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?


  • Cynic

    I think that the DUP in particular need to be careful of the reverse opposition. Their behaviour and lies in this campaign have been so bad that, should the Conservatives have a workable majority and no need of them in Westminster, they will be in a very vulnerable position.

    They may calculate that they are too important to lose in NI but that too may be a severe myopic miscalculation and over assessment of their importance. The Tories have lots of places to go and things to do. The DUPs don’t and have shunted themselves into a parochial, sectarian, political siding in NI.

    If Labour win, then they are safe. If they don’t and I was Cameron, I would have my revenge

  • Neil

    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?

    Again, as it points out in the Telegraph article 10 seats is +10 for the Tories, -10 for Labour, so it’s actually 20 votes of a difference between the parties. Where si the extra leverage? Last time Gordon needed the 42 days, but he was already PM. This time Dave may require those MPs to get the keys to number 10.

    So it’s not about putting Stormont back on the road, but it is about fulfilling the one and only aim of David Cameron, i.e. it puts him in power. If the numbers work out that way obviously. And in my opinion, Dave would do anything to get in power (well it’s his job really), I don’t think that if push comes to shove that he will give two hoots for the UUs if he has to decide between them and the PM job.

    Obviously it’s all speculation at this point, the proof will be in the pudding. Looking forward to it now to see how things pan out, should be an intersting election.

  • Michaelhenry

    britans primeminister never came to IRELAND during this election, shows us that the brits have no interest in us, just has well that we have no interest in them.

  • andnowwhat

    It maybe shows that Gordon knows better than to get involved in the crap that passes as politics in NI Michael.

    The UNCUF debarcle shows that it would be a wise choice

  • Greenflag

    It has taken over 40 years and several thousand lives and billions of pounds in property damage to get the local NI politicians to sit in the same room and discuss local NI politics without ‘eating’ or worse killing each other . We saw on the NI leader’s debate that people who ten years or even 5 years ago would’nt cross the road to spit at each other now routinely (most of them ) work together .

    Let sleeping dogs lie is the better option . Full marks to Mr Brown for avoiding stirring up local NI passions and the opposite for Mr Cameron for weighing in on the side of the UUP and maybe later the DUP in what can only be described as a naked grab for power at any and all cost to NI’s fragile settlement.

  • Greenflag

    Rubbish MH . Britain is still Ireland’s biggest export market and we are Britain’s third or fourth biggest export market . As well as that almost 25% of Britain’s population can trace some ancestry back to Ireland (the 26 counties) within two to three generations . Include NI and it’s even more .

    We have every interest in Britain . Apart from being our nearest neighbour we have to rely on them to stop the people of Northern Ireland from eating each other if and when the current political accomodation ever blows up.

    If Britain had no interest in NI why do they support NI financially to the tune of 6 billion pounds a year in English taxpayers money ? Would’nt you think the English could find other ways to spend their taxpayer’s dosh ? I suppose NI will soon find out the hard way that he who pays the piper etc will at least call the tune .

    With something like one third of the British population undecided still this election can go anyway .

  • John East Belfast

    Gordon Brown didnt visit NI because he outrageously doesnt put up candidates here – it is a bloody disgrace and one can only assume it is because of the influence of the Irish republican element within the Scottish Labour party and the remaining scattering of trots etc within the wider labour party.

    If you look at the Westminster results for the last 100 years (that the Belfast Telegraph is doing) you will see that the NI Labour Party regularly polled almost half the East Belfast vote – this dispenses the notion that protestants just voted for whatever muppet the Unionist Party put up – infact the DUP basically capitalised on this vote in later years and contributes to why Robinson has been in power – the protestant working class vote.

    What NI ultimately needs is the ending of both the UUP & DUP and the full setting up of UK Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties.
    The Nationalists can then have their own parties like they do in Scotland and Wales if they want

  • John Joe

    Not sure if people are really grasping the actual mathematics here. You need 326 of the 650 seats to command a majority (whether that counts as a working majority is a different matter). With SF abstention, a de facto majority would probably be 324 (of 646, for the sake of argument).
    The Tories have been clocking around 260-290 in the polls as listed on the BBC website, so if you take a standard +/-3% margin of error into account, that is, in effect, at very best 270-300 seats, or 25 short of a majority. Chances are around 7 SF/SDLP MPs will be returned, with at most, probably 11 unionist MPs (although would Sylvia Hermon take the Tory whip?). Taking into account the highest likely return of 15 or so SNP and Plaid MPs, even if he manages to cobble together such an unlikely rainbow coalition (SNP, PC, DUP, UUP, Ind Us), the number barely reaches above the de facto figure of 324.
    Whether he can conjure up such a perfect storm on Thursday (and the polls are accurate) just feels unlikely. And, in the event of such a close call, this is all assuming that Labour cannot woo away any one of the above and scupper the deal. Of course, with so much of the vote being claimed uncommited, this is all very speculative.

  • Northern Irish in London

    Rather interesting article in on the front page of CityAM (free daily financial paper in London) where Tory business secretary shows the the Tories true colours
    “The idea of negotiations with Lib Dems, Scottish Nationalists, Ulstermen and so on fills me with horror. I think our creditors outside the United Kingdom would regard the electorate as slightly ridiculous if they plunge us into such a problem,”