May to head minority government with DUP support
Most of the senior Cabinet team will keep their jobs.
Theresa May is to head a minority Conservative government – propped up by the Democratic Unionists – after her General Election gamble backfired disastrously.
The Prime Minister announced she was leaving the most senior members of her Cabinet team – including Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson – in place as she began forming a new administration.
There had been speculation Mr Hammond, the Chancellor, would be vulnerable in a post-election re-shuffle and the decision to leave him in the Treasury was being seen as a sign of her weakness after her Commons majority was wiped out.
The result was a personal humiliation for Mrs May who called the election three years before she had to to bolster her position in Parliament as she embarked on the negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said she had lost all legitimacy and called on her to stand aside and allow him to form an alternative administration, declaring: “We are ready to serve”.
However, Mrs May insisted that, as the leader of the largest party in the new parliament, she had a duty to act in the “national interest” and lead the country through the Brexit negotiations starting in ten days’ time.
“That is why I think at this critical time for our country it is important to form a government in the national interest,” she said.
“As we are the party that won most seats and most votes, we are the only party that is in a position to form a government that can do that.”
Among Tory MPs there was fury at the way a 20-point opinion poll lead at the start of the campaign had been thrown away in an election which she did not need to call for another three years.
Much of their ire was directed at Mrs May’s two close aides Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy – the latter who was blamed for the disastrous manifesto pledge to reform the funding of social care, dubbed the dementia tax, which is thought to have cost the party heavily at the ballot box.
In a pooled broadcast interview, Mrs May hinted she could be prepared to sacrifice them to appease her critics once she has completed her ministerial appointments.
“Other personnel issues are for other days,” she said when asked about their future.
With Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Brexit Secretary David Davis, and Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon all retaining their posts, there was speculation any reshuffle could be limited to replacing the eight ministers who lost their seats in the election.
On a night of high drama, Mrs May – who went into the election with a majority of 17 – fell eight seats short of an overall majority.
After frantic consultations with DUP leader Arlene Foster, the Prime Minister headed to Buckingham Palace to seek the formal permission of the Queen to form a new government, returning to No 10 to announce she had the “legitimacy” to continue in office.
However, senior DUP figures made clear they were looking at a limited “confidence and supply” arrangement – rather than a more formal coalition – leading to some MPs to predict that there could another general election before the year is out.
Former minister Anna Soubry said Mrs May should “consider her position” after a “dreadful campaign” while backbencher Heidi Allen suggested she could be out within a matter of months, depending on the Brexit negotiations.
Other senior Conservatives however warned against a leadership challenge with Iain Duncan Smith saying it would be a “grave error”.
Thank you x 292,316. Honoured and humbled. We will Stand Strong for Northern Ireland. pic.twitter.com/UVke717JV1— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) June 9, 2017
Mrs May saw Tory ranks at Westminster reduced from 330 to 318 while eight ministers were culled from the Government’s front benches.
Meanwhile, Labour, which had been written off by critics as all but unelectable, surged to 262 seats, up 29 from its tally in the 2015 election.
The last count of the election saw Labour overturn a 7,000 majority in Kensington, London, where Emma Dent Coad saw off Tory incumbent Victoria Borwick by just 20 votes after a third recount.
Liberal Democrats gained four seats to amass 12 MPs, but lost its former leader and ex-deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in perhaps the highest-profile casualty in a night of stunning results.
In Scotland, the SNP retained just 35 of the 56 seats it secured two years ago and lost its Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, and former first minister, Alex Salmond.
Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, meanwhile, fell on his sword after just six months in the job, after slumping to a distant third place in Skegness & Boston on a woeful night for the Eurosceptic party, which shed swathes of voters to Labour and Conservatives.