Tories woo the fringe including the DUP – FT


 I spoke too soon. Is there no combination beyond bounds in this election? The Financial Times (unlinkable due to copyright warnings) reports that David Cameron’s campaign team is exploring the possibility of a deal with unionist politicians in Northern Ireland and Scottish and Welsh nationalist MPs in the event of a hung parliament, in an attempt to avoid giving in to Liberal Democrat demands for electoral reform. This looks like a counsel of desperation for the party of the Union, which is also the party pledged to impose the most rigorous spending cuts.

Together the wee Celts will be lucky to elect 23 MPs in total, meaning the option of a motley “Celtic bloc” of rival unionist and nationalist parties could only come into play after a very particular election result – and even then  it looks a very shakey proposition indeed.

How could an arrangment survive which  supports cuts in England but exempts Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from their full rigour? 

However at the very least it may feed Sir Reg’s ambitions of “a seat in a British government.” But in this new situation, why not Nigel Dodds’- or even those of that fine man of government Mark Durkan?

 As they’ve all made clear, the DUP the SNP and Plaid Cymru say the price of any support would be to protect their areas from the worst effects of any spending cuts – a tough demand on a government looking to reduce the £163bn deficit. But Cameron’s team believe it may be preferable to doing a deal with Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems, who say that electoral reform would be the price of any post-election pact.

The FT puts a new interpretation on the Hatfield strategy which we were told at the time was designed to avert an Assembly collapse. Now, a version of Hatfield might rescue Westminster from post-election turmoil.

SNP leader Alex Salmond has been coy about which of the two main parties the “Celtic bloc” of SNP and Plaid Cymru might support, telling Newsnight t that it was getting “very very difficult to tell Labour and Tories apart.”

 Last month the Herald reported “secret talks” to create a Celtic bloc including all the NI parties. But in public, our MPs have never been mentioned as part of the bloc. Now it appears, it’s the Conservatives, not the SNP who are putting them back in the frame – if the story has weight. A wider Conservative courtship would affect the complexion of NI politics yet again. Would Peter Robinson who would exceed Salmond in seniority and probable numbers , seek to take over the driving seat?

 And what after all that, would have been the point of Ucunf?

 Perhaps in a while I’ll find it’s I who’ve been dreaming.

  • slug

    Some quotes here:

    “Many Tory MPs and activists fiercely oppose Mr Clegg’s calls for a change to Westminster’s first-past-the-post voting system. They believe the Lib Dems want to change the voting system to ensure they permanently hold the balance of power.

    “It’s now becoming clear he wants to hold the whole country to ransom just to benefit the Liberal Democrats,” Mr Cameron said this week.”

    Later, the FT add:

    “The Conservatives held secret talks with the two main Northern Ireland unionist parties this year at a moment of tension in the peace process. The Tories also work closely with the SNP in the Scottish parliament.

    The SNP has seven seats at Westminster, while Plaid Cymru has three, with hopes to increase that total to five. The two parties have talked about forming a “Celtic bloc” to oppose big spending cuts by Westminster.

    Meanwhile, the Democratic Unionists, the largest party in Northern Ireland with nine MPs, could use its muscle during debate over the Budget to extract concessions. ”

    What about the SDLP?

  • Dewi

    Whilst the FT don’t approve of direct quotes you can actually subscribe for nothing to read the lot. The scenario isn’t as far fetched – needs a fairly small Labour fall – maybe 2 points and a slightly larger Lib Dem fall (balanced equally Tory and Labour) – oh and of course for Nationalists to suceed somehow in the face of millions of pounds of prime time TV given to the London parties for nothing.

  • cynic2

    Labour had that fall last week but given what we already know about Hatfield, for this to be true, there would have had to recently have been:

    1 Tory tralks with the DUPs
    2 Talks among all the Celtic fringe parties
    3 A willingness in the Conservatives to risk compromising themselves 10 days before the election when they are almost there and despite the media hype know they are on target for a win with a workable majority that seems to be increasing day on day

    Also, does anyone seriously believe that any of this could happen without the Celtic fringe parties leaking like sieves about it? They are all notoriously porous but there has been no sign of anything other than some ‘what if’ musing and public announcements that they will use any leverage in a hung parliament to screw the English taxpayer.

    So this story is nonsense and most likely spin from the Dark Lord at the heart of the Labour campaign attempting to smear the Tories –

    “Ooooooh look at who they are sleeping with”


  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    whether these talks have taken place already or not there can be little doubt that they will if the arithmetic is right after the election – any party will seek to get the most it can in return for giving away the least – avoiding electoral reform will be the Tories nuimber two priority after their number one priority of at least being the largest party in any government.


    this is unreal, so much for the Conservatives being the party of the Union.I am sure they will offer SNP a referendum for their support.

  • This looks like a counsel of desperation for the party of the Union, which is also the party pledged to impose the most rigorous spending cuts.

    As much as I’d like this to be true – do we have evidence for this or is this from the mind of Walker? None of the parties to my mind have been adequately forthcoming on how much cuts are required, and where exactly they are to come from.

    We live in hope.

  • unionistvoter

    Though if as mentioned by Davenport

    “Some Conservative and Unionist sources claim that at the time of the Hatfield House talks in January the DUP was so keen to take the Tory whip that it offered a deal which would have given the new force Upper Bann and South Antrim on a plate”

    It would appear that it has been the DUP doing all of the courting.

  • that wouldn’t fit in with the media’s sla

  • but I guess that wouldn’t allow the yokel media to salivate at the possibility of Tory treachery would it?

  • if there’s one thing I hate, it’s double posting.

  • slug

    Labour look like slumping some more – this major story where PM called a woman a “bigot”.

    Will probably benefit Tories in some places.

  • John Joe

    Surey this would stink of desperation in England as voters wonder what side-deals are being done in Scotland, Wales and NI???
    As to Brown’s bigot comment – the man almost sounded like he has a personality. I’d not bet against his personal rating actually going up after saying that! Or maybe I’m too used to politics in the Republic…