Impact of hung Parliament on education – Friday 9 June 2017

In another momentous week in UK politics we have a hung Parliament and if the Conservative Party can form a new government it seems likely that the plans for new grammar schools and the national funding formula will be dead in the water. Without a majority, the Conservatives will find it difficult to push through these contentious decisions, particularly given the rebellion that had already been brewing in the Tory party backbenches.

Election outcome
It was announced this morning that Theresa May will visit Buckingham Palace at 12:30 p.m. today to seek permission to form a UK government, despite losing her Commons majority. The prime minister is attempting to stay in office on the understanding that the Democratic Unionist Party will support her minority administration. With one seat left to declare, the Tories are eight seats short of the 326 figure needed to command a majority.

In the past, when minority governments have been formed at Westminster, the prime minister has held another election at the earliest opportunity to try and gain a working majority. Or the opposition has forced another election by tabling a “confidence” motion.

The Fixed-Term Parliament Act (passed by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to make their 2010 coalition less likely to collapse) means an election can only be held if:

  • Two thirds of MPs vote for it. In practice, it would need to be supported by both Labour and the Conservatives;
  • If MPs pass a motion of no confidence in the government AND an existing or new government cannot win a confidence vote in the Commons within 14 days of the no-confidence vote.

Impact from an Education perspective
The former Chair of the Education Select Committee Neil Carmichael has lost his seat in Parliament in one of many shock upsets for the Conservative Party. Mr Carmichael lost to his Labour opponent (former Labour MP and teacher David Drew) by almost 700 votes, while the Education Secretary Justine Greening’s majority in her south London seat of Putney was cut from more than 10,000 to less than 2,000. Edward Timpson, the Children’s Minister, has lost his Crewe and Nantwich seat to Labour candidate, teacher and school funding campaigner Laura Smith by just 48 votes.

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, has also lost her Richmond Park seat back to Conservative former London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, who she beat in a by-election last December.

Lucy Powell, the former shadow education secretary, saw her majority in Manchester Central increased, while Mike Kane, the shadow schools minister, also retained his seat.