Theresa May said she could rely in parliament on the support of her "friends" in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party after her governing Conservatives failed to emerge as clear winners.
Theresa May today struck a business as usual tone as she announced that she will carry on as Britain’s Prime Minister despite a hung Parliament verdict in the general election and kick start Brexit negotiations with the European Union (EU) as planned in 10 days time. The Conservative party will form a minority government with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, having failed to secure the 326 MPs required for an overall majority in the House of Commons. The Tories are expected to close the final tally at 318, with the 10 DUP MPs giving it the backing it would need to govern and get legislation passed. “I will now form a government – a government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country,” 60-year-old May said on the steps of Downing Street after meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace to seek the monarch’s formal permission.
Stressing that her party had won the maximum votes and emerged as the single largest party, she claimed that only the Tories can provide the “certainty” needed to guide the country through crucial Brexit talks that begins with the EU on June 19.
“This government will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days and deliver on the will of the British people by taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
“It will work to keep our nation safe and secure by delivering the change that I set out following the appalling attacks in Manchester and London – cracking down on the ideology of Islamist extremism and all those who support it. And giving the police and the authorities the powers they need to keep our country safe.
“We will continue to work with our friends and allies, in the Democratic Unionist Party in particular…This will allow us to come together as a country and channel our energies towards a successful Brexit deal that works for everyone in this country. Now let’s get to work,” she said. There had been doubts cast over her leadership after she paid a heavy price for her gamble to overturn the UK’s Fixed Term Parliament Act and call a snap general election ahead of the fixed time-frame it would have been held in 2020.
She had hoped for a more decisive majority than the 331 seats won by former prime minister David Cameron in the 2015 general election but instead she ended by sacrificing the small lead she did have in Parliament.
The Jeremy Corbyn led Opposition Labour party performed better than most forecast, making considerable gains from the Tories to end up at 262 MPs.
It emboldened the not-so-popular party leader to demand that May must resign as he was “ready to serve the country”.
“We’re there as the Labour Party with our points of view, everybody knows what they are and everyone can see the huge increase in our support because of the way we conducted the election and the comprehensive nature of the programme we put forward,” he said.
But even if Labour was to join together in a so-called progressive alliance with the Scottish National Party (SNP), Liberal Democrats, Green Party and the Welsh Plaid Cymru, it would still fall short of the 326-MP majority figure.
The results of the general election are being seen as a Brexit mandate, with most of the constituencies against Brexit turning out to vote against the Tories and for Labour, which has a softer stance on the issue, and other anti-Brexit parties. The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, said May “should be ashamed” and should resign “if she has an ounce of self respect”. The election, which has overturned all opinion poll projections of a strong Conservative party majority, recorded the highest turnout in 25 years at 68.7 per cent, with nearly 32 million of the 46.9 million registered voters casting their ballots. The number of votes is the highest since 33.6 million voted in 1992, when Conservative leader John Major made it four general election wins in a row for the Tories. The figure of 68.7 per cent is two percentage points higher than the level seen in the 2015 general election and the highest level since the 1997 general election.