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Theresa May seeks Queen's permission to form government as she clings to power

George Osborne's Evening Standard says Theresa May's authority is 'non-existent'

Theresa May has gone to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen for permission to form a government in the wake of the disastrous snap election which has robbed Conservatives of their overall majority in the House of Commons.

May is attempting to cling to power by linking the Tories with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) following a disastrous election that left her short of a majority.

The PM set off from 10 Downing Street with husband Philip to make the short journey to the palace in a chauffeur driven Government car.

The move came after it was made clear that Mrs May has no intention of standing down as Conservative leader, despite calls from among her own MPs for her to consider her position.

It is thought that she is hopeful of striking some sort of deal with the Democratic Unionist Party to allow Tories to continue in government despite failing to achieve an absolute majority in the House of Commons.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged her to resign and allow him to form a minority administration, declaring: "We are ready to serve this country."

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Mrs May and her husband were driven through the north centre gate and across the quadrangle to the King's door entrance of the monarch's London residence.

Mrs May, wearing Conservative blue, was greeted by the Queen's equerry Wing Commander Sam Fletcher as she stepped out of the silver car. They shook hands before quickly proceeding up the stairs into the palace, shortly before 12.30pm.

The Queen was meeting Mr and Mrs May in her private audience room.

As the June 8 poll ended in a hung parliament, with no party holding an absolute majority in the House of Commons, Mrs May pledged the Tories would offer "stability" as the largest party with the most votes.

Her best prospects of forming a government seemed to rest on a deal with the DUP, which has found itself in the position of kingmaker in the new Parliament.

After boosting its representation at Westminster by two, the Northern Irish party's 10 MPs are enough to take the Tories - on 318 seats with one constituency left to declare - past the 326 mark to secure an absolute majority.

But senior MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said it was "much too early" to talk of a formal agreement with a minority Conservative government.

Mr Corbyn said it was clear Labour had won the election and indicated he was ready to put forward a programme for government in an alternative Queen's Speech.

"I think it's pretty clear who won this election," he said at Labour's headquarters in central London.

"We are ready to do everything we can to put our programme into operation, there isn't a parliamentary majority for anybody at the present time, the party that has lost in this election is the Conservative Party, the arguments the Conservative Party put forward in this election have lost.

"I think we need a change."

The Prime Minister's situation appeared precarious as Conservative former minister Anna Soubry said she should "consider her position" and take personal responsibility for a "dreadful" campaign and a "deeply flawed" manifesto after choosing to go to the country three years early in the hope of extending her majority.

But another prominent internal critic, former education secretary Nicky Morgan, said Mrs May should "carry on" and was "entitled" to see whether she can form an administration.

With 649 out of 650 constituencies declared, the Tories had 318 seats, Labour 261, the SNP 35 and the Liberal Democrats 12.

Speaking shortly before the announcement of Mrs May's visit to the Palace, DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was "too soon to say" what would happen and predicted it would be "difficult" for the Prime Minister to continue in her role.

"I certainly think that there will be contact made over the weekend but I think it is too soon to talk about what we're going to do," she said.

The DUP and Conservatives have been in close touch throughout Mrs May's year in power, and contacts are believed to have continued as election results came in this morning.

The Northern Irish party is thought to have been cautious about committing itself to an arrangement because of uncertainty about the future of the Tory leadership.

Asked if she thought Mrs May would be able to stay in her job, the DUP leader told the BBC: "I don't know", adding: "I think it will be difficult for her to survive."

That view was echoed by former chancellor George Osborne, sacked from the Cabinet by Mrs May and now editor of the Evening Standard.

He told ITV: "Clearly if she's got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government then she, I doubt, will survive in the long term as Conservative party leader."

After a dramatic night:

  • Mrs May's party had 42.45% of the vote while Labour's share had increased by almost 10 points from its 2015 level to 39.99%.
     
  • The pound plummeted as the shock figures set the scene for political turmoil at Westminster, disruption to upcoming Brexit negotiations and the possibility of a second election later in the year.
     
  • Brussels' chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier indicated he was ready to delay the opening of negotiations on Britain's EU withdrawal, which had been due to start on June 19;
     
  • The night was marked by a collapse in Ukip support and a rash of high-profile losses for the SNP, as British politics returned to a two-party system on the greatest scale since the 1970s.
     
  • The Tories lost eight frontbenchers, with ministers Jane Ellison, Simon Kirby, Gavin Barwell, James Wharton, Nicola Blackwood, Rob Wilson and Edward Timpson going, along with Cabinet Office minister Ben Gummer, the author of the widely criticised Tory manifesto.

A silver lining for the Tories came as former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith returned in Richmond Park with a majority of just 45 some six months after losing it to the Liberal Democrats.

Paul Nuttall quit as Ukip after suffering humiliation in Boston and Skegness, where he came in a distant third. The Eurosceptic party shed large swathes of its voters to Labour and Tories and lost its only Westminster seat in Clacton.

High-profile casualties of a night of shock defeats included Liberal Democrat former leader and ex-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in Sheffield Hallam, Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond in Banff and Buchan and the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson in Moray.

Speaking as she was re-elected MP for Maidenhead, Mrs May said: "At this time, more than anything else, this country needs a period of stability."

As the party with the most seats and votes "it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do".

But asked if Mrs May could remain as Tory leader, Ms Soubry told the BBC: "She's a remarkable and very talented woman and she doesn't shy away from difficult decisions, but she now has to obviously consider her position."

Brexit Secretary David Davis said he would "fight tooth and nail" to keep Mrs May in post, and dismissed suggestions he might be a contender to replace her.

"The simple truth is we have a Prime Minister, she is a very good leader, I'm a big supporter of hers," Mr Davis told the Press Association.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, often tipped as a potential successor to Mrs May as Tory leader, said: "We've got to listen to our constituents and listen to their concerns."

Liberal Democrats were celebrating the return of former ministers Sir Vince Cable, Sir Ed Davey and Jo Swinson two years after they lost their parliamentary seats.

Leader Tim Farron held on to his Westmorland and Lonsdale seat in Cumbria on a much-reduced majority, down from 8,949 in 2015 to just 777 now.

George Osborne's Evening Standard sticks the boot in

Meanwhile former chancellor George Osborne's Evening Standard has stuck the boot into Mrs May, saying her "authority is non-existent"

A damning editorial piece published in Friday's paper states: "We now have a minority Conservative government that is in office but not in power.

"The DUP does not support some central tenets of the Government’s economic and welfare plans.

"In this topsy-turvy world, the decisions that affect London will now be taken in Belfast.

"She herself said: "If I lose just six seats, I will lose this election". Team May lost twice that number.

"As an unelected premier, she had every right to seek a mandate. But she failed to frame what the election was about."

Theresa May's statement in full

Mr and Mrs May spent just over 22 minutes inside the Palace before leaving through the same entrance - as helicopters circled above.

The couple managed a brief smile before climbing into their waiting vehicle, which then whisked them back to Downing Street.

Here is the text of Prime Minister Theresa May's statement in Downing Street following her meeting with the Queen:

"I have just been to see Her Majesty the Queen and I will now form a Government.

"A government that can provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country.

"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.

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