DUP and Tories playing footsie in Birmingham over a Parliamentary pact?

Interesting blog from Gary Gibbon who’s been in Birmingham, which speculates that there’s a deal in the offing between the Conservative party and the DUP to ensure that the party has an extra bit of insurance in Parliament for the times ahead.

It’s not the first time a UK government has come calling, and it won’t be the last. Fragmentation in party representation puts an essentially pragmatist, pro-Union party like the DUP in a usefully powerful position until at least 2020 (if that’s the next election).

What may surprise some is what exactly the DUP is looking for…

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP, is quoted as saying: “What we’re really looking for is a special deal for the island of Ireland which enables free movement of goods and people on the island, and preserves the institutions we’ve created under the various agreements.”

Yes, you read that correctly. A special deal for the island of Ireland. They will also be in Birmingham in great numbers to press for a chunk of that money the new Chancellor is waving so profligately (by former Osborne standards) at Infrastructure and Health.

Their numbers won’t make a big difference, so long as the Tories don’t split. But when it comes to a final EU deal, they may well provide some comfort if it comes to a tight Parliamentary fight:

The government has a paper majority of 12. Factoring in the absence of Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take up their seats, and taking out the Speaker and Deputy Speakers, the majority is currently effectively 16.

If the DUP’s 8 MPs regularly voted with the government that would take the majority to 32. No wonder one of the attendees at the DUP devil’s buttermilk reception was the Conservatives’ Chief Whip, Gavin Williamson. He’ll be hoping the DUP can make his job easier and they seem decidedly up for that.

There’s nothing new about any of this. Under Peter Robinson, the party has had close talks with Labour over detention legislation. Indeed under his watch the DUP have taken Westminster representation much more seriously than before.

The main difference is that last time, Labour was paying for the Champagne, this time, it’s the DUP rather than the Tories who’ve put their hands in their pockets to stump up for the free booze.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Kevin Breslin

    Wouldn’t it be fun if the Orange Card dupes the DUP into voting for a bad Brexit, as 16 or more Tories rebel.

  • chrisjones2

    They also have the advantage that the DUP is cheap. A few Lordships, a few bungs to the DUP at Westminster, a good resettlement package for redundant MEPs and they will have the DUPs love and affecting

  • chrisjones2

    “There you go again”

    Remember Brexit is good, Brexit is good

    Say this each morning when you wake and before sleeping and your condition will soon pass

  • Paul Hagan

    You might still need a cure for a bad case Brexit though (diagnosis awaited)

  • Zorin001

    Can we maybe give it 5 years to a decade before we give a definitive answer on the results of Brexit, after all it hasn’t even happened yet!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Chris, I used to sit at product meetings for films where some idiot from one of the big music corporations who was fronting a sizeable part of our finances would ask for some silly thing which could potentially wreck the film. I would explain just how such an idea would not work while my co-producers would sit shaking at the possibility that the nerd would go back to his company and recommend it drop its funding, and accordingly when he smiled and said “lets try it my way and if that does not work we can go back to your old way,” I’d be outvoted but would insist it was minuted that his company would have to pay any shortfall those “changes” he was demanding cost to my carefully assessed budget if his suggestion did not turn out as he’d thought. Every time this happened I was right, but it took time and extra funds to repair the misdirection of creative effort.

    Every single one of these people were assured in themselves that their idea was going to be a very very good thing, but many lost out heavily in their credit with their own companies when the silliness they advocated was shown up for what it really was. Some were even sacked.

    But this time it is our whole population who will be paying for any mistake here, both taxes and in quality of life. As Zorin001 says below, until we can see where the out vote has actually led us, any enthusiastic endorsement is simply wishful thinking………….

  • Scots Anorak

    “an essentially pragmatist, pro-Union party like the DUP”
    Strewth, you almost had me choking on my cornflakes there. If Unionists were at all pragmatic, they would disband their parties, join a Westminster alternative, and start campaigning for an Irish language Act and the prohibition of the Orange Order. Even if they did none of that, it’s fair to say that they certainly wouldn’t have campaigned for Brexit like the DUP did.

  • Anglo-Irish

    And again chris, for the third time of asking, what are these benefits that we are now going to be able to avail ourselves of that we were prevented from acting on as EU members?

    I genuinely want you to explain them to us.

    We’re leaving, that’s accepted, but those of us who couldn’t see advantage but could see problems still feel that way.

    Personally I really want to be wrong on this, there is no upside to being proved right.

    So, set my mind at rest, where’s the hay we’re going to make?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Wow there you go again getting offended by an opinion.

  • billypilgrim1

    “…an essentially pragmatist, pro-Union party like the DUP…”

    Mick, specious narrative-pushing is one thing, but you really should have more discipline than to spill over the line into laughable, bald-faced lies.

