Saturday 23 September 2017

What exactly does it mean now we've got a hung parliament?

There are a few things that could happen next.

By Jessica Pitocchi

Britain has a hung parliament after Theresa May’s political gamble to call a general election and get a clear mandate backfired. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is a hung parliament?

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A hung parliament is when no political party emerges from an election with an overall majority of 326 seats of the 650 in the House of Commons.

This snap general election has drawn a hung parliament after the Conservatives lost several seats while Labour made substantial gains.

What does Theresa May do now?

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May could do a deal to bring her incumbent Conservative government past the 326 line – most likely with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has boosted its number to 10 with two gains.

Although 326 seats are needed for an absolute majority, in practice a working majority requires just 322 MPs. This is because the Speaker doesn’t vote and Sinn Fein has so far declined to take up its seats.

So May would be able to pass this crucial figure with the support of the DUP – but the party will demand significant concessions in return for propping up her administration.

Are there any other options?

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May could go to the Queen to tender her resignation and that of her administration.

Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the largest opposition party, may then be invited by the Queen to form a government either as a minority or in coalition with another party or parties.

Labour would then likely explore the potential for co-operation with other “progressive” parties like the Lib Dems, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party’s sole MP Caroline Lucas.

Has this happened before?

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In 2010, Gordon Brown held onto the premiership for six days as frantic negotiations took place, resigning only when it became clear that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had reached agreement on a viable coalition.

It seems likely that May too will hold back on any resignation until she has had time to test whether she has the support to attempt to continue in office.

Will forming a coalition be straightforward?

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A whole host of parties have already opted out of any involvement in a formal coalition, which is a very different state of affairs compared to 2010.

Labour has said it will not seek a coalition, instead seeking to govern as a minority government if possible.

And Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron pledged during the election not to go into coalition with either the Tories or Labour.

What about a “supply and confidence” arrangement?

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Another arrangement short of a coalition could involve a “supply and confidence” agreement.

Under this, smaller parties would pledge to back the Government’s budget and programme without actually taking up ministerial positions in the new administration.

Can a party actually rule with a minority government?

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The Conservatives or Labour could both attempt to govern as a minority administration.

But it would be hard work – the party would have to seek to win support in the Commons for their programme on a vote-by-vote basis.

What are the big dates in May’s diary now?

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The first milestone would be June 13, when the House of Commons is due to return after the election.

But a far more significant deadline is the Queen’s Speech on June 19, when the sovereign will read out the legislative programme of the new government.

Any PM would be unlikely to ask the Queen to present a programme if they did not believe it would secure the support of a majority of MPs in the Commons.

And what, if after all that, no viable administration can still be formed?

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If all else fails, voters could well be asked to return to the polling stations for the third general election since the UK found itself in a similar situation in 2010.

Press Association

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