DUP in waiting game…?

LOOKS like my speculation (second post) about what might be happening in Westminster could have some foundation. The Observer reports that after the next general election: “The combined unionist bloc vote of 10 would be the Tories’ most likely allies if they needed votes to form a minority government. The DUP expects to pick up more seats in the next general election. DUP strategists are urging Ian Paisley not to jump into devolved government with Sinn Fein this side of the general election. They have advised the DUP leader to wait and see how it can use its parliamentary clout once Tony Blair has left office and a general election is looming.”

  • Pete Baker

    To be fair, Gonzo, Henry McDonald has been pointing to that scenario since November last year

  • Crow

    Seems like Molineaux invested heavily in this same strategy to little or no avail. The way things are stacking up in mainland UK politics the Conservatives are very unlikely to need a paltry 10 seats.

  • Stephen Copeland

    The next Westminster election may not be until 2009. A heck of a lot can change in that time, so basing a strategy on today’s perceived balance is risky, at the very least. It also implies putting off any real engagement within NI for several years, with all of the frustration that that will cause. By the time that the DUP realises (if it does) its ‘balance of power’ dream, there will be;

    – a new US administration (Democrat?)
    – new super-councils already in place
    – a new government in the south
    – several years of ‘joint stewardship’ behind us, with all of the precedent that that sets
    – a new Labour Party leader in Britain.

    ‘Events’ have a habit of frustrating the best-laid plans of mice, men, and particularly politicians. The DUP may well learn this to their cost.

  • Surely a pressing question for the DUP would be whether or not the Unionist electorate will accept the continuation of the stalemate for another 3 years while they await an opportunity that may or may not come – particularly given their claim to be “Leadership that’s working” and/or “Leading for Ulster”.

  • lib2016

    If this is the best that a couple of unionist hacks can come up with it looks like the game is over.

    This rubbish is all so very reministent of the great days when Trimble was waiting for a seat on the Conservative front bench and the fragant Lady Harmon was likely to accept the Tory or Labour whip, depending on what the commentator had been smoking.

    Pariahs..handbells…cries of ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ are more like it. Does anyone anywhere in the world admit to fraternal ties with the DUP now that Sturm Thurmond has died ?

    Isn’t there a name for this season in the News business?

  • Carson’s Cat

    “Seems like Molineaux invested heavily in this same strategy to little or no avail. The way things are stacking up in mainland UK politics the Conservatives are very unlikely to need a paltry 10 seats.”

    A fair summation of the situation. The UUP tried, and got some benefits from it, but its definately not worth investing all your political capital in (or even a large amount of it). Too many things are outside of your control – you rely entirely on a hung parliament where you can exercise influence. If that doesnt happen then you’re up that certain creek without a paddle.

    Beano is correct too in that such a strategy would require a bit of sitting around in the interim waiting for an election, and events have a habit of throwing the best laid plans out the window during such a period.

    You’re also correct that the DUP have invested in the ‘Leadership’ brand over the last couple of years. Waiting around in the hope that you might become a power-broker at Westminster isn’t leadership and that is why I would suggest the DUP would be intelligent enough not to be putting too much stake in this occurring.

    Anyway, the Tories have already thrown out large hints that they would try to peel off some ‘sensible’ Lib Dems in the event of a hung Parliament. They would see more GB advantage there than relying on unionist votes, welcome as they would no-doubt be on certain issues.

    “If this is the best that a couple of unionist hacks can come up with it looks like the game is over.”

    No, this is the best that a journalist can come up with. While trying to stay clear of man playing, its clear to see that journalists often dont bother with basic facts and more often than not have got stories which even in the short term (days somtimes) are proven to be fantasy. Its not sourced, and who exactly are these ‘strategists’ then?

  • slug

    I think Henry McDonald’s piece is off line, for the reasons Beano and Carsons Cat give.

    In the longer term, however, there are some changes that could increase unionist leverage in the UK. First, PR for Commons elections. This is possible if the Lib Dems and Labour start to want to keep out the Conservatives. Second, and more likely, House of Lords reform in which popular elections are based on PR; this Upper House could become permanently in a state of balance. Further, it may get more power as its electoral component increases.

