What the new Government might herald
Theresa May visited the Queen at lunchtime, seeking permission to form a minority Government. It had previously emerged that the Democratic Unionist Party (of Northern Ireland) have consented to support a Conservative on a ‘confidence and supply’ basis rather than a full coalition deal. In practice, that will provide enough support for the Queen’s Speech and for the Budget, with all other matters being agreed or declined on a case-by-case basis, creating a potentially vulnerable and unstable way of governing.
Crucially, though, the deal will give May a majority of around 8 seats, something that the electoral returns cannot provide for any other politically realistic coalition of opposition parties. But the DUP’s support cannot be taken for granted, with every vote feeling like a walk along a crumbling mountain ridge and every by-election a potential step towards another General Election at a time when the UK ought to be negotiating an EU departure that benefits industry and citizens alike.
Theresa May expected an increased majority but instead follows in the footsteps of John Major, in having to prop up a Government with Northern Irish support but – crucially, May has to do so from the start of her reign, not at the end. There is some solace for May in that she has a majority in England (and England and Wales) so laws solely relating to these areas will be easier to pass. This includes issues like business rates, public health and environmental issues.
The Prime Minister could have to shelve plans that were designed to assuage the right-of-centre parts of her party, such as fox hunting, but for hospitality there may be benefits: if anything, the opposition parties went further towards promising root and branch reform of business rates, and so might be able to push for more radical reform than might have been delivered by a stronger Conservative majority. On other measures to benefit enterprise, though, fewer assurances can be made, with issues such as the National Living Wage now being more vulnerable to political posturing and costly consequences for business. Having said that, neither the Conservatives or DUP seem inclined to follow the route of setting an arbitrary rate.
Perhaps as menacing and destabilising a prospect is that of another General election before the end of the year, or sometime next year, should the Conservative/DUP agreement falter. While May seems merely wounded at present, such a situation would likely be fatal for her Premiership, again generating questions over the possible agenda of any possible successor on matters central to the fortunes of hospitality, and the wider business climate.
In opposition, Jeremy Corbyn looks unprecedentedly secure in his role – for the moment, at least – with opponents on his backbenches surely silenced, at least in the short and medium terms by his unexpectedly strong campaign. Tim Farron clung on to his seat and increased his party’s Westminster presence. And north of the border, the hitherto sturdiness of SNP support has been dented, along with the prospect of a second independence referendum any time soon. UKIP’s rise and fall seems all but complete, although Nigel Farage looks keen to again return to breathe life back into a diminishing political movement.
If there’s one thing that we can say for sure about this election, though, it’s that we cannot say anything for sure!