  • john millar

    “But this time it is our whole population who will be paying for any mistake here, both taxes and in quality of life. ”

    That “democracy” old chap -sad that we will have to wait until– —2019? for our general election retribution when they lose power -or perhaps not

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m on record, John, as noting that at least people are making their own mistakes with this particular folly. But what can anyone expect from a population which is unaccustomed to being asked about anything serious, and are suddenly required to take a serious decision, while their entire advice on this is framed as “the sky will fall if you don’t vote as we tell you…” from both camps of opinion. But when we make our own mistakes, we begin to learn from them and don’t simply hope (against all the evidence) that voting for Tweedledee will somehow give us something different from the woeful results of a Tweedledum administration.

  • john millar

    I could not agree more—unfortunately we seem to have choice limited to Tweedledee and Tweedledum– administrations who appear to be able to garner the funds necessary to keep the shows on the road.Whats the alternative ?

  • john millar

    Sadly when/if they are wrong the pain will have been borne by everyone

  • Granni Trixie

    Do you think the DUP would be asking for a Lordship for PR?

  • OneNI

    Not the first ‘misinterpretation’ coming from Gary Gibbon – a few weeks ago he was suggesting the Conservatives would risk interfering with the Boundary Commission (whose reports are highly favourable to them) in order to cosy up to the DUP. The nonsense of that idea saw it dismissed within hours.

    This is similar nonsense by the NI politico and media class that over rate their own importance. The DUP Reception was primarily driven by the desire to gloss over their huge tactical mistakes in recent years. The DUP misjudged on three occasions.

    1. In the dying days of the Brown regime they went back on their word on issues like 42 day detention and prevented the Tories from bringing down the failed regime at its weakest point.

    2. In 2010 the Libs and Labs met and were constructing a Coalition (without Brown as PM). The DUP raced to Labour and the media to try to get on board.

    3. In 2015 in the wobbly last few days on the Election Campaign Dodds and other senior figures made private and public overtures to the Labour party – believing the polls they again thought a Lib Lab Rainbow Coaliton was on the cards.

    The DUP have slammed on the brakes and are attempting a U turn in a cloud of rubbery smoke – but the Tory leadership has long marked their card

    The Tory hierarchy (esp Lord Caine) views the DUP was a mixture of disdain and disgust – however thats not to say the would occasionally ‘buy’ their votes – in a way that one hires a taxi to get from A to B.

    No one looking at the bigger picture believes that May wants to be propped up by the DUP for 4 years. She is clearly planning to push a Brexit deal next Autumn and if it is turned down by the Commons or the Lords (it will almost certainly be stopped by the Lords) she will then call an election and win a comfortable majority.

    The DUP are clearly hoping that by assisting the Tories in the odd vote over the next year their ‘transgressions’ will be forgiven by the Tories – as when the Tories have a clear majority the DUP will have absolutely no influence (currently they have next to none but they can pretend and the Tories will humour them to make their own lives easier)

  • billypilgrim1

    That’s a really fascinating insight into Westminster machinations, OneNI.

  • nilehenri

    the home counties and sunderland have turned england into the north korea of europe. and many people are standing by with their pop-corn.
    keep an entire country high on the smell of poppies for years on end, and fill the heads of the population with romantic half myths and downright lies and this is what happens. the right to be wrong taken to extremes. i have little sympathy for them, victims of their own idiocy.

  • OneNI

    If Commons or Lords votes down Brexit May will have repeated the mantra ‘the only party that respects the will of the British people’ so often could Corbyn refuse the challenge? If he did and May resigned Corbyn would then have to form a Govt!!?
    Also Corbyn clearly wants an election – not to win but so he can further purge Labour of Blair it Red Tories

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I have been watching the attempts of a few parties over in Europe, the Five Star Movement for one, to address the problems of decentralising authority and creating sensitive response mechanisms through which an electorate might be able to develop into a direct democracy.


    Of course I imagine we will be watching our own little circus on the hill become less and less relevant to real life for a long time yet. Turkeys and Christmas, as you point out.

  • Mike the First

    The Act can be repealed by simple majority in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, so it would be the latter that would cause them problem.

    No need or repeal or for a two-thirds majority on an motion in the Commons to call a general election, however. There’s another mechanism in the Act which means Parliament must be dissolved and an election called – the government losing a confidence vote.

    The government could call a confidence vote then vote against themselves. I would say that’s the mechanism being considered in the “early election” scenario.

  • sadie


  • Granni Trixie

    I didn’t know that – just noticed that he has not (yet?) been on the honours list. Quite significant.

  • Gingray

    “What we’re really looking for is a special deal for the island of
    Ireland which enables free movement of goods and people on the island,
    and preserves the institutions we’ve created under the various

    To be honest, hearing the DUP put forward a message like that is a shock. Fair play to them.

  • Katyusha

    Remember Brexit is good, Brexit is good

    Say this each morning when you wake and before sleeping and your condition will soon pass

    That…. just about explains your perception, Chris.

    I had trouble understanding it before, but this simple brainwashing technique explains everything. Thanks.

    May I suggest you try to wean yourself from it? It’s not great for your health and mental wellbeing.