Embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, whose snap election strategy is today in tatters, is on her way to see the Queen.
She will tell her she can still form a government – despite her ‘catastrophic’ loss of a Commons majority – with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
This is despite the fact DUP leader Arlene Foster told reporters overnight she did not see how Theresa May could continue as Tory leader – and PM – given the dent to her personal authority.
May needs 326 of the Commons 650 seats for an overall majority but – at the time of going to the Palace – has only 318.
Following the electoral wipeout of the more moderate and centrist SDLP and UUP the party once led by the Reverend Ian Paisley now has 10 Westminster seats and Gerry Adams’ Sinn Fein has 7.
But because Sinn Fein won’t take its seats – though it does claim all its Westminster allowances and office expenses – Gerry Adams’ party has lowered the bar for Mrs May by a considerable margin to 319 which – with the aid of the pro-Brexit DUP – Mrs May can comfortably reach however inherently unstable some may fear it will be.
Mrs May is expected to tell the Queen it will be a big enough majority to introduce a Budget and other Bills through Parliament.
Members of her own party have already started speaking about her as a caretaker Prime Minister who might guide the party into government but face a leadership challenge – most notably from acting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – within six months.
Many of her closest circle, including one-time potential party leader Amber Rudd, who is Home Secretary, have either seen their own constituency votes perilously reduced or they have – as in the case of the Tory Manifesto author Ben Gummer – lost their seats.
Publicly, the DUP is being coy suggesting it wants to broker a deal over the weekend although it is widely reported meetings have already taken place and the party has supported the Conservatives fairly routinely in Westminster. Talks are also understood to have taken place around the time of the 2015 election as well.
Whatever the final result, our positive campaign has changed politics for the better. pic.twitter.com/EHLta2rnIW
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 9, 2017
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have, meantime, said that Labour should be allowed to firm a minority government despite the fact Conservatives won the most seats and the largest share of the vote, 42 per cent.
The Labour Party defied expectations and won 40 per cent of the vote, a better result than Ed Miliband in 2015 and Gordon Brown in 2010.
In her first pubic comments before her visit to Buckingham Palace Mrs May – speaking at her own election count – called for a “period of stability” with the Conservatives reported to be at her own election count – and talks with the Democratic Unionists Party, for which won ten seats in Northern Ireland, which could see DUP support the Tories.
Period of stability
“At this time more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability,” said Mrs May.
“If, as the indications have shown, that the Conservative party as won the most seats and probably the most votes then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability, and that is exactly what we will do.
“I would like to thank all those across the country who voted for the conservative party. As we ran this campaign we set out to consider the issues that are the key priorities for the British people; getting the Brexit deal right, ensuring that we both identify and show how we can address the big challenges facing our country, doing what is in the national interest.
“That is always what I have tried to do in my time as a Member of Parliament, and my resolve to do that is the same this morning as it always has been.”
Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, told the BBC she expects “some contact” with the Conservatives, but also she went on to say that she believes Mrs May will find it “difficult to survive”.
Turnout for the election so far is 68.7% – up 2% up on 2015 – with Labour expected to pick up 29 seats.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for Mrs May to “make way”, following his re-election in Islington South.
“The prime minister called this election because she wanted a mandate. Well the mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence,” said Mr Corbyn, who won his seat with more than 40,000 votes, said at the election count:
“I would have thought that’s enough to go, actually, and make way for a government that will be truly representative of all of the people of this country.”
Mr Corbyn went on to tell the BBC “pretty clear who has won this election” and added “We are ready to serve the people who have put their trust in us”.
Talks about the UK’s departure from EU are due to commence on 19 June, but EU Budget Commissioner Gunther Oettinger has raised concerns over whether these talks can now proceed.
“No government – no negotiations,” Mr Oettinger is reported to have told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
Mrs May called the general election in April with the hope of increasing the Conservatives’ majority to give the party a stronger mandate to deliver Brexit.
It was a decision believed to have been welcomed by senior officials in Brussels. But that move now appears to have back-fired.
However, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said “We are ready to start negotiations”.
“I hope that the British will be able to form as soon as possible a stable government. I don’t think that things now have become easier but we are ready,” Juncker told POLITICO on the sidelines at a conference in Prague.
Sweden’s former Prime Minister Carl Bildt tweeted “One mess risks following another. Price to be paid for lack of true leadership”.
Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, who is president of the Alliance of Liberals & Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament, called it “another own goal”, tweeting “will make already complex negotiations even more complicated”.
But there was a less provocative response from the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, who tweeted “#Brexit negotiations should start when UK is ready; timetable and EU positions are clear. Let’s put our minds together on striking a deal”.
European Council President Donald Tusk made reference to the March 2019 deadline for Brexit talks.
He wrote: “We don’t know when Brexit talks start. We know when they must end. Do your best to avoid a “no deal” as result of “no negotiations”.”
German MP Stephan Meyer has called for Britain to now be given time to form a stable government, before any Brexit negotiations commence.
Mr Meyer told German radio “It means instability for Britain. Officially Theresa May is still the partner in Brexit negotiations, but the political reality is different after this disastrous defeat. I can’t imagine that May will be able to remain prime minister.”