Much commentary has presented the hung parliament that resulted from last week’s general election as a source of damaging instability. In this post, Albert Weale, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory and Public Policy at UCL, argues that democrats should in fact welcome a hung parliament, where a parliamentary majority approves measures on the basis of the merits of the arguments rather than on the basis that they were included in the majority party’s manifesto.
The UK now has a hung parliament. Does that mean that British government is no longer strong and stable but weak and wobbly? To listen to much commentary, you would think so. But for democrats there are good reasons for welcoming a hung parliament.
The unexpected election result leaves the Conservatives seeking to establish a minority government, with support from the Democratic Unionist Party’s ten MPs. With fewer than half the seats in the House of Commons, and barely more than half when adding the DUP, Theresa May’s new government will face many additional challenges in parliament. UCL Constitution Unit Director Meg Russell explores some of the clearest examples.
Following weeks of speculation about the general election result, few were contemplating the prospect of a minority government led by Theresa May. The Prime Minister proposed the election in the clear expectation of an increased House of Commons majority, citing (in a rather exaggerated manner) difficulties in parliament. Instead she now doesn’t have a majority at all: the Conservatives are on 318 in a 650-number House. Combined others (excluding seven Sinn Féin, who do not take their seats), have 324. May’s government is hence liable to be outnumbered without relying on the support of the 10 DUP members, with whom she has opened talks.
The election result was a disaster for Theresa May and the consequences for Brexit are profound. Although this will certainly weaken the PM’s hand, there is one way in which Theresa May could benefit from the outcome, argues Uta Staiger, Executive Director of the UCL European Institute.
When Theresa May called the surprise snap election she’d vowed so very often not to call, it was supposed to help her deliver Brexit. A decisive personal mandate, she claimed, would protect her vision of Brexit from the opposition parties hell-bent on derailing it—and strengthen her hand in Brussels.
Theresa May and other ministers have repeatedly claimed that no deal is better than a bad deal. Columba Achilleos-Sarll, a PhD candidate at the University of Warwick, argues that the discourse of both the referendum campaign and subsequent Brexit debates have been hypermasculine in nature. She points out that this has a number of undesirable consequences, such as reinforcing gendered stereotypes about successful political leadership and foreign policy.
The referendum campaign and Brexit have ushered in a new hypermasculinity. During the campaign and in the post-referendum debates, brokering a deal with the European Union has been constructed both conceptually and theoretically as a business-to-business transaction – akin to making a deal with the UK’s biggest investor. Theresa May has repeatedly claimed that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, arguing that we need an agreement “that gets us the right deal abroad for ordinary people at home”. Her words are subconsciously designed to project a ‘businessperson as leader’ motif; which reflect a linguistic gendered order that is believed will increase the public’s confidence in the ability of the government to get the best deal for the UK.
If Theresa May is hoping an increased Commons majority will aid the Brexit negotiations, she is likely to be disappointed, argues Benjamin Martill, Research Associate at the UCL European Institute.
Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election at a time when her party is riding high in the polls has been widely seen as an opportunity for her to dramatically increase her majority in the House of Commons from a slim 12 seats to potentially triple figures.