The British election has resulted in that most unstable of results; a hung Parliament. It is so badly hung that it has produced that unstable combination, a minority government, which holds office with outside support. The last time such a government took office, back in February 1974, it tottered along until October, when it was re-elected, with a majority. The Prime Minister who had won that election with the narrow majority of three, Harold Wilson, gave up office in mid-term; his successor, Jim Callaghan, lost his majority in subsequent by-elections, surviving in office only because of support from outside by the Liberals, the Ulster Unionists, the Scottish Nationalists and the Welsh Nationalists.

It should be kept in mind that the February election had been preceded by the UK’s joining of the European Common Market. That burgeoned into the European Union, and the present election has been held because of the UK’s leaving the EU. Indeed, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, owes her job to Brexit, for she had got it because then incumbent David Cameron resigned following his failure to get a ‘No’ majority in the Brexit referendum last year.

One party leader who had campaigned for a No vote, failed, but still kept his party leadership, was Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn. He seemed to have attracted votes in his first general election test. Labour went up 30 seats this time, from 232 seats to 262, but was still nowhere near forming government. Another party leader facing a general-election test for the first time was Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish Nationalists. She herself was not running, being First Minister of Scotland, but from 56 seats in 2015, the SNP declined to 35.

The polls were supposed to be about Brexit, and though Parliaments usually do not go full term, dissolutions at the two-year mark are rare, the four-year mark being more usual. Thus the election, just two years after the 2015 polls, was early, and showed that the referendum promise made by previous Tory leader and Prime Minister, David Cameron, had failed. The referendum should have resulted in a rejection of departure, with the result that pressure on the Tories would have been released. Instead, the UK voted to leave the EU.

These polls were meant to strengthen the May government so as to enable it to have a better position in the Brexit negotiations, but instead, they have significantly weakened her. They have not weakened her to the point of forcing her to reverse Brexit, but they certainly will make it more difficult to get what she wants out of the negotiations.

One worry less that she will have is that the SNP will probably not be in a position to press for a fresh referendum on independence. The SNP wants to stay in the EU, and while it wants independence anyhow, it also wants to leave the UK so that it can join the EU. The six of the nine Ulster counties, which are all that remain of Ireland in the UK, are being linked to the EU, through Eire, but it seems that the original reasons for wanting to remain in the Union, which kept them out of Eire, hold good: The Democratic Ulster Party, on whose support the May government depends, is overtly Protestant, and is a more forceful Exiter than May herself.

The DUP does not have an economic argument, but a religious one; it does not want to be subsumed in Catholic Eire. Once one comes to hidden motives, there has to be a spotlight on those of the people who, like May, campaigned for the UK to leave the EU. It was not because of the economics. Indeed, the economic argument is in favour of remaining. So what’s the problem? The problem is one of racism. The EU has too liberal a policy on refugees, and while the refugees cross from Syria and Africa into Italy and Greece, the absence of borders between EU members means that they end up in the UK. And they’re not white.

This antipathy to non-whites has long been part of British politics, and while such movements as the National Front or the UK Independence Party never really got much traction with the voters, the Conservatives became attractive. The Brexit vote was thus in essence a racist vote. Another event, the win by Donald Trump of the US Presidency, also fuelled the speculation about a racist reaction to the refugee issue. However, there have followed three election results, all in Europe, which indicate that the West is recoiling from arrant racism, though those results also reveal that there is a strong current of racism in Europe yet. The Dutch result, where rightwing politician Geert Wilders failed to become Prime Minister, was followed by the defeat of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential run-off, and now the British election. However, it should not be ignored that the Tories have actually improved their share of the vote, while winning less seats. The 5.5 percent improvement in its share of the popular vote has meant a loss of 13 seats. Labour improved its share 9.6 percent, which has meant 30 seats more.

One of the issues that cropped up during the campaign, and not to the favour of the Tories, was May’s record, not as a newbie Prime Minister, but as a longtime Home Secretary before that. Terror attacks in Manchester and London during the campaign raised awkward questions about police cuts – over which she had presided in the job which she had held for a long time, which proved a springboard to the Prime Ministership. The reminder that the UK was not safe from militancy also highlighted one of the problems with a Brexit; it reduced the value of the ‘special relationship’ with the USA. That was already under strain with the advent of Donald Trump as President, the latest example being the dressing-down Trump gave to London Mayor Sadiq Khan after the London Bridge Market attack. Mayor Khan is an embodiment of why a Labour win might have shattered the ‘special relationship: He is not white, and he said Trump would not be welcome after the travel ban he imposed against several Muslim countries (the ban was judicially overturned, but the animus remains). The USA needed the UK to be in the EU so that it could have a voice in its councils. Perhaps more importantly, that is how it would prevent the EU from becoming a rival power centre. The special relationship had been confirmed when May had gone to Washington to see Trump as soon as he took office, but after this election result, Trump will have to do a rethink.

It accords with British history to predict a Labour victory at the next poll, and that that poll will take place early. There does seem some natural pressure on May to resign, but that is counterbalanced by the need to keep a firm hand on the helm for the Brexit negotiations. Also, it does not seem there are any Tory hopefuls willing to come out openly against May. It seems that a government with a reduced majority will struggle on with outside support, leaving a small regional party with its fate in its hands, able to pull the plug on it at any time. Relying on outside support means that a Prime Minister cannot choose the timing of the next election, the main privilege the Westminster model gives. Theresa May can like it or lump it.

The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of The Nation.

Terror attacks in Manchester and London during the campaign raised awkward questions about police cuts – over which she had presided in the job which she had held for a long time, which proved a springboard to the Prime Ministership.