UK Election Shake-Up: How and Why Conservatives Faltered

Don’t count out liberalism in the United Kingdom yet. The Labour Party sure looked down and out in recent weeks, but it made a major surge when it actually mattered in Thursday’s election.

Leading up to the election, Conservatives (aka Tories) held 330 Parliament seats, well ahead of the 229 seats held by the Labour Party. After a long night of counting ballots, though, the UK saw the numbers shift in Labour’s favor:

  • 318 seats – Tories
  • 261 – Labour
  • 35 – Scottish National Party
  • 12 – Liberal Democrat
  • 10 – Democratic Unionist Party
  • 13 – split between four other minor parties
  • 1 – race still close to call

Granted, the Tories still have the most seats, but in the UK that doesn’t mean much without actually reaching a majority. What we have now is called a hung parliament, which means minority parties will attempt to form coalitions until at least 326 members can come together to form a majority to lead the government.

What Happens Next?

Control of the UK’s government is still not finalized, with negotiations underway. Right now it looks most likely that the Democratic Unionist Party, with famously rightwing views, will combine its 10 votes with the right-leaning Tories to put conservatives just over the 326-seat threshold.

Perhaps the bigger question is how long Prime Minister Theresa May will stay in power. Despite many calls for her to resign and let a new leader step forward, May has said she will continue to lead because “what the country needs more than ever is certainty.”

Nevertheless, after this poor showing, Conservatives are unlikely to want May to be their figurehead during the next election, so it seems fairly likely she’ll be pushed out at some point – whether that means sooner or later is yet to be seen.

The Election Wasn’t Even Necessary

The funny thing is, the Tories could have enjoyed their existing majority and delayed an election all the way until 2020 if they so chose. However, the Tories were polling incredibly well back in April, so Theresa May made a calculated risk to call for an early election in an effort to bolster her numbers in Parliament.

No doubt, May will be ridiculed for blowing her majority government but, to be fair, very few would have predicted this outcome at the time she called for the election. Just weeks ago, pundits were speculating it would be the death knell for the Labour Party, proving what a difference a couple months can make in the world of politics.

It’s actually the second time in the span of a year that the British PM has made a political gamble and lost big time. Last June, previous PM David Cameron put a referendum to leave the European Union on the ballot, assuming it would fail. Voters ultimately cast their ballots in favor of Brexit, however, putting Cameron in the awkward position of feeling compelled to resign, with the country favoring a bold move he didn’t actually support.

What Made Voters Lose Confidence in Conservatives?

First and foremost, it’s important to look at the country’s ongoing saga with Brexit. Given how divided the nation is on this subject, a lot of people specifically went to the polls to reaffirm their feelings on leaving the United Kingdom.

Security concerns also played a factor with terrorist attacks occurring in Manchester and London in the weeks leading up to the election. May said she’d be willing to get rid of some human rights laws to better combat terrorism, but it seems voters didn’t give into their fear as much as anticipated and agreed with Labour’s stance that defeating terrorism can’t come from “ripping up our basic rights and our democracy.”

More than anything, though, the vote was based on a loss of confidence in May herself. She repeatedly touted her “strong and stable leadership” throughout the campaign, but the voters weren’t buying her as a strong and stable figure.

Although it was a bad night for the UK’s top woman, it was a great night for women overall. Brits elected 207 women to Parliament, breaking the previous record of 196 in 2015. It’s still quite a way from equal representation, but it is progress.

Photo Credit: Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Carl R
Carl R6 months ago


Roberto M
Roberto MARINI7 months ago

Theresa May is not a good Prime Minister

ERIKA S7 months ago


ERIKA S7 months ago


Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

@Joan E-I agree.

heather g
heather g7 months ago

Judging by what Elizabeth May said at the time, she felt she needed more support for Brexit. The election allowed people more time to think about what they had voted for earlier - perhaps she is in two minds about Brexit as well.

Philippa P
Philippa Powers7 months ago


Janis K
Janis K7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Lisa M
Lisa M7 months ago