United Kingdom - Elections 08 June 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May had been labeled "a dead woman walking" by ex-treasurer George Osborne. Labour's Jeremy Corbyn predicts fresh elections. She tried to recruit Northern Ireland backers to stay in power. Democratic Unionists (DUP) from Northern Ireland holding 10 key seats in Britain's Westminster parliament withheld support 11 June 2017, prompting May's office to retract its previous claim that an "outline" coalition deal had already been agreed. DUP leader Arlene Foster said she would meet May on 13 June 2017 while Downing Street said the incumbent premier would "finalize" a deal in the coming week.
On 26 June 2017 May secured the Democratic Unionist Party's support for her minority government. The DUP's leaders had traveled from Northern Ireland to London to finalize an agreement with the prime minister's Conservatives, who hold a plurality in the United Kingdom's Parliament, to support her government. The DUP and May reached a "confidence and supply" agreement. Under the deal, the smaller party will support the Tories in all fiscal matters and confidence votes, as well as Brexit talks and national security. The faction's backing will be case-by-case on other issues.
May won Britain's snap election but lost her parliamentary majority 08 June 2017, in a major blow for her leadership as Brexit talks loom. May's Conservatives fell from 330 to 318 seats, short of a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons, after a troubled campaign overshadowed by two deadly terror attacks. The main opposition Labour party, led by leftist Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile increased its number of seats from 229 to 261.
Analysts blamed the decline on May's botched announcement of a reform in funding for elderly care, a strong grassroots campaign by Corbyn and the terror attacks, which led to scrutiny of her time as interior minister before becoming prime minister.
Saying it was “the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead,” British Prime Minister Theresa May on April 18, 2017 called for early elections 08 June 2017, in a move she hoped would give her a stronger position as she negotiated Britain’s departure from the European Union.
“Britain is leaving the European Union and there can be no turning back,” May said in announcing her call for an early election outside No. 10 Downing Street. “We wil regain control of our own money, our own laws and our own borders and we will be free to strike trade deals with old friends and new partners all around the world.”
“This is the right approach, and it is in the national interest. But the other political parties oppose it,” she said. “At this moment of enormous national significance, there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division."
Ever since Theresa May became prime minister, after Britain voted to leave the EU on June 23 and David Cameron resigned, the possibility of an early election has hovered in the background. May has strenuously denied that this was her plan. In September 2016, she said: "I'm not going to be calling a snap election. I've been very clear that I think we need that period of time, that stability, to be able to deal with the issues that the country is facing and have that election in 2020." As late as March 2017, Downing Street was denying that an early election was on the cards.
Analysts said May’s shock decision to call elections long before their next due date in 2020 was a means to consolidate the Conservatives’ power and put the bickering behind.
The numbers suggested that May is likely to significantly increase her currently small majority with a snap election. The Labour Party is in a dire state, riven by internal conflict and dominated by criticism of leader Jeremy Corbyn. An average of all opinion polls current had the Conservatives on 42 percent and Labour on 27 percent, enough to deliver a substantial majority to May.
The British leader challenged opposition parties to band together on June 8, a move analysts say is a risky but calculated move for May, given the Labor Party’s worst popularity slump in a century. “This is your moment to show you mean it, to show you are not opposing the government for the sake of it, to show that you do not treat politics as a game,” May said.
May accused political parties of "game-playing," saying this threatens the country’s “ability to make a success of Brexit." She said Labour threatened to vote against a final Brexit deal with the EU, the Liberal Democrats warned they wanted to "grind the business of government to a standstill", and the Scottish National Party (SNP) said it would vote against legislation formally repealing Britain's EU membership.
Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn had threatened to work to derail May’s plan for negotiating post-Brexit trade deals, and criticized the British leader’s calls for reducing taxes and regulations to attract investment after Britain leaves the EU. At the same time, the Scottish National Party has threatened to vote against a bill to formally repeal Britain’s EU membership.
The Liberal Democrats, who had only eight MPs, fought several by-elections on an anti-Brexit platform, pledging to hold a second referendum. The party leader, Tim Farron, immediately issued a statement positing the Liberal Democrats as the anti-Brexit option: "If you want to avoid a disastrous hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the single market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance."
Irish republican party Sinn Fein announced it would seek a special status in the EU for Northern Island. "Sinn Fein opposed Brexit because it will be disastrous for the people of Ireland, our economy and our public services," said Michelle O'Neill, who leads the party in Northern Island. "The people of the North clearly voted to see their future in the European Union in the referendum last June," she added, referring to the 56 percent of citizens in Northern Ireland who voted to remain in the bloc.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had requested a second independence vote. "The Tories see a chance to move the UK to the right, force through a hard Brexit and impose deeper cuts. Let's stand up for Scotland," Sturgeon said after May's announcement.
Corbyn, the leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party, resumed campaigning for Britain's snap election by urging the nation to "be brave enough to admit the 'war on terror' is not working."
"Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, pointed out the connections between wars that we've been involved in or supported … in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home," said Corbyn, a veteran anti-war campaigner.
Much of the mainstream media in the UK continued to express the pro-Conservative ideological stance of their owners in opposition to Jeremy Corbyn's old Labour views. Even the so-called "liberal" media published material demonstrably more hostile to Corbyn than that published with regard to previous Labour contenders.
The election exposed an awkward manner with the public and a reliance on soundbites. Rivals have accused her of policy-making by slogan and lashed her for refusing to engage in head-to-head TV debates. Other questions have swirled around the failure of the security services to thwart jihadists after three terror attacks in three months.
As the polls narrowed, some Tories questioned the wisdom of basing their party's campaign around May's "strong and stable leadership". In the final stretch, the party slightly amended its messaging, focusing more on the Conservatives rather than May herself.
By focusing much of her Conservative party's campaign on her rival Jeremy Corbyn's security credentials, she faced accusations of politicising the terrorist attacks. A U-turn on a key manifesto proposal to fund elderly social care was also damaging, while some voters also expressed irritation that she called the snap vote despite promising not to.
May faced a fierce backlash for her plans to make elderly voters pay more towards the cost of their old age care, forcing her to perform an extraordinary U-turn by watering down her "dementia tax". The proposal had raised concerns that some seniors might see their houses sold off to pay for their health care, rather than be passed on to their loved ones.
Polls put Labour just slightly behind the Conservatives, after the party started the campaign in April trailing by about 20 percent. One poll published 30 May 2017 showed her lead had been cut to 6 percentage points from 9 points a week earlier and 18 points two weeks ago with voters reacting badly to the Conservatives' manifesto.
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