The DUP Become This Election’s Unlikely Kingmakers

On Friday morning, the Democratic Unionist Party’s website crashed as stunned voters clamoured to find out who exactly they are. The 10 seat party have become the unlikely kingmakers of this election, set to prop up the Conservatives in what appears to be not a strict coalition, but some form of loose ‘confidence and supply’ deal.

The dominant unionist party in Northern Ireland, the DUP are among the most conservative major parties in Western Europe, and would undoubtedly sit on the right-most fringes of any alliance. They oppose abortion and LGBT rights, notoriously using 'petitions of concern' to shoot down equal marriage legislation. They once appointed a climate change denier as Environment Minister, and were heavily pro-Brexit (though they oppose a ‘hard Brexit’ or having a hard border with the Republic of Ireland).

What’s more, after a clean energy scandal that cost taxpayers £490m and dented their vote share in March’s Northern Irish assembly elections, the DUP have also been unable to form a power-sharing government in Stormont. Any future Westminster role seems shaky when they’ve failed to form a government at home: they’re hardly any stronger or more stable than the Tories.

Siding with them is an act of sheer desperation. It will thwart the facade of social liberalism cultivated by David Cameron, further inflaming the potent anti-Nasty Party sentiment expressed by much of the electorate yesterday.

In the worst case scenario, this also risks stoking community tensions in Northern Ireland. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Westminster governments have largely stayed a pace removed from Stormont. The DUP, like their nationalist rivals Sinn Fein, are more than just a political party – they’re tied up with community relations, identity and history. For the Tories to enter a formal pact diminishes any sense of neutrality.

A threadbare alliance needs little upheaval to fall apart

Throughout this campaign, several media outlets have used the Troubles as a political football when discussing Jeremy Corbyn’s interactions with the IRA. Whether May will be similarly questioned, given the alleged links between certain DUP members and paramilitary loyalist forces, remains to be seen. Certain tabloids who smeared Corbyn as a “terrorist sympathiser” will have to perform impressive mental gymnastics to support this new alliance.

How much the Tories and DUP might agree on is even less certain. May could find herself bargaining away cherished manifesto aims, and a pact that only affords a majority of two MPs will struggle to pass much in the way of legislation. Will there be any red lines? Will female or LGBT Tories protest the DUP’s regressive social policies, and could that in turn provoke the DUP into walking away? A threadbare alliance needs little upheaval to fall apart.

In her first post-results statement, Theresa May went so far as to specifically refer to the Conservatives as “the Conservative & Unionist Party”, making it seem that working with the DUP is perfectly natural. But it isn’t. Theresa May didn’t have to choose this option.

This opportunistic election backfired to such an extent that May has seized upon her only remaining chance for power. It’s a rash move, though – political straw-clutching from a chided leader, which far from guarantees any future political calm.

Coming from the folks that coined “coalition of chaos”, it’s more than a little ironic.

Harry Mason

Enjoyed this article?

Help us to fund independent journalism instead of buying:

Also in Disclaimer

Whatever They do to Court the Youth Vote, Hard Brexit will Taint the Tories

After years of not voting, the young have caught on and returned to the ballot box. The Conservatives are scared and are trying to come up with policies on housing and tuition fees. However, it may be that they are tainted by their nationalist approach to Brexit.

You’re Wrong, Vince. A “reverse Ukip” Could Revive the Lib Dems

Watching tumbleweed would be more interesting than 2017's Liberal Democrat Conference. Vince Cable cautiously promised to be a political adult as he opposed Brexit. However, the third party needs fire if it to avoid an ignominious death.

Forget Boris, it’s Mark Carney who hit the Brexit nail on the head

While media attention was focused on Boris Johnson's Daily Telegraph essay, Mark Carney, the Bank of England Governor laid out in cold clear detail the likely implications of Brexit. It makes for brutal but mandatory reading in these times when politicians only skim the surface.

The Universal Credit is in Crisis. Labour Should Commit to a Universal Basic Income Now

Once again, the government’s flagship welfare reform programme has been critcised for failing those it is meant to help. It is not enough for Labour to oppose the Universal Credit, they must commit to a bold reform of the Welfare State for the 21st Century.

Clinton Looks for the Truth Amid the Debris and Reclaims Her Humanity

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election might have been reported minute-by-minute but a year later it’s still easy wonder: what on earth happened there? It’s a ripe time, then, for Hillary Clinton’s new book, What Happened, a candid examination of her devastating loss to Donald Trump.