  • lib2016

    Carson’s Cat,

    Thankyou for a reasonable response to what was a bit of a windup from me.

    It seems to me that some kind of ‘cantonisation’ strategy would suit the DUP/UDA end of the unionist spectrum if they are serious about doing a deal. It’s evident that there are strains there but there are equally strains within nationalism.

    Modern Britain with large cities having Muslim majorities and multiculturalism is not to the taste of the DUP. It is coming in Ireland, as it already has everywhere else in Europe, but that future may not happen in our lifetimes in Antrim and North Down.

    Have unionists accepted that
    1/ the West is a lost cause?

    2/ ordinary people (both sides) are impatient for a deal?

  • lib2016


    For unionists there is no long term left. A deal has to be done or the GFA will go ahead without them, just as the Anglo-Irish Agreement did. The last few years have seen the collapse of any organisation which could have used physical force to resist the British government.

  • slug

    Lib I wasn’t suggesting that the issue of devolution can be left to the long run. Like Beano and Carson’s Cat I’m sure that the DUP will not want to sit around doing nothing waiting for a low-probably event like a hung parliament from the UK’s FPTP voting system.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pete, to be fair, I’ve been pointing to that a post-election scenario for longer than that.

  • slug

    Gonzo – isn’t it too distant, and too uncertain, to be an immediate factor. It might persuade the DUP to opt for a “review” in the next parliament but not to sit around for 3-4 years.

  • If the Tories refrain from applying English votes for English laws to Northern Ireland until there is functioning devolution, surely that is a clear disincentive for the DUP to enter an executive.
    The Conservatives must be open to the accusation that they are undermining prospects for a deal.

  • fair_deal

    Seems like complete keik to me. If a general election was next year this scenario would have legs but as it can be up to 4 years away its a non-starter. Also a Lib-Lab alliance is much more likely that a Conservative and Unionist one.

  • Prince Eoghan


    Not 100% sure I got your meaning there but;
    If there is indeed any substance in the story(remember major) then where would dodgy Dave’s idea about only having English MP’s vote on English matters be? If I am reading you correctly, that they may wish that devolution was not implemented. Would the tories really stoop this low to gain power?

    If so how would Unionists in general feel about keeping the status quo in orde to ensure a future tory government?

    My view is that it would be quite a sad attempt at grabbing straws.

  • As a lot of campaigners for an English Parliament have been arguing, the Tory policy of English votes for English laws is extremely ill-thought out. Certainly, they dropped their plan to have a debate on the subject when Labour started pointing out some of the flaws.

    I wonder whether they even considered the impact of English votes for English laws on Northern Ireland unionists until recently.

    They may be making policy on the hoof, clutching at the absence of devolution as a justification for allowing their allies to vote on English issues after Scottish MPs are barred, without thinking through the implications.

    If the Lidington quote is correct then those implications are clear: If there is direct rule when the Tories are returned to power they will allow Northern Ireland MPs to continue to vote on English issues, potentially a very dignificant bargaining chip for the DUP. If the DUP go into an Executive then that bargaining chip will be taken away. That is a clear disincentive for the DUP to do a deal.

    In reality, that disincentive might not amount to much with an election up to four years away, but it still leaves the Tories, in principle, open to the charge that they are undermining prospects for a deal.

    I think they have got into this position via cock-up rather than conspiracy, but who knows?

    One thing this underlines is that the only viable way to pursue English votes for English laws is through an English Parliament.

  • Turbo Paul

    Before the DUP consider waiting for 4 years they must first see what kind of political fallout there is if a deal is not reached by Nov 24th, or soon after.

    If the subsequent “Blame game” is directed at the DUP exclusively, among Unionists especially, then the DUP could be faced with a political meltdown.

    The DUP should keep all options open and not be tempted to box themselves into a political corner.

    If they do it will a situation of “heads they win, tails we lose” for the DUP

  • Belfast Gonzo


    An election could be up to four years away, but it’ll probably be a little sooner than that.

    And a DUP-Tory “alliance” need not be as official as the UUP-PUP Assembly arrangement. The two parties could simply negotiate how they would vote on certain issues. Happens all the time, except in a hung parliament, the DUP votes could be more critical.

