Theresa May shuns calls to resign after shock result

Britain’s PM apologises for losing Conservatives’ majority after snap election, but vows to continue despite anger.

leuser theresa may
A demonstrator holds a placard depicting May surrounded by the stars of the EU flag above the word 'Leuser', a portmanteau of loser and EU [Glyn Kirk/AFP]
Correction10 Jun 2017
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Conservative Party won 48.9 percent of the vote share while Labour won 40.3 percent in the June 8 general election. The correct figures are 42.4 and 40 percent, respectively.

People living in Britain are waking up to uncertainty as Prime Minister Theresa May ignored calls to stand down after the ruling Conservative Party lost an overall majority in parliament in a general election on Thursday.

May had called the snap vote in April to strengthen her mandate before negotiations with the European Union to quit the bloc.

“As I said many times during the campaign, I had wanted to achieve a larger majority, but that was not the result we secured,” May, who had previously pledged not to hold an early election, said on Friday.

She also apologised to her colleagues who had lost seats as a consequence.

The Conservatives won 318 seats and 42.4 percent of the vote share, while Labour won 262 and 40 percent of the vote share – an increase from the 2015 result which saw the left-wing opposition party win 232 seats.

As May announced forming a minority government with the support of the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), allowing her to cling to her position, a resurgent Labour Party celebrated as it outperformed expectations following a successful campaign led by Jeremy Corbyn.

“Labour fought an energetic, hopeful campaign,” Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips, reporting from Britain’s capital, London, said. “Corbyn promised an end to austerity, attracting large crowds.”

Corbyn was among those who called for May to resign after the results were announced.

“Now, the prime minister has no authority and the Conservatives have no mandate,” he said in a video message posted to Twitter on Friday. 

‘May fatally wounded’

Britain’s right-wing newspapers, which are usually loyal to the Conservative Party, also turned their backs on May.

In an opinion column, The Times said: “This crisis has been years in the making. Mrs May’s party believes that government is in its DNA. Yet it has failed to win a majority in five of the past six general elections and it has left the country all but ungovernable as a consequence of two extraordinary miscalculations.”

Those “miscalculations” were ex-Prime Minister David Cameron‘s decision to call a referendum on leaving the EU, and May’s snap vote.

“Mrs May is now fatally wounded,” The Times wrote.

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The Daily Mail’s headline was “Tories turn on Theresa” after Conservatives told media that the party was discussing the prospect of another election and potential candidates to replace May.

Britain’s best-selling Sun newspaper said senior party members promised to get rid of May, but would wait at least six months because they were worried that a leadership contest now could propel Corbyn into power.

Several members of parliament also demanded the resignation of May’s top advisers, who have been widely blamed for a disastrous policy to make the elderly pay more towards their care and a campaign seen as too insulated from ordinary voters and too focused on attacking her opponent.

Concerns over DUP

Looking ahead, May is expected to announce the details of her new government on Saturday. 

It was not immediately clear what the demands of the DUP – which won 10 seats – might be.

Politicians and citizens expressed concerns over the DUP’s stance on various issues – it is anti-abortion rights, has railed against LGBT rights, and previously appointed a climate change denier as environment minister in Northern Ireland.

Brexit negotiations were expected to begin in about 10 days, but several officials cast doubt whether the discussions would start on time, given the political drama.

Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said it was not even clear whether May will now lead those negotiations.

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“She might start off doing that but the Conservatives might well replace her mid-stream,” he told the Associated Press news agency.

“That’s going to make it difficult for the EU 27 because they’re going to want to know who they’re talking to and what their policy is.”

Many analysts said it was unlikely May could remain leader for long now that her authority has been eroded.

Steven Fielding, a professor of politics at the University of Nottingham, called her “a zombie prime minister”.

“Honestly, it feels almost like she is almost not aware of what has happened in the last 24 hours,” Conservative MP Heidi Allen told LBC radio.

Allen said she couldn’t see May hanging on for “more than six months”.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies