It was supposed to be a Tory landslide. Instead, the nation gasped at 10pm when exit polls suggested a result that all but YouGov and the most committed Corbynistas had dismissed – a hung parliament. Over the rest of the night, constituency count after constituency count corroborated that first shocking poll. With 649 out of 650 seats counted, the Conservatives had 318 seats, Labour 261, the Scottish National Party 35, the Lib Dems 12 and other parties 23 of the remaining seats.
The Tory leader, Theresa May, assumed her premiership again. She visited the Queen, declared that only her party had the “legitimacy” to govern and announced she was working with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to form a government.
But there are already rumours of a plot to oust her, after her plan to deliver a handsome Tory majority turned into a hung Parliament. so what happens next?
Getting a majority
When: The weekend
Although the Tories shouldn’t have much problem teaming up with the DUP, their “friends and allies”, any final arrangement is likely to be preceded by a lot of horse trading. Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said it was “too soon” to confirm one, and that there would be talk over the weekend.
Tory leadership struggles
May has made clear her intention to stay on, but this might turn out to be as much of a fantasy as a hundred seat majority. The usually verbose Boris Johnson, long-time angler for the Tory leadership, has remained notably quiet about his support for the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, committed Brexiteers are jumpy. They fear that, as Remain campaigners are claiming, the government will conclude it has lost its mandate to force Britain into a hard Brexit.
It’s not May Day yet. But if the rumblings turn into something more furious, May could be forced to resign, as David Cameron did before her. This would spark a leadership contest – and more blue-on-blue manoeuvrings.
Forming a government
When: 13-19 June
May really only has the weekend to entrench her position, because the new parliament is scheduled to meed on Tuesday 13 June. If she can’t get it together, she needs to resign.
If she does make it to Tuesday, she’ll need to see if she can command the House of Commons. The first test would be the vote on any amendment to the Queen’s Speech.
The Queen’s Speech is due to take place on 19 June. However, Labour’s shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has announced that his party will produce its own, alternative Queen’s Speech, so it could turn into a manifesto popularity contest.
When: 19 June
The negotiations with the EU were supposed to start on 19 June 2017. If things had gone tickety boo for May, she would be consolidating her majority Tory government right now and entering the negotiations from a position of renewed strength. Instead, the opponents of hard Brexit – Labour and the Lib Dems – have gained seats, May is trying to hold together a minority government, and she may not even be in No. 10 come 19 June 2017. The EU27 are not laughing so much as scratching their heads.
The problem is that Article 50 started a two-year negotiation period, at the end of which there ought to be a deal. And the EU27, having accepted Britain is leaving, is now holding the door open and glancing politely at its watch.
Another general election
When: Autumn 2017?
May repeatedly warned about a “coalition of chaos” if voters opted for her rival, Jeremy Corbyn. However, if her ad-hoc government turns out to fit that description, and the opposition can’t get its act together either, there could be only one way to resolve it – ANOTHER snap election.
This is still only a faint possibility, but if it happened, it has been suggested it might be in the autumn of this year.