NI bargaining power is exaggerated

MSM verdicts are mixed about the NI parties’ potential for influence in a hung parliament. There is a tendency to see this through the wrong end of a Stormont telescope. Privately I doubt if Peter Robinson reads it so optimistically. His coalition flyer is a good wheeze to take last minute wind out of Ucunf sails. Still, the DT’s Rosa Prince remains reluctantly impressed with the DUP’s negotiating power.

The DUP have decidedly mercenary approach to political deal-making. Two years ago, they are said to have cut a deal allowing Northern Ireland to keep the revenue from water rates in return for backing Gordon Brown’s bid to increase detention without trial in terror cases to 42 days in the face of a Labour rebellion.

But last time this was also bribery to put the Stormont show on the road. Where is the extra leverage this time if the gap is wider than 10 seats? The DUP will have to find allies with Scottish and Welsh Nats. And even then how would the massed ranks of the English in all parties react – including Conservatives – to blatant devolution favouritism when the serious belt tightening begins?

 Former Irish Times corr Conor O’Clery, back home and writing for an international audience, says of the Cameron dash:

…people here are scratching their heads and asking, why did he bother?…The real reason for his visit was to indirectly woo Northern Ireland’s largest party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with which Cameron has no links, but which is likely to win 10 or 11 seats

Funny way to woo with that jibe at the “Swish family Robinson.”

Gerry Moriarty has noticed some potential for influence on the nationalist side, where it not for the inconvenient fact of SF abstentionism, now deemed to be under pressure.

Were eight nationalist MPs, plus Lady Hermon, returned who could have a role in maintaining Labour in office, that would also raise questions about Sinn Féin’s abstentionist Westminster policy – particularly if Gordon Brown (or his Labour successor) came knocking with promises of largesse for Northern Ireland.

Ah those promises of largesse! Where do they think it’s coming from?


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

donate to keep slugger lit