necessary for a majority, with a projected net loss of 13 seats, leaving the Conservatives 8 seats short of a majority.

The Labour Party made big gains (30 seats) and the Liberal Democratic Party made small gains (from 8 to 12 seats). The U.K. Independence Party, a far right party, appears to now have no seats in parliament. The Green Party held onto its single seat.

The Scottish Nationalist Party lost twenty-one seats, about half lost to the Conservatives and about half lost to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh Nationalist Plaid Cymru gained one seat.

In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party won 10 of 18 seats picked up three seats. Meanwhile separatist Sein Fein won 7 of the 18 seats picking up two seats. These gains were at the expense of two parties which no longer hold any seats in parliament, the Ulster Unionist Party which lost both of its seats and the Social Democratic and Labour Party which lost all three of its seats. One Northern Ireland seat in the generally unionist eastern part of Northern Ireland was filled by an independent candidate.

Thus, two small parties in Northern Ireland and one in England lost all of their seats in parliament. Eleven parties that didn't have seats in parliament before the election failed to enter parliament.


The Conservative Party will be given the first opportunity to form a governing coalition and will continue to serve as a caretaker government, and if it fails to do so, the Labour Party will be given an opportunity to form a governing coalition. But, this process is much faster than the transition period in the U.S. which takes three months. When there was a hung parliament in 2010, a coalition was formed in 5 days and is unlikely to take as long as two weeks. 

The Green Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru are most naturally coalition partners of the Labour Party, although for sufficient compromises, the Liberal Democratic Party would probably be willing to join in a coalition with the Conservatives, although its platform promises not to join a coalition with either party.  My recollection is that Sein Fein generally does not enter into governing coalitions unless they will agree to Northern Ireland joining Ireland which none of the other parties is willing to do. If it did join a coalition, it would only join a coalition of the left.

Labour needs virtually all parties other than the Conservative Party in its coalition to secure a majority, although it could have a minority government seeking support from the Liberal Democratic Party and Sein Fein on an issue by issue basis, or at least for the prime minister's appointment.

The most plausible coalition partner for the Conservative Party and the most likely government to emerge would be a coalition of the Conservative Party with the Democratic Unionist Party, which is the more conservative of the two parties of Northern Ireland, with all other parties in opposition, which would provide a very thin majority. Indeed, the DUP is probably more conservative than the Conservative Party whose platform is honestly closer to centrist Democrats in the United States than to the Republican Party in the United States and includes large amounts of increased government spending, for example. Also, the SNP and Sein Fein both want independence for their regions, while the DUP only wants devolution.

Regional Politics

Northern Ireland

As noted above, 17 of the 18 seats in Northern Ireland are held by two Northern Ireland political parties, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Sein Fein, with the last seat held by Independent Lady Sylvia Hermon who was re-elected.

Sein Fein holds the western ridings and Belfast West (which is surrounded by unionist ridings), and the Democratic Unionist Party holds the eastern ridings except one seat on the coast held by Lady Hermon.

Seats in the U.K. parliament aren't terribly relevant in Northern Ireland because it has its own system of self-government.


Scotland also has its own system of self-government as well as 59 seats in parliament. As I write, those seats have been called as follows:

35 for the Scottish Nationalist Party (down 21 from 56).
13 for the Conservative Party (up from one).
7 for Labour (up from one).
4 for the Liberal Democratic Party (up from one).

Thus, the Scottish Nationalist Party has gone from almost complete control of all Scottish seats in parliament to a mere majority of the outstanding seats, with the remainder split more or less evenly between the Conservatives on one hand, and Labour and the Liberal Democratic Party on the other.

Still, while they made gains from an extraordinary high point for Scottish Nationalists, the Conservatives are not strong in Scotland.


Unlike Northern Ireland and Scotland, Wales does not have genuine self-government, but does have 40 seats in parliament. As I write, those have been called as follows:

28 for Labour (up 3)
8 for the Conservative Party (down 3)
4 for Plaid Cymru (up one)

The Liberal Democratic Party lost its sole seat in Wales.

Thus, the Conservatives lost ground in Wales which was already a weak point for them. The trend in Wales mirrors the trend in England.


England like Wales does not have a government separate from the U.K. parliament, so Scotland and Northern Ireland have a say in making the laws for England and Wales even though they have their own self-governments and aren't bound by those England and Wales specific laws. England has 533 seats in parliament.

In England, as I write the seats that have been called are as follows:

Conservatives 297 (down 22 seats)
Labour 227 (up 21 seats)
Liberal Democratic Party 8 (up 2 seats)
Green Party 1 (unchanged)
U.K. Independent Party 0 (down 1 seat)

This includes one BBC projection which hasn't actually been called yet for Labour in London. It was previously held by the Conservatives. But, apparently, the BBC thinks that the London seat (Kensington) is going to flip to Labour while based upon exit polling.

England has moved significantly to the left in two years.

Conservatives have a majority in England.

National Parties By Region

Conservative Party: 297 England, 8 Wales, 13 Scotland
Labour: 227 England, 28 Wales, 7 Scotland
Liberal Democratic Party: 8 England, 4 Scotland

Voting System Impact

The Conservatives are only anywhere close to having a majority in the U.K. because of the first-past-the-post single member district voting system that is used.

The vote share of the non-nationalist parties in the U.K. from right wing to left wing was as follows:

U.K. Independence Party (far right) 1.9%
Conservative Party 42.2%
Right and Center-Right Subtotal 44.1%

Liberal Democratic Party 7.1%
Labour Party 40.4%
Green Party 1.6%
Left and Center-Left Subtotal 49.1%

The Scottish Nationalist Party got 3.1% and is much closer to Labour than to the Conservative Party.

The political left to left-center gets less than their fair share of seats because they are divided. The Conservative Party gets more than its fair share of seats because the British Right is comparatively unified.

2015 Results

In 2015 the results were as follows:

Conservative Party 331 (+24)
Labour 232 (-26)
Liberal Democrat 8 (-49) 
Scottish Nationalist Party 56 (+50) (Scotland)
Democratic Unionist Party 8 (0) (Northern Ireland)
Sein Fein 4 (-1) (Northern Ireland)
Plaid Cymru 3 (0) (Wales)
Social Democratic and Labour Party 3 (0) (Northern Ireland)
Ulster Unionist Party 2 (+2) (Northern Ireland)
U.K. Independence Party 1 (+1) (England)
Green Party 1 (0) (England)
Independent Lady Sylvia Hermon 1 (Northern Ireland)


andrew said...

Coalition talks are unfolding as anticipated an the last riding in London is not declared as I write this.


andrew said...

Kensington was won by Labour as predicted by 20 votes. http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/constituencies/E14000768