    It’s speculation, yes, but not as far-fetched as you might suggest!

  • páid

    So the DUP strategists’ dream comes true and the 10/1 shot romps home.

    A Tory/DUP majority govt. is formed and….

    The Parades Commission is abolished

    A “package” of investment for “traditional industries communities” is agreed

    The PSNI is called the RPSNI or whatever

    SF are told in no uncertain terms to announce the disbandment of the IRA which will start a 10 year decontamination period.

    That’s it?

    Best shot??

    Anything else???

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Its a story about nothing. The real question is which DUP insider/senior source/strategist told the story to Henry and why? Whats the purpose of providing a fig leaf of intellectual cover to a refusal by Paisley to enter into a deal with SF in November? Trying to create an expectation of failure to leverage concessions? or trying to prepare the ground for failure without too much blowback? or part of the internecine jockeying that is surfacing in the DUP? Discuss!

  • Greenflag

    Does anybody need to remind the DUP that it was the Conservatives that put an end to Stormont ?

    If betting on a ‘hung’ parliament at Westminster is the best that DUP strategists can come up with then somebody needs to come up with a term that describes a situation beyond political bankruptcy .

    Once again the DUP are seen waiting for ‘crumbs’ to drop from the Westminster table ? Except on this occassion dinner may not be served until 2009 . Seems like a hungry time ahead .

  • Rory

    This is all such “let’s pretend we’re all poltical analysts” so beloved of the chattering classes and the bright young things who feed their appetites in the broadsheets and increasingly popular berliners.

    The interests of the next Westminster government, of whatever complexion immediately imagineable, will be concerned with delivering the goods of the surrender of all state exercise of social responsibility over to the profiteers. There will be no likely clamps that any any waspish visiting Unionist Westminster camp could place upon that dubious progress, especially given that all other opposition parties will be in total accord. It is the New Democracy, guys, geddit!

    It really is total implementation of GFA or nothing and any attempt by a Unionist rump to interfere with the big boy’s game can only result in a hastening of Unionist compliance in that agreement.

    It will be a short “Get back to your marbles with your pals, Junior” if the annoying wimpish cousin starts to whine for ice-cream during that ball-game.

  • Carson’s Cat

    “Its a story about nothing. The real question is which DUP insider/senior source/strategist told the story to Henry and why?”

    Well, we dont know who this ‘source’ is or exactly how well placed or well informed they actually are.

    However, its not beyond the bounds that a little bit of false spin could be put out there. Sometimes doesnt do too much harm to keep a little bit of guesswork going on. Anyway… its not going to happen so I wouldnt waste too much time worrying about it.

  • Kenny

    I think fair-deal is spot on with this one.

    This would have relevance if a general election was likely within 12 months (maximum).

    Howeverr, even though Labour is currently down in the polls, it is highly unlikely that they would lose a vote of confidence in the House of Commons (with a majority of nearly 70).

    Therefore, the only way they will call an election before May 2009 is if they get well ahead in the polls at some point. If so, the return of another Labour govt is hardly good news for the DUP.

    Even if Labour don’t recover, there is still unlikely to be a change of govt for 3 – 4 years.
    During that period, an awful lot will have changed. A Conservative govt would undoubtedly be more pro-unionist but it is unlikely that they would go as far as undoing what Labour has done ( particularly if they have a big enough majority not to have to rely on the unionists).

    If the DUP implement this strategy, they would lose ground now in the hope that they could more than make it up again if they get into a position of real influence in Westminster.

    That’s a big political risk.

  • Brian Boru

    Polling-pundits believe the electoral system now to be so biased towards Labour that even if they got 33% and the Tories 38%, that Labour could still be the biggest party but without a majority. I believe the next govt will be Lib-Lab.

  • Keith M

    This is a non-story. The DUP have made their position on entering an executive with SF/IRA as clear as they possibly can. Paisley’s position on doing a deal with SF/IRA is no different from the parties in this country, except it’s put in clearer and more typically Paisleyite language.

    If the parties in this country say that SF/IRA are unfit partners, then they can hardly expect the DUP to do a deal.

    Bring on November, it’s not as if there’s a huge public outcry because there is no assembly.