Conservatives Win Most Seats in UK Elections

BY Larisa Epatko  May 7, 2010 at 1:20 AM EDT


Conservatives’ David Cameron and his wife Samantha. Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AFP/Getty Images

Updated 6:50 a.m. The Conservatives secured more seats than the ruling Labor party in the United Kingdom’s closely fought elections, results showed Friday, but not enough to win an outright majority.

With 617 of 650 House of Commons seats counted, the Conservative party led by David Cameron won 291 seats to Labor’s 248, with the Liberal Democrats getting 51 seats and smaller parties winning 27.

The Conservatives’ gains were still short of the 326 seats needed for a majority.

Since no single party won a clear majority, Britons awoke to their first hung Parliament in 36 years. The Conservative and Labor parties began wrangling Friday for the support of smaller parties to try to form a coalition government.

Labor’s Gordon Brown traditionally gets the first chance to form a government because he is the sitting prime minister. But Clegg of the Liberal Democrats said the Conservatives should try to put a government together, without indicating his intentions of aligning with either party.

“I think it is now for the Conservative Party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest,” Clegg said.

For his part, Brown expressed his intent to stay involved at the national level by saying, “My duty to the country, coming out of this election, is to play my part in Britain having a strong, stable and principled government, able to lead Britain into sustained economic recovery and able to implement our commitments to far-reaching reform to our political system — upon which there is a growing consensus in our country.”

But Cameron told his constituency after his re-election, “I believe it is already clear that the Labor party has lost its mandate to govern our country. … The country — our country — wants change. That change is going to require new leadership.”

The BBC offers a guide on what a hung Parliament would mean for Britain.

Ned Temko, a writer for The Observer in London, told the NewsHour that this was the first U.S.-style election featuring a series of televised debates with the three main party leaders, which changed the tenor of the campaign. Prior to this year, most national elections had been a two-party race, he said, but third party candidate Clegg became the “protest candidate” and offered voters another option, turning it into a three-party contest.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Electoral Commission said it would review why hundreds of people were turned away from various polling sites in London, Sheffield and Manchester after lines formed just before the polls closed at 10 p.m.

“There should have been sufficient resources allocated to ensure that everyone who wished to vote was able to do so,” the commission said in a statement.