The Labour Party performed far better in this election than just about anyone could have predicted when it was first called. Jeremy Corbyn (the party’s leader) ran a tremendous campaign that led to Labour gaining 31 seats, bringing them to a total of 261. Watching Labour members of Parliament (MPs) publicly apologize to Corbyn on TV last night for their lack of belief in his leadership must have felt like a victory in itself for the many fans he has gained in recent weeks. However, despite Labour being the only party to gain a significant number of seats, they remain only the second-largest party in the United Kingdom.
The real winner was, then, the Conservative Party, which remains the largest party in Parliament after winning 318 of the 650 seats. But it hardly feels like a win. This result fell short of the “magic number” required to win an outright majority, and the Conservatives will now have to negotiate a deal to form a coalition government with one of the other parties. Private discussions are now ongoing between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, a very conservative, pro-Brexit party from Northern Ireland, who won ten seats in yesterday’s election) in order to strike a deal and cross the 326-seat line.
Prime Minister Theresa May didn’t call this election to remain the largest party, and she certainly didn’t expect to have to strike a deal with a smaller party just to remain in power. She had that position guaranteed for herself for another three years if she had wanted it, and she could have done so without the stress of running a general election campaign. She chose to hold this “snap election” to secure a landslide win and carry the momentum of that triumphant victory into the upcoming Brexit negotiations, which begin in ten days’ time. Instead, the Conservative Party lost twelve seats and, with that, their majority. They will now have to work with the DUP in forming a Brexit deal—essentially the opposite of what May hoped to achieve.
For the average Briton, for whom cynicism and irony are two of life’s greatest joys, May’s current unstable predicament—caused by running a turbulent campaign crippled by U-turns in an exceptionally risky, yet entirely optional election, all run on the slogan “strong and stable leadership”—is something they will be able to derive joy from for quite some time.
The result is not a complete disaster, however. May has, so far, resisted calls for her resignation, insisting that the country still needs stability in its leadership in this time. Moreover, while the DUP was the only party willing to form a coalition with the Conservatives, it is also the only party with whom the Conservatives could work without having to make serious concessions. Brexit may have to be a little softer, with the DUP insistent on maintaining a “frictionless border with Ireland” (which will remain part of the European Union after the UK leaves). But, being from Northern Ireland (NI), the DUP’s policies focus mainly on NI-specific issues rather than having strong views on UK-wide policy. This means May, albeit with some potential concessions, will essentially be free to govern the UK on her own mandate, similarly to if she had won an outright majority.
The main winner of this election, then, appears to be the DUP. Only the fifth-largest party in Parliament, it looks set to gain far more influence in light of the result. A party little-known by many until this point, its conservative stance on issues of same-sex marriage and abortion (both of which are not legal in NI) will no-doubt be the source of much controversy soon, especially with its increase in power likely to strengthen its ability to uphold those laws.
Labour must be considered another winner. It did not score the jackpot and win a majority, but the campaign was a huge success, and Corbyn, who claims he has “changed the face of politics”, must also consider this a win. Interestingly, voting was so concentrated among the top two parties in this election that the 40.2 percent won by Labour is in fact higher than in 2005 under Tony Blair when it won a majority (35.2 percent). Labour also stole many key seats from the Conservatives, including the Canterbury constituency (held by the Conservatives for over 100 years) and axed key ministers such as Ben Gummer, who crafted the Conservative manifesto.
Many well-known individuals also lost at the hands of Labour, including Scottish National Party big-guns Alex Salmond Angus Robertson. A notable Liberal Democrat casualty was Nick Clegg. Former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Clegg rose to fame in 2010, becoming the deputy Prime Minister of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. The mass concessions made by the Liberal Democrats during that term, however, led to the “LibDem massacre” of 2015, in which the popularity of the party plummeted. Clegg lost his Sheffield Hallam constituency to Labour yesterday, marking the end of this sad fall from grace that began with the last UK coalition.
Whether this is a win for the British people is yet to be seen, but it is something we can expect to be revealed in the coming weeks and months.
Ultimately, however, our hope for our nations should not rest on politicians, but on the Lord. In times of political turmoil and transition, it is important to remember that “the Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:10-11). We should continue to pray for our leaders and politicians, and seek the wellbeing of our cities and nations, but our ultimate hope and salvation comes from God alone.
Matthew Allen is an intern for Providence. Originally from Plymouth, UK, he is currently a student in Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where he is working towards a B.A. in Public Policy and International Affairs. He is particularly interested in the promotion of human rights and advocacy for the poor, oppressed, and voiceless around the globe.
Photo Credit: Jeremy Corbyn before speaking on defense and foreign policy issues. By Chatham House, via Flickr.