Don’t Panic we’ve seen it all before!
Although the results of last weeks election were shocking to many. What follows should be more familiar than we are making out. After the 2010 election a similar situation arose and led to a period of stable government seen by most as in the national interest.
The fact that the results had been more likely ensured that at least two of the parties, Conservative and Lib Dem were ready for what followed and a third, the Labour government of Gordon Brown, caught up pretty quickly. Each party, privately and publicly, assessed the possibilities, of staying power or forming a new government by forming an alliance or coalition with others. The same is happening now and the players are exactly the same including the DUP.
If anything the Democratic Unionist Party have moved considerably toward the mainstream of politics over the intervening seven years. It should also be noted that the opposition parties in NI are Catholic dominated and often equally as socially conservative, it is simply that the SDLP have lost their seats that renders this less visible than usual.
Perhaps the most prominent gay rights campaigner in Northern Ireland (Jeffrey Dudgeon) has argued very powerfully that he does not fear a deal between the DUP & Conservatives. He states very clearly that social policy is changing slowly but surely in NI and that the DUP are actually playing a role in that. The current party leader is not a member of the Free Presbyterian Church that was for so long the dominant body in the party. She has no truck with terror and indeed she and her family were victims of violence during the troubles. Ruth Davidson is regarded by many in the DUP, and wider Unionist community, as “a hero of the union” and it would seem her sexuality and social attitudes don’t dull this one bit.
Peace Process Scaremongering.
It seems that Northern Ireland is to be wrapped in cotton wool and protected from the day-to-day issues of UK politics forever. Within the last year The EU Referendum, A Green Subsidy Program and now a UK wide General Election have all been denounced as a threat to the peace process. This must stop. The people and politicians of NI do not have to have every issue of the day turned into matters of war and peace. All three of the events mentioned simply require political will, trust and understanding. If the peace process is so fragile as not yet to be able to survive such matters then it is that process itself that should be strengthened and re-enforced.
Some MP’s, or Parties, More Equal than Others?
The anti DUP voices that are currently trying to derail the formation of a, democratically elected and constitutionally valid, government seem to feel that it is fine to limit participation in UK democracy to those whose views they find acceptable. This is not democracy and not tolerable. The MP’s of Northern Ireland have been elected by their constituents in entirely the same way as in the rest of the UK. They find themselves in exactly the same position as the Liberal Democrats in 2010 and should be given exactly the same opportunity to present their requirements to the largest party and attempt to gain as much agreement as possible. The SNP and Plaid are never subjected to the same scrutiny or demonisation, other than on their wish to break apart the Union, and it is always assumed that they will take part in a coalition.
DUP More Progressive than Labour or Lib Dems?
As a small, but not unimportant, aside attention should be paid to the leader of the DUP. In their history the DUP have had only three official leaders. The third is currently leader Arlene Foster. Thus it has taken the party only 24 years to elect a woman leader. The Liberal Democrats and Labour have not yet managed this despite having had the better part of a couple of hundred years between them.
It is strange how the left wing, or so called progressives, of UK politics are happy to deal with those who oppose the Union, either politically such as the SNP and the Welsh Nationalists or by other means with their long held support for violent organisation that threaten the UK state or its institutions. Especially as nearly all the contentious issues are already devolved to the Stormont Assembly, and thus cannot be altered by Westminster, and nor do DUP polititians wish to influence GB policies on these matters, especially when many are also devolved to Edinbrough or Cardiff already. In this, as in many other matters, it seems that Northern Ireland and its polititions are treated as inferior, this is not acceptable.
The worst of these hypocrytes are the Labour party. In both 2010 and 2015 they had made plans and initial arrangements for possible deals with the DUP. For Alistair Campbell to attempt the demonisation of the DUP when he had been present, and possibly involved in, Gordon Brown’s attempts to strike a similar arrangement is truly despicable.
Coalition of Chaos Alternative
Non of the things that are being protested about are not in the DUP manifesto. In fact the things they are likely to succeed in gaining would be agreed upon by nearly all the parties that lost the election. It is likely that Theresa May will agree on keeping the triple lock on pensions, scraping the plan to remove the winter fuel payments and ensure no hard border in Northern Ireland. Mr Corbyn or his troupe would not object to any of these items. However had Mr Corbyn been trying to put together a coalition he would also have had to at least keep the DUP onside and given them most of what they want. In addition he would have had to agree to a second referendum of the EU and the legalisation of cannabis for the Lib Dems, Indyref2 for the SNP and other items of great financial cost, and questionable use, from the Greens. This could have caused major disruption within a country that is already divided and fragmented. Surely a simple two party deal is a better starting place.
Her Majesty’s Government must continue.
It appears that the basic deal that will be done by the two parties will be a simple confidence and supply arrangement. This will basically involve the DUP agreeing to back the government on economic bills such as the budget and on Brexit which will be both economic and constitutional. In return the DUP will expect Northern Ireland to be well looked after in terms of infrastructure projects, public spending commitments and a couple of their manifesto pledges. Two likely conditions of the Brexit support will be no hard border in NI no additional inconvenience for NI citizens on UK travel and trade.
All in all a pretty basic political agreement between two parties who have similarities in terms of economic philosophy and constitutional arrangement. Both believe strongly in the UK and in independence. At times like this the words and demenour of Jacob Rees Mogg can be very useful. He is often fond of saying that the British Public should have its say and that they can be trusted to get it right. It’s abut time that the people of the UK and there representatives were given that respect, equally.