Elections in United Kingdom: Failure of Conservatives and Possible Consequences

The Prime Minister of Great Britain Theresa May had initiated the elections where she was defeated and lost the majority in the parliament.

The Conservative Party won the early parliamentary elections in Britain, but could not earn a majority in the House of Commons. The party of Prime Minister Theresa May received 318 out of 650 seats in the Parliament. The Labor Party got 261 seats.

This result will have both domestic and foreign policy implications for Theresa May if she does not resign. In the opinion of most experts, she will have to decide whether to form a coalition or announce regular elections. In the British “Brexit” situation, chaos and the unstable rule of the coalition government are more likely to be threatened.

What influenced the defeat of the conservatives?

The main factor that influenced the decision of voters was probably a terrorist threat. Over the past three months, London has been subjected to three terrorist attacks. The last of them occurred several weeks ago in the heart of the British capital. The terrorist attacks hurt the authority of the government and Prime Minister Theresa May, who previously held the post of Minister of the Interior Affairs.

On the one hand, the politicians of Conservative Party tried to convince voters that their primary opponent, the Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, cannot be trusted when it comes to combating terrorism. In spite of the contacts of Corbyn with Islamic organisations which are not completely transparent, he as a politician is a supporter of a relatively gentle attitude to the problem of terrorism. Corbin seems to give greater importance to the human rights issue rather than the provision to the law enforcement authorities of additional powers to prevent from planned terrorist acts in advance. On the other hand, during the election campaign, the Labor Party recalled that when Teresa May headed the internal political department, the police budget was reduced by 18 percent. And the powers of the police were reduced to detentions and searches. Police officer numbers drop by nearly 20,000.

In addition, the Tories focused their attention mostly on the problems associated with “Brexit” in order to obtain the strongest mandate in the negotiations with the EU, while the opposition in its election program was able to present a broader perspective program, which was positively received by a significant part of society and influenced the results of the voting.

Future of Theresa May

After the current election, Theresa May’s future is uncertain. Leaders of the Labor Party called on the Prime Minister to step aside. The experts also do not exclude the end of the political career of the British Prime Minister.

To what extent this will affect the position of Theresa May as the Prime Minister of Great Britain remains a burning question. The results of the election are dealing with the defeat of the ruling party. She does not intend to resign, but she will make affords to form a coalition government by the Conservative Party. But, the mistakes made by Teresa May are so fundamental that in the longer term she will not be able to restore the diminished credibility. Foreign policy arena will look at British Prime Minister accordingly.

Brussels is also shocked by reports from London. The results of the elections showed that Premier Theresa May, with her crushing defeat, has just repeated the fate of her predecessor, David Cameron, who conducted the referendum on Brexit in the belief that Britain will remain in the EU. The leaders of the European Union fear that the results of the early elections in the UK will delay Brexit talks and increase the risk of their failure.

Now the European Union is dealing with chaos. The European Commission is waiting for the matter to settle after the elections in the UK. The loss of the majority in the parliament by conservatives is the worst news in the prospect of negotiations on the conditions of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May will have to negotiate with the opposition every major issue related to the “Brexit”.

And after all, the negotiations between London and the EU commissars on “Brexit” will start on June 19, and they promise to be extremely challenging and complicated. On the agenda of the talks with the European Commission, there are primarily two issues: financial matters, that is, London’s obligations until 2020, as well as questions about the rights of citizens of EU countries in the UK after “Brexit”.

The unstable situation in the UK, the weak position of the Prime Minister, the limited mandate in the negotiations with the European Union, may cause the significant limitation of London’s ability to discuss the conditions for secession from the EU. The European Commission does not seem to use the British deadlock to achieve unilateral benefits or imposing decisions that London would not be able to enforce. The results of negotiations with the European Union on “Brexit” should ultimately be approved by the Parliament of United Kingdom.

Possible political consequences of the elections

Although the head of the cabinet behaved as if nothing dramatic had happened after the announcement of election results, this position could not deceive anyone. The political authority of Theresa May as a leader of the country and the ruling party has been dealt a crushing blow. It is very revealing that she had to make short public statements alone, none of the cabinet members appeared in front of the cameras next to her.

Now Theresa May is taking some tactical steps to maintain her position within the Conservative Party. In the evening of June 9, she confirmed that key members of her cabinet (Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, Brexit Affairs Minister David Davis, Finance Minister Philip Hammond, Defense Minister Michael Fallon and Interior Minister Amber Rudd) had maintained their positions. The next day, the Prime Minister dismissed co-heads of her staff Nik Timothy and Fiona Hill, who had many complaints about their aggressive and closed style of work from parliamentarians and their colleagues in the government.

At the moment, it is in May’s favour that the supporters of the “hard Brexit” in the party do not want to rock the boat and conduct business for new early elections. Also, the Conservatives fears that Brussels will try to extract the maximum benefit from the current situation.

Graham Brady, the Chairman of the 1922 Committee, uniting the ordinary members of the Conservative faction in the House of Commons, told Bloomberg that the faction has no intention of challenging Theresa May’s leadership in the party. There is also no any desire to hold new general elections. At the same time, the influential pro-conservative newspaper The Telegraph noted that high-ranking Tories are tacitly discussing the expediency of changing the leader of the party.

According to the opinion of the party members, Boris Johnson, David Davis, and Amber Rudd are considered as candidates for the leader’s place. Experts argue that there is the growing recognition that May is now a transitional leader and should be replaced, probably, within a few weeks or months. The Conservative Party is known to be distinguished by its ruthlessness towards the old leaders. The brightest example was the marginalisation of Margaret Thatcher in 1990.

The conservative circles outside the government and the parliamentary faction openly expressed the opinion that Theresa May would not hold onto her post. Former Minister of Finance in David Cameron’s the government, George Osborne, expressed doubt that the Prime Minister “will survive as the leader of the Conservative Party.” Among the members of the Tory party, the mood for the resignation of Theresa May is rapidly spreading. The pro-conservative newspaper The Telegraph on June 9 held a vote on its website on the question, “Should Theresa May resign?”. Almost 150 thousand people have voted by the evening; 64% agreed with the statement, “Yes, she has lost her credibility.”

It is tough to make precise predictions about the time when Theresa May will have to leave. It is clear that if the Tories cannot work efficiently because of the precarious positions in the Parliament and the question of new elections appears, a new leader will have to lead the party to these elections.

It is also impossible to predict how the negotiations between London and Brussels will develop regarding the exit of Britain from the EU. Now the European leaders are ready to postpone the start of the negotiations somewhat, but no one is going to delay the deadline for the end of the “divorce” process (spring 2019).

It can be assumed that within the UK the Tory government will be strengthened by political pressure to abandon the harsh version of Brexit. Political opponents of the Tories will insist that voters have stripped the ruling party of the mandate for “hard Brexit”, their primary requirement will be the inclusion of the conditions of “Brexit” of preserving the place of Great Britain in a single European market.

Thus, the lack of political instinct played a cruel joke on Theresa May. During the campaign, the Tory leader called the possible government coalition of its political opponents “a coalition of chaos.” In reality, May herself plunged the country into a state of confusion and uncertainty.