Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

Magazine article The Spectator

Portrait of the Week

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Theresa May, the Prime Minister, spent the week confronting the consequences of the general election that she had called to bring 'stability and certainty for the future'. It had instead surprisingly left the Conservatives with no overall majority. They won 318 seats (a loss of 13) and Labour 262 (a gain of 30). The Scottish National Party won 35 (a loss of 21), with the Conservatives gaining 12 extra seats in Scotland, even capturing Stirling. Labour won an extra five seats in Scotland. Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, lost his seat, as did Alex Salmond. Nick Clegg, the former Lib-Dem leader, lost his seat, but Sir Vince Cable won back Twickenham. Paul Nuttall resigned as leader of Ukip, the collapse of whose vote left the Tories with a total of 13,667,213 votes (42.4 per cent) and Labour 12,874,985 (40 per cent). Labour's organisation among students led to its winning seats such as Canterbury by 187 votes and Kensington, after three recounts, by 20. The annual rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, rose to 2.9 per cent in May from 2.7 in April; measured by the Retail Prices Index, the rise was to 3.7 per cent from 3.5. A huge fire engulfed a west London tower block, injuring dozens and trapping many inside.

Conservatives disagreed about whether Theresa May would have to resign. George Osborne, the former chancellor of the exchequer, now editor of the London Evening Standard, said: 'Theresa May is dead woman walking.' In order to secure a majority, Mrs May sought from the Democratic Unionists (with ten seats) a confidence and supply arrangement. This upset Ruth Davidson, the leader of the 13 Scottish Conservatives, who is keen on same-sex marriage, which is illegal in Northern Ireland. Delays meant that the Queen's Speech was rescheduled. Mrs May's weakened position led her to give immediate assurances that there would be no change in the cabinet positions of Boris Johnson, David Davis, Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond or Sir Michael Fallon. A small cabinet shuffle brought back from the wilderness Michael Gove as Environment Secretary, with Andrea Leadsom becoming Leader of the House. Damian Green, Mrs May's friend, became First Secretary of State.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, spoke as if his party had won the election. …

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