This is the question on everyone’s lips following an election night like no other. Like 2015, the first hint that something interesting could be afoot came with the publication of the official Exit Poll from BBC, ITV and Sky just after polls closed at 10pm yesterday evening. Except this time, the poll proved accurate.
Rather than waking to a surprise Conservative majority as was the case in May 2015, the UK awoke this morning to a political landscape almost unthinkable just a few short weeks ago when Theresa May announced on 18 April that there would be a snap General Election. As a reminder, at this time the Conservatives enjoyed a working parliamentary majority of 17 seats and had been regularly polling well ahead of Labour who were a distant second under Jeremy Corbyn. A YouGov poll on 18-19 April gave the Conservatives a 24 point lead and some predicted a 100+ seat Conservative majority.
In the event, we have a hung parliament, with no one party able to form a majority Government. The Conservatives are down 12 seats on 318, Labour are up 29 seats with 261, the SNP are down 21 seats with 35, the Lib Dems are up 4 seats with 12 and the DUP are up 2 seats with 10. Plaid Cymru are up 1 seat with 4, the Greens retain their solitary seat, and the SDLP (-3), UUP (-2) and UKIP (-1) lost all their seats. Sinn Fein gained 3 seats to leave them with 7 MPs, none of whom will sit at Westminster, the independent MP Sylvia Hermon retained her seat and at the time of writing one seat (Kensington) is preparing for a third recount.
It has been an extraordinary result for Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn which few predicted. At the other end of the scale, despite some encouragement for the Conservatives in Scotland, it has been a deeply disappointing night for Theresa May who in the coming days must convince the British public, her party, her fellow MPs and leaders across Europe and the world that she can form a workable Government.
Despite calls from both Mr Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron for Theresa May to resign, in an announcement from Downing Street shortly before 1pm this afternoon Theresa May stated her intention to remain as Prime Minister and to form a Government with support from the DUP. This would not be a formal coalition akin to the Conservative-Lib Dem pact in 2010, but is likely to be more of a working agreement wherein in the DUP would ensure, for example, that the Conservative Party is able to pass a Budget.
With a Prime Minister diminished rather than enhanced by a snap election many thought a foregone conclusion, a rejuvenated opposition under Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit talks due to begin in just 10 days’ time, there is a definite sense of uncertainty today, rather than the strength and stability Mrs May sought to bring to bear.
CARE’s Chief Executive, Nola Leach, reminded us only yesterday that in the midst of uncertainty we can be sure that our God is unchanging, faithful, sovereign and in complete control. Let’s keep this in mind in the coming days, as politicians try to reassure the public and as MPs prepare to return to the House of Commons on 13 June to take their Oath of Allegiance or Affirmation.
Whether we are overjoyed by the result of the Election, devastated, or somewhere in between, the real work begins now for the politicians and also for us as Christians as we seek to be salt and light in the UK today, tomorrow and beyond.