British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced she will form a new government with the help of her “friends” in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, after an election debacle that saw her Conservative Party lose its parliamentary majority.
On the doorstep of her official Downing Street residence, May said her government would provide certainty and lead successful Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
“We will continue to work with our friends and allies in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular,” she said.
“We will fulfil the promise of Brexit together and over the next five years build a country in which no one, and no community, is left behind.”
The announcement came just moments after May travelled to Buckingham Palace, where she asked the Queen for permission to form a government.
Confident of securing a sweeping victory, May had called the snap election to strengthen her hand in the European Union divorce talks, due to begin later this month.
In one of the most sensational nights in British electoral history, a resurgent Labour Party denied her an outright win, throwing the country into political turmoil as no clear winner emerged.
With 649 of 650 seats declared, the Conservatives had won 318 seats, short of the 326 needed for a parliamentary majority. Labour won 261.
The DUP which staunchly defends Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, and takes a conservative approach to social issues increased its number of seats to 10.
May’s Labour rival Jeremy Corbyn, once written off by his opponents as a no-hoper, said May should step down.
After winning his own seat in north London, Corbyn said May’s attempt to win a bigger mandate had backfired.
“The mandate she’s got is lost Conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence,” he said.
“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.”
Conservative member of parliament Anna Soubry was the first in the party to disavow May in public, calling on the prime minister to “consider her position”.
“I’m afraid we ran a pretty dreadful campaign,” Soubry said.
May had unexpectedly called the snap election seven weeks ago, even though no vote was due until 2020. At that point, polls predicted she would massively increase the slim majority she had inherited from predecessor David Cameron.
May had spent the campaign denouncing Corbyn as the weak leader of a spendthrift party that would crash Britain’s economy and flounder in Brexit talks, while she would provide “strong and stable leadership” to clinch a good deal for Britain.
Her campaign unravelled after a policy u-turn on care for the elderly, while Corbyn’s old-school socialist platform and more impassioned campaigning style won wide support.
In the late stages of the campaign, Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London, temporarily shifting the focus on to security issues.
That did not help May, who in her previous role as interior minister had overseen cuts in the number of police officers.
From the EU’s perspective, the electoral upset meant a possible delay in the start of Brexit talks and an increased risk that negotiations would fail.
“We need a government that can act,” EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
“With a weak negotiating partner, there’s a danger that the negotiations will turn out badly for both sides.” AAP