The Conservatives lost Kensington to Labour by 20 votes in the past hour in the final seat to be declared following yesterday’s general election.
The result puts the Tories on 318 seats, eight short of the 326 needed for an overall majority. The party is now reliant on the parliamentary support of 10 MPs from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
The full results
Conservative 318 (down 12)
Labour 262 (up 30)
SNP 35 (down 21)
Lib Dem 12 (up 4)
DUP 10 (up 2)
Other parties 13 (down 2)
What happens now?
Political commentators have questioned how long an arrangement with the DUP would last. They’ve raised the prospect of the Prime Minister being politically vulnerable in the House of Commons to just a handful of rebels.
The BBC’s assistant political editor, Norman Smith, suggested this evening that with the Brexit negotiations and the Great Repeal Bill on the parliamentary agenda “other parts of the Tory manifesto that are remotely contentious may be ditched”.
The Conservatives and UKIP were the only parties to support fracking. Labour, Lib Dems and Greens promised a ban or opposition.
The Tory manifesto committed the party to a change in the planning laws in support of the shale gas industry. This included changing non-fracking drilling to permitted development so that planning applications would not be required and deciding permission for major fracking schemes centrally.
Based on past performance, the DUP is likely to back this support for fracking but there’s a question over whether a Conservative government now has the will or the stamina to deliver on its promise.
What does the DUP think about fracking?
There was nothing specific about shale gas or onshore drilling in the DUP manifesto and it did not use the words “fracking”, “shale” or “hydraulic fracturing”.
The party said it would “carry out a “fundamental review of energy policy to ensure that consumers and businesses have a secure energy supply that moves ever closer to the EU median price”.
But in 2016, its former Treasury spokesperson, Sammy Wilson, backed Theresa May’s proposal to make direct payments to households in fracking areas. At the time, he told the Belfast Telegraph:
“The UK needs to exploit fully the natural resources available to it.
“The impetus which gas from fracking has given to the US economy should not be spurned in the UK and hopefully the incentives being promised to households in affected areas will counter the influence of the green activists who descend on areas where projects are planned claiming to be representative of local residents and then preventing firms from going about their legitimate businesses. The Government proposal will focus local residents on the personal losses which they face by the invasion of eco warriors.”
Mr Wilson was returned as MP for Antrim East yesterday with a majority of nearly 16,000 and 57.3% of the vote.
Any deal with the Conservatives will be done by the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, who, as Minister of Enterprise for the Stormont Government, allocated licences for onshore oil and gas exploration in Northern Ireland.
The industry has not responded yet to the election result. But Rigzone, the oil and gas news website, reported that hung parliament in the UK can only lead to the potential for further uncertainty in the oil and gas industry.
It quoted Michael Burns, oil and gas partner at law firm Ashurst:
“This will be particularly felt in the UK’s shale gas industry, which will be watching carefully as the inevitable political ‘moving and shaking’ over the next days, weeks and months will be key to its near and longer-term prospects.”
Shares in IGas closed down nearly 6% on the day and UK Oil and Gas Investments plc fell nearly 2%.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said:
“The outcome of this election leaves no room for a divisive and partisan approach to addressing the challenges Britain faces, starting with Brexit. A minority government will have to listen to the majority of UK people and build consensus around the values most of us share. And Theresa May should start by listening to her own voters, the vast majority of whom want our environmental laws to be improved not scrapped.
“Solar and wind power are incredibly popular, yet the government has been dithering over seriously backing both industries. It has overruled local councils to impose unpopular fracking on communities in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Concerns about air pollution have been first ignored, then thrown the sop of a toothless action plan.
“The Conservative manifesto promised global leadership on climate and a healthier environment for the next generation. Since these goals are shared by nearly all other parties, this is something the government can and must deliver on. We’re going to hold the prime minister to her word. “
Supporters of fracking suggested on social media that the increased share of the vote for pro-fracking Conservatives in two key constituencies showed that the anti-fracking movement had failed to have an impact on the election.
But there’s no clear story from the results.
The Conservative, Mark Menzies, certainly increased his share of the vote in Fylde, the Lancashire constituency where Cuadrilla is preparing to drill shale gas wells. His share was up by 9.7%. But the Labour candidate, Jed Sullivan, increased his share by 14.6% and the Conservative majority of 11,805 was down from 13,224 in 2015. Observers reported some of the anti-fracking vote going to Labour.
In Thirsk and Malton, in North Yorkshire, where Third Energy has permission to frack its well at Kirby Misperton, the sitting MP, Kevin Hollinrake, increased his share of the vote by 7.4%. But again, the Labour candidate increased his party’s share by more, at 10.6%. Kevin Hollinrake still had a huge majority of 19,001. But it was down by more than 400 votes on 2015.
In other shale gas constituencies, there was no clear pattern.
In South Yorkshire, where the entire area is licensed for oil and gas exploration, Labour had all 14 seats. But not all these elected MPs have opposed fracking in the past and some have supported it.
The Conservatives took two shale gas constituencies in the East Midlands: North East Derbyshire and Mansfield. But in North East Derbyshire the Conservative candidate, Lee Rowley, had opposed INEOS plans for exploratory drilling in the constituency, while Labour’s Natascha Engel, who won in 2015, had supported the scheme. Before the election she had predicted to DrillOrDrop this could be electorally damaging.
In Mansfield, where INEOS has an exploration licence for shale gas, the situation was reversed with the losing Labour candidate, Sir Alan Meale, had said he “totally against” fracking, describing it as “dirty…dangerous and the science unproven”. The Conservative candidate, Ben Bradley, who took the seat had told the BBC that fracking was “worth exploring in the very least”.
In Chester, it was different again with the anti-fracking Labour candidate, Chris Matheson, increasing his majority over the Conservatives from 93 to more than 9,000. And in Warrington South, the pro-fracking Conservative, David Mowat, lost the seat after seven years to Labour’s Faisal Rashid. He told the Warrington Guardian today: “I did not see it coming to be honest”. His vote went up by 1,000 but Labour’s rose by more than 6,500
Reflecting on the result tonight, the Green Party candidate for Fylde, Tina Rothery, a veteran anti-fracking campaigner, said:
“Labour is the only party that can ban fracking.
“Now the issue is in the manifestos, we really need to see positive and immediate actions by Labour and their local parties in licensed areas, to support the anti-fracking movement on the frontlines and bring this business to an end.”
Updated 10/6/2017 with quote from Greenpeace