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

#MeToo Has Shown Global Misogyny. #NotAllMen Once Again Makes the Debate About Men

When Lena Durham accused another woman of lying about rape she undid all the good feminists have achieved in dispelling mythology about rape. #MeToo allowed women to shared experience. The backlash in #NotAllMen turn the conversation away from women and onto men.

Vile Bodies and Fantasy Politics: On Brexit Labour Offers an Equal Chaos

By not confronting their party's impossibilist position on Brexit, Labour supporters are keeping British politics in a fantasy land. Like Tory Brexiters they are pretending that a bespoke deal with the EU27 will be costless. Brexit is going badly not because the Tories are negotiating but because they are avoiding reality. Labour is doing the same.

This Week on Planet Trump: Outwitted Abroad He Fails America, At Home His Tax Plans Fail Voters

Trump hailed Rodrigo Duterte as a friend and was fawned over by Chinese President Xi. But his 11-day Asia trip was a strategic failure. He returned home where the biggest item on his agenda is a massive tax cut for the 1%.

Any Budget Giveaway Will be a Drop in the Brexit Ocean

With just 16 months until Britain leaves the European Union with or without a trade deal and with the final exit bill still not settled, Chancellor Philip Hammond has little room for manoeuvre. And with an election some four years away, there is little incentive to blow any cash now. Hammond's second budget will be a holding affair.

Scottish Labour Shifts Left with Richard Leonard. Jeremy Corbyn Will Count on His Success

In a widely expected result, Yorkshire-born Richard Leonard defeated Anas Sarwar to become Scottish Labour leader. He is tasked with taking on the SNP and reviving Labour in Scotland. To get to Downing Street Jeremy Corbyn might need him.