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General election: UK faces political uncertainty after ‘catastrophic’ night for Tories

Election results
  • 1 Comment

Theresa May’s Conservative party’s has failed to win a majority after a huge surge in support for Labour, plunging the country into political uncertainty     

The poor showing for the Tories, which was predicted by those polled in the AJ’s recent election survey (see AJ 07.06.17), cast doubts over May’s future leadership and leaves the party in a significantly weaker position.

Although the Conservatives remain the largest party, they did not mange to get enough seats for an overall majority, effectively creating a hung parliament. 

May called the snap election in April in an attempt to ‘strengthen her hand’, increase the Conservative majority and ‘secure a strong, stable leadership’ through the Brexit negotiations.

However the loss of 12 Conservative seats, which leaves May looking for support from other parties to allow the Tories to carry on with a minority, was described by former chancellor George Osborne described as ’completely catastrophic’.

Bob Kerslake, one-time head of the civil service and current chair of housing association Peabody, claimed that May’s reputation was now ‘completely shot’ and that the Tories’ austerity drive would ’have to be re-examined’.

Former conservative cabinet secretary Andrew Turnbull also told the BBC that he thought May needed to resign, saying that she ‘wasn’t up to it’, had made a ’catastrophic mistake’ in calling the election and ‘didn’t have the skill set’ to lead.

Gavin barwell

Gavin barwell

Gavin Barwell

On a bad night around the country, one of the most damaging losses for the Conservatives was the failure of housing minister Gavin Barwell to hold onto his Croydon Central seat. He was beaten by Labour candidate Sarah Jones, who received 29,873 votes to Barwell’s 24,221.

Labour also overturned a large Conservative majority in Battersea with junior health minister Jane Ellison losing her seat.

The move away from the Tories has prompted some to suggest, including Nigel Farage, that a second EU Referendum could now be on the cards.

Meanwhile in Scotland, a terrible night for the SNP which saw it lose 19 seats and a series of high-profile figures, prompted party leader Nicola Sturgeon to say she would ‘reflect’ on her demand for a second independence referendum.

In response to the election uncertainty, the pound has dropped on global markets.

Architect Chris Boyce, former design director at Capita, said: ’May is out and she must go today, and now perhaps comes the time for a more liberal, intelligent conservative approach to Brexit while they hold some of the power and we get ready for a deal, or go back to the polls.’

He added:For architects let’s simply hope that now the period between the votes is one where we can get on with business, and the market seems to be reacting with a shrug for now. More than anything, it’s time May shut up on Brexit and moved aside… but for who?’ 

Aj june general election survey 2017

Aj june general election survey 2017

Read Paul Finch’s comments about the General Election result

The forces shaping construction are bigger than short-term political upsets


Ian Ritchie of Ian Ritchie Architects

Margaret Thatcher wanted to destroy socialism and promoted individualism at the expense of those who had no means. Her ideology elevated individual greed to the status of a moral good while social solidarity became an intrinsic evil. She more or less succeeded, and prepared the way for Brexit. Subsequent Conservative governments have carried on her legacy.

The stunning result of today’s vote indicates a desire for inclusiveness on the part of a public weary of Conservatives’ fear-mongering and divisiveness, and who have begun to see through the disparity between Conservative rhetoric and the callous reality of their policies which have left Britain poorer, less educated and more divided. This is one reason for the increasing numbers of young people who registered to vote - they want hope instead of hate, ambition instead of isolationism. The tide is beginning to turn.

The Labour party’s manifesto surprised and excited many beyond Labour’s traditional voter pool, and put forward a real bid to address the failures of the last decade’s social and economic model. During his campaign Corbyn was willing to talk about what is moral and immoral - the big questions at a time when corruption and deception, income disparity and inequalities of power are leitmotifs for dissatisfaction with political and financial elites. He has generated a real sense of the possible, not just for the disadvantaged but for everyone.

As no party commands a working majority, it means negotiations will have to take place for effective government. This will inevitably restrain the more hard-line elements of both main parties and could be seen as an advantage rather than the ‘recipe for chaos’ as was touted by May in her desire to be seen as ‘strong and stable’. 

If all parties work together, avoiding party-before-country obstructionism, a coalition government should be able to engage both rural and urban populations to mitigate the damage done by years of Conservative rule. Looking forward to a fairer, better society will require a mind shift among the selfish – and this is long overdue.

At the very least, we can hope the NHS will no longer be starved of funds as a tactic to push privatisation of the health services, and that education will be given its due as the most important area in which to invest for future generations.

It is a scenario that looks wobbly, but the majority of European countries have an effective minority or coalition government and so do many other countries worldwide.

The key issue will be ensuring economic stability and jobs - and that means an intelligent, constructive Brexit and retaining access to the single market while reducing the deficit, without the extreme austerity we lived through from the Con-Lib coalition - by growth in green industries and benign technologies.

Although the Conservatives provoked the Brexit vote for purely internal political reasons (an abdication of responsibility to the British public that is reason enough for the party to be considered ideologically bankrupt), as we are faced with the challenge, we can now hope that Brexit negotiations will take place in an atmosphere of compromise and mutual interest rather than aggressive posturing and threats, and that the nonsensical and damaging mantra of ’no deal is better than a bad deal’ will give way to a more civilised attitude. Under this new ‘government’ the importance of retaining membership of the single market and guaranteed security for EU nationals here and UK nationals in the EU must be a priority.

In parallel with leaving the EU, the mandarins who will have to negotiate Brexit will also have to focus on relationships with EFTA and WTO. This will be hugely demanding on the civil service, requiring tact and appointees with impeccable credentials.

Does enough competence exist to do this? The result will raise questions as to who is driving the Brexit exit strategy. Or, with full political irony, will the bite-back be that there is no exit? A bite-back from our youth - whose futures were not considered by the elderly when they voted for Brexit?

What do you think of the election result? Leave a comment below or tweet to @ArchitectsJrnal

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Roche

    As the former RIBA paired architectural advisor to Jeremy Corbyn I had the enthusiastic support of my local MP and someone willing to campaign alongside me on local architectural and urban issues affecting our local community. Jeremy would always accept my invitations to attend RIBA events at Parliament and was a keen supporter of environmental issues. Then the RIBA advised me that neither myself or Jeremy would be invited to future events. This was one of many concerns that led to my writing to the Charity Commission to express concern about Governance issues within RIBA. It is a matter of public record Jeremy Corbyn also wrote to the RIBA and to the Charity Commission supporting my concerns. It now transpires an independent investigation into the Governance of RIBA has concluded there are concerns about the way RIBA has conducted it's affairs over a number of years. It is time we had a change of governance and a reinstatement of democratic accountability.

    Chris Roche / Founder 11.04 (X-RIBA Council)

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