What Britain’s Next Government Could Look Like After May Loses The Majority
LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May needed to take 326 seats in Parliament to hold on to the majority, but with most votes counted, the Conservatives were projected to win only 319. An election once expected to lead to an almost certain victory for the incumbent prime minister, who called early elections herself, has turned into a major defeat for the Tories.
Here are some of the coalitions or arrangements that could result. Most scenarios are either unlikely or would be extremely fragile — possibly paving the way for another General Election.
Minority coalition: Labour and Liberal Democrats
The last time the Liberal Democrats entered a coalition with a much bigger party in 2010, it did not end well for them. Being forced into major concessions by the Tories, the Liberal Democrats lost much support among many of their core voters and never quite recovered.
Minority coalition: Labour and Scottish National Party (SNP)
Instead of forming an alliance with the coalition-skeptical Liberal Democrats, Labour could also join forces with the Scottish National Party to topple the Conservative Party.
In May, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said she preferred having Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister. Although Sturgeon added that she did not consider Corbyn a credible choice, she told the BBC that in the case of a hung Parliament, “of course we would look to be part of a progressive alliance that pursued progressive policies.” Corbyn, however, has rejected any suggestions that his party could form an alliance with the SNP.
Minority coalition: Labour and Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrats
Although it remains an unlikely scenario, it would probably be the preferred choice of many continental Europeans who still hope that Britain will make a U-turn in its decision to leave the E.U. Together, the Labour Party, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats would have 307 seats in Parliament — fewer than May’s Tories will have.
What unites members of all three parties is a certain degree of skepticism that the decision to leave the E.U. was the right one. However, as a minority coalition, the three parties would still rely on the support of other, smaller parties.
Minority government with a ‘confidence and supply’ deal: Labour and ‘supply’
To solve that problem, a certain characteristic of Britain’s electoral system could offer a solution. A hung Parliament — in which no single party has a majority — does not necessarily mean that a coalition would have to be formed. Instead, the next British prime minister could potentially also rely on a flexible arrangement in which one party sets up a “confidence and supply” deal with several smaller parties, such as the SNP.
Sturgeon suggested in March that she might be willing to agree to a “looser arrangement” with Labour under the framework of “confidence and-supply.”
Under that kind of agreement, the smaller parties would not be part of the government but they would guarantee the prime minister their support on matters such as finances or confidence votes. In return, they would be able to hope for governmental concessions on some of their demands.
Such an arrangement would be extremely fragile, however, as the government would have to unite policymakers from various sides of the political spectrum, including liberals and center-leftist Labour voters as well as Scottish independence supporters, since Labour and the SNP combined would not have enough votes for a majority if exit polls turn out to be correct.
Minority government: Conservatives
Theoretically, May could also decide to try to continue to stay in power despite the loss of a majority. The Prime Minister will only be forced to resign if it becomes clear that she will not be able to obtain a majority through a coalition or loose alliances. However, her political strategy in recent months has alienated many of the parties she would have to rely on for parliamentary votes.
The Labour Party considers itself the main alternative to May’s conservative vision for Britain, whereas the Liberal Democrats would like to see Britain remain part of the E.U. The SNP remains frustrated by May’s earlier announcement not to grant Scotland another independence referendum anytime soon.
One party to watch for, however, is Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which has in the past indicated a possible willingness to support the Conservative Party in case of a hung Parliament.