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.