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May's grip on power in doubt as UK election heads for stalemate

09 Juin 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May's gamble in calling an early election appeared Friday to have backfired spectacularly, with a real possibility that her Conservative Party could lose its majority in Parliament.

Sky News reported early Friday that Labour held the seat of Southampton Test, guaranteeing that no party will reach the 326 seats necessary for an overall majority in the 650-seat Parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn was greeted at the Labour Party HQ in London with a cheering crowd after the unexpected General Election results.

"The arguments the Conservative Party put forward in this election have lost, and we need to change".

But others, such as Anna Soubry, said May was "in a very hard place ... she now has to obviously consider her position". Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign.

This mean that 32.2 million people voted yesterday, out of 46.9 million who were eligible to do so.

But her campaign unraveled after a major policy u-turn on care for the elderly, while Corbyn's old-school socialist platform and more impassioned campaigning style won wider support than anyone had foreseen. We'll see tomorrow whether they've accepted that or not.

The SNP also lost seats to Labour, with Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, among the victims.

The SNP had campaigned on a promise to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence in order to stay in the European Union after the United Kingdom left.

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Some analysts compared the political situation to 1923, when Conservative Stanley Baldwin failed to win a parliamentary majority, struggled on for a few months as prime minister and then lost a confidence vote in the House of Commons.

Murdo Fraser, another Scottish Tory MP, said that the election result "knocks out the idea of a second independence referendum for a long, long time".

And so the United Kingdom prepares for a hung parliament - that is, one in which no single party has an absolute majority.

But speaking Friday on Europe 1 radio, he said "the tone" of negotiations may be affected. "I'm not sure that we should read, from the results of this vote, that Britons' sovereign decision on Brexit has been cast into doubt in any way".

Discussions, he added, will be "long" and "complex". "So let's not kid ourselves", he said.

But Farage said he feared Corbyn could somehow manage to form a minority government that would allow a second Brexit referendum. Given the election arithmetic, Labour would struggle to get the numbers to form a government.

More people voted yesterday than in any election since 1992, when 33.6 million people voted.

At the start of the campaign it looked as if she might pull off a landslide victory, but opinion polls showed the race tightening, and May came under criticism for running an aloof campaign that took the voters for granted.

Then, attacks that killed 30 people in Manchester and London twice brought the campaign to a halt, sent a wave of anxiety through Britain and forced May to defend the government's record on fighting terrorism. Corbyn accused the Conservatives of undermining Britain's security by cutting the number of police on the streets.