(CN) – Theresa May said Friday that she intends to stay on as Britain’s prime minister after her gamble in calling an early election to solidify the power of her Conservative party backfired in spectacular fashion.
When May called the vote which was held on Thursday, polls said the Conservatives would score an decisive victory and effectively push Britain’s Labor Party onto the scrap heap.
Instead, May’s party lost 12 seats and she has been forced to forge an alliance with Northern Ireland’s right-wing Democratic Unionist party in order to cling to power. Her party, also known as the Tories, secured just 318 seats after the votes were counted Thursday night, eight short of the 326 needed for a majority on her own.
The support of the 10 members of parliament elected for the DUP, the more hardline of the two traditional pro-British parties in Northern Ireland, puts May just over the threshold to form a government.
After a midday audience with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, May spoke to reporters at 10 Downing Street.
Putting on a brave face after a disastrous night, May said her parties status as the largest vote-getter in the election gave her continued legitimacy as prime minister.
”What the country needs more than ever is certainty,” May said. “It is clear only the Conservative and Unionist party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.”
She went on to say the new partners will work together to “fulfill the promise of Brexit.”
But that might be easier said than done. May now governs over a party and partnership that is as deeply divided as Britain’s electorate.
While the Conservatives made surprising inroads in Scotland Thursday, the MPs elected there are strongly pro-European Union and anti-Brexit.
While her new partners, the DUP, are loud supporters of pulling out of the EU, a majority of voters in North Ireland actually voted to remain in the union last year.
In her brief Downing Street appearance, May made no reference to the huge election setback. But leaders of the three largest opposition parties, including Labour’s second-place finisher Jeremy Corbyn, all called for her to resign.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister and head of the Scottish National party, said May “lost all authority and credibility” while Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said she “should be ashamed” and should resign “if she has an ounce of self-respect.”