How the Right Still Wins in the United Kingdom (Barely)

How the Right Still Wins in the United Kingdom (Barely)
Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams speaks as Michelle O'Neill, left, and Mary Lou McDonald look on during the funeral of former IRA commander and Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness at City Cemetery in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, Thursday, March 23, 2017. McGuinness helped lead his militant movement to compromise with British Protestants. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

As I write this, the BBC projects the Conservative Party to win 316 seats out of 326 needed for a majority.

With it that close, the right still wins, and here’s how.

If the Conservatives win 316 seats, Labour 265, the Scottish National Party (SNP) 34, the Liberal Democrats (Lib-Dems) 13, it looks like a win for the array of left-wing parties against the right. But not so fast. Don’t forget Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has its own political parties, as the politics are driven as much by the unionist-nationalist split, as they are by left-right.

Northern Ireland’s 18 seats are split three ways: 10 to the right-wing, unionist Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), 7 to the left-wing nationalist Sinn Fein (SF), and 1 to a Unionist independent. Those seven Sinn Fein seats will go empty, as the party remains abstentionist with respect to Westminster, even while it will take its seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Dail Eireann (Irish parliament).

What this means is that in practice, instead of 650 members of Parliament, there are 643 members. That means 322 votes are needed for the barest majority. If the Conservatives vote in unison, and can win over 6 of the 10 DUP members, then they have the ability to govern. Just barely, but it means the left can be prevented from putting together a hodge-podge coalition of Labour, the SNP, and the Lib-Dems.

It’s not the result the Conservatives wanted, but it will give them time to regroup, pick a new leader, and try again next time. Which might not be for a while, thanks to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act which then-Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg forced the Conservatives to pass in 2011. You see, previously a hung parliament like this would only last 6-12 months. But with the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the next election cannot be forced by a vote of no confidence.

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