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British Prime Minister Theresa May Loses Majority After Snap Election


And for more on politics in the U.K. we turn now to George Parker, a political editor of the Financial Times. Welcome back.


SIEGEL: When you look at the results from the election, whether the vote returns or the exit polls, do you understand it? Do you understand what happened that was so different than what was anticipated a few weeks ago?

PARKER: It's a really strange one because it wasn't just the opinion polls. It was anecdotal evidence on the ground that led people to think that Theresa May was making big inroads into the Labour white working class vote, a bit like, I guess, Donald Trump did in the States. But there was a big screw-up, really, by Theresa May halfway through the campaign where she unveiled a policy which seemed to target core Tory, Conservative voters on social care, the costs of social care. And after that, she never really recovered.

And the other thing, I think, which I think caught us by surprise was the sheer effectiveness of the campaigning by Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing leader of the Labour Party who fought a very authentic campaign - quite an old fashioned campaign, in some ways - with big open-air rallies where he really energized people. And they also harnessed social media. And at the end of the day, young people who most people assumed wouldn't turn out to vote, as they don't usually in this country, turned out en masse. And there was a big surge of young voters for Jeremy Corbyn, which was quite an invigorating thing to see in this country.

SIEGEL: The Conservatives evidently plan to govern with the Democratic Unionists, the dominant Protestant party in Northern Ireland providing the few votes in the House of Commons that they'll need to have a working majority. Will the Democratic Unionists get something for their pains? And if so, what would they want?

PARKER: Well, they will for sure. And with these deals there's always a price tag attached to them. And the Democratic Unionist Party want what most parties want. They want more money for their people. And the British government sends money to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland is one of the more depressed parts of the British economy. And the DUP believes very heavily in more public spending. Now, that will be controversial, of course, because there are lots of public services in England, Scotland and Wales which are underfunded. So I suspect that the money will be transferred across the Irish Sea when nobody's looking on a Thursday evening in some written parliamentary answer. But there will be money involved for certain.

SIEGEL: Given Theresa May's disastrous political miscalculation and her party's loss of a majority in the House of Commons, is she unlikely to remain prime minister much longer?

PARKER: I think her time as prime minister now is measured in months rather than in years. I think, frankly, she should have resigned and maybe wanted to resign. But I think the Conservative Party thought actually, the alternatives to Theresa May staying in place were even worse. There could have been a leadership contest which would have exposed all the old Tory divisions on Europe. They could have asked for a second general election. But the trouble with that was that Labour probably would have won that election. So as a result, Theresa May is in there, propped up but much weakened. And I think probably come the autumn it will all prove too much for her and we may well have a leadership contest with Boris Johnson, the flamboyant foreign secretary likely to be among the front-runners.

SIEGEL: Should we assume that Brexit is a done deal? It's not going to be revisited no matter how this election sorts out?

PARKER: Well, I'm not sure you can make that assumption now. I think probably before this election you could have assumed it was going to happen. But I think the problem is this - that Theresa May, to get Brexit through the House of Commons, is going to have to pass, I don't know, maybe 20 big laws and maybe thousands of minor laws to extricate Britain from the European Union. And the problem is there's a majority in the House of Commons who don't really believe in Brexit, who think that Britain should adopt a much softer form of Brexit rather than the harder form of Brexit that Theresa May was advocating.

So I think given the fact that Theresa May no longer has a majority and that her hard Brexit was rejected by the voters, I think things are going to get a lot more complicated in this Parliament. And maybe - I was speaking to one minister today who said effectively, Brexit is a dead duck. I wouldn't go that far at this stage, but I think life is going to become very difficult for Theresa May and the euro skeptics who want Britain to pull out of the European Union.

SIEGEL: George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times in London, thanks for talking with us today.

PARKER: Pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.