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UK Election 2017 causes a hung parliament & constitutional crisis

*By – Barrister M. A. Muid Khan 

Prologue

“At this time more than anything else this country needs a period of stability and if as the indications have shown, if this is correct, that the Conservative party has won the most seats and probably the most votes then its will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do.”

(Theresa May, Prime Minister of UK, 8th June 2017)

Despite the fact that the Prime Minister Theresa May has retained her Maidenhead in the general election 2017, critics alleged that  the humiliating general election for the Conservative Party result has created a “constitutional crisis” with Brexit negotiations due to start on 19th June 2017.  

It is to be noted that Theresa May’s entire reason for calling the snap election was to give her a strong majority with which her party could confidently negotiate with Brexit negotiations and pass necessary legislation. Unfortunately due to the humiliating election result is which Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Theresa May, she must now rely on outside support and this could embolden anti-Brexit parties needed to form a coalition or provide informal support.

Election 2017 & Hung parliament

In the general election, on 7th June 2017, no party has won a majority to form a government. The situation is entirely unprecedented. Jeremy Corybn, the leader of opposition party Labour, has already called for Theresa May to resign after the Conservative party lost its majority in the general election, causing a hung parliament. In the 2015 election, the Conservative Party took 331 seats and Labour 232. In the 2017 snap election, the Conservative party took 318 seats losing 12 seats and also lost the overall majority in the parliament. The opposition party Labour has gained 262 seats.

Theresa May was hoping for a landslide when she called the election. Following the election result, the Tories were 12 seats worse off than they were seven weeks ago — and eight seats short of the 326 required for a majority on Friday morning.

Her failure to gain 326 seats in the Parliament has created a Hung Parliament where the stability of her government would depend on finding a partner to sustain it in office

Resignation of two chief advisors

On 10th June 2017 the Prime Minister’s joint chiefs of staff, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill resigned for allegedly causing a humiliating general election performance.

Immediately after their resignation, Mr. Joey Jones, a former Sky News journalist & Ms May’s former spokesman alleged that, “..Theresa May is ‘alone and friendless’ in Downing Street…she’s a hostage to the Conservative Party within Downing Street, waiting until someone knocks on the door and basically says “you can sling your hook”‘

Constitutional Crisis

The country is now in the middle of a constitutional crisis because as Theresa May has lost her strong leadership in the country to command the support of her party own party to commence hard Brexit negotiations with the European Union Leaders.

In a Parliamentary system of government like the UK, a hung parliament is an expression used to describe a state of a parliament when no single political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament – is always the less likely outcome in a British election, but it is far from rare. A hung parliament is always the less likely outcome in a British election, but it is far from rare. The 2010-15 Cameron government existed in a hung parliament, as did the Callaghan government of the late 1970s.

There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons and to form a government a party would need to command a majority of them. Because Sinn Fein boycotts the UK Parliament the number of MPs needed for a majority is 323.

However, stability depends on the main party finding a partner to sustain it in office. Without this, a governing party must run a minority government, scrabbling for votes on an issue-by-issue basis.

Agreement with DUP

Mrs May has join forces with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party (DUP), which has 10 MPs, to firm the new Government. The DUP agreed to support a Conservative Queen’s Speech. The DUP is a Eurosceptic party in favour of Brexit Agreeing a deal with the DUP would complicate the situation in Northern Ireland, where the devolved assembly at Stormont is currently suspended. The DUP would also be likely to trade its vote on a case-by-case basis to maximise its leverage over the government.

Second Election ahead?

In the absence of any deal with DUP and without their support, if Mrs May is unable to command a Commons majority (326 votes in the parliament) for her legislative programme, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, would then be invited by the Queen to try to form a government.

Mr Corbyn has already ruled out striking deals with other parties while the Lib Dems have made it clear they are not going to repeat the painful coalition experience of 2010-15.

In the event where neither Mrs May or Mr Corbyn were able to command a majority for a Queen’s Speech then a new election would follow.

As the Prime Minster is now passing her days and nights without her two chief advisors, some Conservative ministers were speculating that the party might be forced to call a second general election this year — a repeat of the two elections held in 1974. “The 1974 comparison is spot on,” said one Conservative minister.

Brexit negotiation & other crisis

With Brexit negotiations due to start on June 19, the constitutional crisis in the UK & political confusion unleashed by Mrs May has alarmed the markets and will concern EU negotiators who hoped to face a confident British prime minister. The pound had already seen its worst fall since January 2017.

As the Snap Election 2017 result created a hung parliament in the UK on 8th June 2017, the pound fell again this morning. For construction, the result will likely raise concerns over the effect a period of instability will have on investment. Usually, the party with the most seats is described as the winner, but to actually form a government they will need to strike some form of a deal with smaller parties. The Snap Election 2017 result means that the Conservative government will remain in office until it is decided who will be able to form a government.

Prologue

There is little evidence whether there would be any second election this year in the UK. As the Snap election result has created a hung Parliament in the UK & ‘constitutional crisis’ ahead of Brexit negotiations, there might not be any period of stability as expected by Mrs. May.

On the contrary there is a possibility that if Mrs. May is unable to command a Commons majority (326 votes in the parliament) for her legislative programme; the Queen would invite Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, to try to form a government. Mr Corbyn has already ruled out striking deals with other parties. Liberal Democrats already declared that they would not join in any coalition following their bitter experience of the past. If neither Mrs May or Mr Corbyn were able to command a majority for a Queen’s Speech then, with a view to avoid the crisis of Hung parliament, constitutional crisis and to form a stable government to deal with Brexit negotiations and pass necessary legislation, a second (new) election would follow in the UK.

* (The writer is a Barrister of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, Chartered Legal Executive Lawyer of CILEX. He was declared as the Best Human Rights Lawyer of England & Wales by Bar Council, Law Society & CILEX. He can be contacted at barristermuid@yahoo.co.uk ).

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