Spectacularly punished by voters who took away her majority in parliament, a politically wounded Theresa May sought to soldier on Friday as Britain’s prime minister.
She is resisting pressure to resign after the failure of her high-stakes election gamble made the massive challenge of untangling Britain from the European Union only more complex and uncertain.
Having called an early election in hopes of getting an increased majority that could have strengthened her hand in Britain’s exit talks with the EU, May instead saw her majority evaporate completely — leaving her fortunes hanging by a thread.
With 649 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, May’s bruised Conservatives had 318 seats — short of the 326 they needed for an outright majority and well down from the 330 seats they had before May’s roll of the electoral dice. Labour has 261.
Still, rather than resign, May clung to the hope that her Conservatives might still be able to govern by making deals with another party or group of parties. She was planning to seek Queen Elizabeth II’s approval — a largely symbolic step — to form a government later Friday.
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves Conservative Party Headquaters with her husband Philip on June 9, 2017 in London, England. (Getty Images)
The shock result and the prospect that the EU will now be negotiating with a shaky British government cast dark clouds over the Brexit negotiations just 10 days before they are due to start. The pound lost more than 3 cents against the dollar.
The recriminations were immediate and stinging.
“This is a very bad moment for the Conservative Party, and we need to take stock,” Conservative lawmaker Anna Soubry said. “And our leader needs to take stock as well.”
Left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was among those calling on May to resign, said Friday morning that people have had enough of austerity politics and cuts in public spending. He ruled out the potential for deals or pacts with other progressive parties in Parliament.
“The arguments the Conservative Party put forward in this election have lost, and we need to change.”
The results confounded those who said Corbyn was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.