The Conservative Party has won enough seats for a majority government. With 323 seats required for an effective majority, the Conservatives hold 331 seats, Labour hold 232, the Scottish National Party 56, the Liberal Democrats 8 seats, and the UK Independence Party holds one seat. The Prime Minister has returned to Downing Street following the result, while it has already been suggested that the Labour Party’s Ed Miliband will stand down as Leader. The result has been a surprise to many, with earlier polls predicting a closer race between Labour and the Conservatives. Particularly notable was the surge in SNP votes in Scotland, with just three out of 59 seats not held by the party. The surge came at the expense of Labour and the Lib Dems, with several high-profile Scottish MPs losing their seats, including Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander. In England, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable both lost their seats. The loss of 45 Lib Dem seats – a complete decimation of the party – has also forced the resignation of Party Leader Nick Clegg. UKIP leader Nigel Farage also failed to win the South Thanet seat where he was standing. The result also raises fresh concerns for the future of Scotland – with the country now having so many SNP representatives in parliament, observers have suggested that new questions will be asked over the future of the Union given the stark difference in political beliefs between the SNP and Conservatives.
In Pakistan, the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines are among at least six people killed after a helicopter crashed into a school in the country’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan province. The wives of the Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors are also understood to have died. The Polish and Dutch ambassadors were injured in the crash. The helicopter reportedly crashed while attempting an emergency landing in the Naltar valley region, an area Pakistan hopes will become a key part of a land trade route with China. The school hit by the helicopter caught fire after the crash. The helicopter was one of three in a convoy carrying diplomatic personnel to an inauguration ceremony Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had also been due to attend. The cause of the crash remains unknown.
China’s exports unexpectedly fell in April, down to 6.4 percent on from a year earlier, while imports fell by an unexpectedly high 16.2 percent. Further government stimulus is expected in the wake of the figures, with concerns growing that economic growth could fall below China’s 7 percent target. Concerns will also be raised that recent government stimulus has been less effective than expected. The China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) urged commercial banks on Friday to increase lending to small businesses and the rural sector – a move which could bolster growth but also increase the number of uncertain loans.
Today’s papers largely feature the results of Thursday night’s exit polls, along with speculation over the potential future government. The Independent refers to the result as a “Shock”, writing that the Liberal Democrats are “facing annihilation” after their dramatic loss of seats. The Times writes in its headline that the Conservatives are “out in front” after the poll, writing of a Labour “slump” in seats after a “wipeout in Scotland”. The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, writes that the Liberal Democrats also face “wipeout”. The Prime Minister will “hold on to power”, the paper predicts in its headline. The Guardian calls the exit poll a “shocker for Labour”, noting that the result “could be worse than last election”. The paper calls Cameron’s apparent victory as “an astonishing electoral triumph”, while polls predicted the Liberal Democrats will lose “more than 40 seats”. The result means the Prime Minister has been left “hardly needing to wait to see” if the Lib Dems would support a second coalition. Beyond the election, the Financial Times leads with news of the “worst Eurozone bond turmoil since crisis”. The paper calls the fluctuation in bonds the worst since the Eurozone debt crisis, with market “confusion over the impact of quantitative easing on Europe’s financial assets and economies”.
British Media on China
On China’s economic slowdown: The BBC features a piece by Andrew Walker today explaining “Why China’s slowdown matters”. The piece points out that China’s authorities “wanted a slowdown”, because market forces make a slowdown “inevitable sooner or later”. China’s growth has been dependent on high levels of investment, the piece explains, but adds that with such a tactic there is a risk that “some projects will be uneconomic”. China’s slowdown will also reduce commodity prices, with its slowdown “a factor in the decline” of the price of oil. The slowdown, while inevitable, can be adapted to by the rest of the world, assuming “China does achieve that much desired soft landing”, the piece concludes.