10 Jun 2017

May to form minority 'government of certainty'

11:38 am on 10 June 2017

The small Northern Ireland party that will play a key role in the new British government will be holding talks with Prime Minister Theresa May as she puts together a minority government.

Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, en route to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen the day after the general election.

Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street, en route to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen the day after the general election. Photo: AFP

Mrs May is to stay in office with the support of her "friends" in the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) after the Conservatives failed to win a majority in the snap election she called.

With all seats declared, the Conservative Party has 318 seats, Labour 262, the Scottish National Party (SNP) 35, the Liberal Democrats 12 and the Democratic Unionist Party 10. Sinn Fein, which doesn't take up its seats at Westminster, has 7 seats and other parties 6. Other parties gained six seats.

Labour took the last seat to be declared Kensington - reportedly country's richest electorate - from the Conservatives. The final result announced after three recounts gave the seat to the Labour candidate by 20 votes.

Look back on RNZ's live coverage of the election

Speaking after visiting Buckingham Palace, Mrs May said only her party had the "legitimacy" to govern, despite falling eight seats short of a majority.

The prime minister said she intended to form a government which could "provide certainty and lead Britain forward at this critical time for our country".

Referring to the "strong relationship" she had with the DUP, but giving little detail of how their arrangement might work, she said the government would "guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks" that begin in just 10 days' time.

"Our two parties have enjoyed a strong relationship over many years," she said.

"And this gives me the confidence to believe that we will be able to work together in the interests of the whole United Kingdom."

The DUP - which defends Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom and takes a conservative approach to social issues - increased its number of seats to 10 in Thursday's election.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said she and Mrs May would speak further to "explore how it may be possible to bring stability to this nation at this time of great challenge".

While always striving for the "best deal" for Northern Ireland and its people, she said her party would always have the best interests of the UK at heart.

It is thought Mrs May will seek some kind of informal arrangement with the DUP that could see it "lend" its support to the Tories on a vote-by-vote basis, known as confidence and supply, the BBC reports.

Top ministers to keep jobs

Before the election there had been widespread speculation in the British media that Mrs May would replace Chancellor Philip Hammond if she won a large majority.

However she said he, along with foreign secretary Boris Johnson, home secretary Amber Rudd, defence secretary Michael Fallon and Brexit minister David Davis would remain in their posts.

Mr Hammond, 61, was named Chancellor of The exchequer by Mrs May shortly after she took over as prime minister nearly a year ago, in the wake of Britain's decision to leave the European Union.

He had annoyed many Conservatives who want a clean break with the EU by stressing the need for a Brexit deal that allows companies to keep on hiring the migrant workers they need, and took the blame for a policy U-turn in March when he quickly dropped a plan to raise social security tax for self-employed workers.

Reacting to the result, European Council president Donald Tusk said there was now "no time to lose" over Brexit, while the European Parliament's chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said it was an "own goal" and made negotiations more "complicated".

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking after being re-elected in Islington North, said it was time for Mrs May to "make way" for a government that would be "truly representative of the people of this country". He later said it was it was "pretty clear who has won this election".

"We are ready to serve the people who have put their trust in us," he said. But he also stressed he would not enter into any "pacts or deals" with other parties.

- Reuters / BBC

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