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Expert Reaction: General Election 2017 Result

Posted on 9 June 2017

The general election has ended in a hung Parliament, where no party has the 326 seats needed to get an overall majority in the House of Commons. Professor Martin Smith, Head of the Department of Politics, assesses who are the winners and losers.

"This is probably one of the most unusual elections since 1945. Uncertainty has been created for all the parties. Theresa May called an election believing that she would enhance her majority, destroy the Labour Party and provide herself with the mandate to negotiate Brexit.  

"She has achieved none of these and, indeed, has now opened up considerable uncertainty within her own party. If she remains leader and Prime Minister she will have to lead the party and the Brexit negotiations with diminished authority. 
"Her mandate for Brexit is uncertain and opens up the possibility for considerable conflict within the party.  If she resigns as Prime Minister, the government will have to begin the Brexit negotiations with a leadership contest in the party.  Whatever way, the UK is going to go into Brexit negotiations in a very weak position.
Youth vote
"For Labour, the assumption was that Labour would suffer a heavy defeat and the party plunged into a civil war over its future direction.  Jeremy Corbyn, by galvanising the youth vote, has realigned British politics and demonstrated that there is appetite for a distinctive, left Labour party. 
"Corbyn's critics will now have to rally behind him because the possibility of the reassertion of the centre of Labour has gone.  Whereas May's authority has diminished, Corbyn's is now considerable.
"The Liberal Democrats, despite some gains, continue to be in the political wilderness and seem crushed by a return to two party politics.  
"UKIP are now irrelevant in British politics and one of the most interesting lessons of the night is that UKIP voters have shifted both to Labour and Conservative.  In Scotland, the SNP has lost its near monopoly and the chance of a second referendum has disappeared.
"There are two major questions: how long will Theresa May last as Prime Minster and what happens to Brexit?  May has suffered from hubris and seemed unaware how much issues of education, health, inequality and work matter to voters."

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