UK election result makes things more vague

UK general election

When Theresa May announced the UK general election to choose the country’s prime minister and the main parliamentary party, her plan was to win more seats, strengthen her power and bring more clarity to everything. 

The results of yesterday’s election, however, seem to indicate that, while May is likely to remain as prime minister, her Conservative Party will lose its overall majority in the House of Commons, and there will be what is called a “hung parliament”.

“Hung parliament” means that both the two main parties – Conservative and Labour – have approximately the same number of seats, or no single party has enough seats to rule on its own.

What May probably wanted was an “overall majority”, for which a party needs more seats than all other parties put together.

The total number of seats in the House of Commons is 650. With 649 seats declared at the time of writing, the Conservatives have won 318. It needed 326 for an overall majority of one seat.

The Conservatives won 330 seats in the last election, so May is now being criticised for her decision to go to the polls.

As prime minister, May was beleaguered by constant bickering about the most pressing political issue of the day – Brexit. The 330 seats only gave the Conservatives a small majority and a few rebels could easily cause trouble for May.

Last year’s referendum saw more than 50 per cent of people in the UK voting to take Britain out of the European Union. Those who wanted to remain in the EU were widely expected to win, so the result was something of a shock, and resulted in months of vagueness about politics, the economy and almost everything else.

But the majority – the “Brexiteers” – were clearly optimistic, or at least relieved. They were fed up with too much immigration into the UK from EU nations as well as immigrants often transiting through EU nations from countries beyond the EU to get to the UK. Leaving the EU, they said, would put a stop to all of that.

Immigration was the main issue, but leaving the EU raised all sorts of other issues, the economy and the country’s huge financial sector being obvious ones, but also some crucial matters concerning the technology sector.

The most well-known tech issue concerning business is probably the General Data Protection Regulation, which was introduced by the EU and all member states are required to abide by it.

After the Brexit referendum, the UK government decided that it would “mirror” GDPR, which meant tech companies would still be required to be GDPR-compliant even if the Britain exited the EU.

There’s now less than a year left to final deadline to GDPR compliance, and companies everywhere are preparing for the new data environment.

GDPR’s main aim is to protect users’ data and requires companies to be more transparent how they handle users’ data and notify the public of any security breaches as soon as possible.

GDPR-related activities will continue, but no one is really sure what effect anything they do will have on their business.

Some international companies have decided to locate their data centres on mainland Europe instead of the UK because of these uncertainties, and that might become a trend.

It’s a small development, but it could grow. And there may be other issues to deal with. The financial sector relies on fast-flowing data… what will be the rules governing that?

And while there was an interesting article on about some of the technology policies of the two main parties, now that it’s a hung parliament, it’s open to speculation as to how both of those will interact to develop a coherent and consistent tech policy for the country.

Most tech policies are probably not controversial – most people want fast internet and clear communication lines, so it could come down to a matter of emphasis.

Labour, traditionally the party of the working classes, is likely, for example, to prioritise funding for providing fast internet to remote, under-resourced communities.

The Conservatives, which is generally seen as more business-friendly, is likely to prioritise funding projects that benefit entrepreneurs.

But such domestic details are overshadowed by the so-called “Brexit talks”, the negotiations between Britain and the EU over the terms of what’s been likened to a divorce settlement.

Not much detail has emerged out of the negotiations so far – just phrases such as “hard Brexit” and “soft Brexit” and “red-white-and-blue Brexit”… but no one really knows what to make of anything.

As one EU politician put it, “I thought surrealism was a Belgian invention.”