Will DUP demands be small and parochial or will they look to shape wider government policy?

Theresa May has now stated that she will look to work closely with her “friends and allies” in the DUP, but the terms of this deal are yet to be set out. Many of the smaller parties early on in the campaign were keen to rule out any kind of coalition or deal with either Labour or the Conservatives, having seen the electoral impact on the Liberal Democrats for having made such a bargain in 2010.

The DUP however arguably does not face the same threat of backlash for “propping up” a Conservative government. The issues that dominate the political landscape in Northern Ireland are so different that the DUP may not need to gain much in the way of concessions from the Tories in order to be able to justify this new alliance to their core voters. The DUP’s success in gaining two Westminster seats in this election can largely be seen as a consolidation towards the extremes of Northern Irish politics with Sinn Fein also making gains. The nationalist surge in the recent assembly election scared unionists and they have reacted by consolidating around one voice in the form of the DUP. In losing their majority for the first time ever in Stormont, unionists were concerned that they were losing their grip on power and that calls for a border poll were starting to look more legitimate. What better way then to restate your dominance than by playing a significant role in the next government? Contrast this with 7 abstaining Sinn Fein MPs and 0 SDLP MPs removing the nationalist voice from Westminster entirely, and the question surely has to be asked has unionism in Northern Ireland ever looked stronger?

With regards to specific policy there are few big issues that the DUP and Conservatives actually disagree on. The deal that is therefore more likely to come should focus on funding and the “block grant” that is sent to Stormont. Given the size of the Northern Ireland economy though the small increases need to make a significant difference may seem like a small price to pay for the Conservatives in order to stay in power. However, one notable exception to the general consensus between DUP and Tory policy comes in the form of welfare spending. The DUP wishes to keep the universal winter fuel allowance and the pension’s triple lock, both policies that the Conservatives pledged to discontinue. It seems unlikely that the DUP would reasonably hold any sway if the Conservatives stick to their guns on these issues. But promising to scrap these policies has been very unpopular and touted as one of the reasons that the Conservatives failed to gain the majority they sought. This might suggest that a U-turn on welfare may come from the Conservatives for a number of reasons.

The final issue on which the DUP may wish to bolster their imput is Brexit. Like most parties however, the DUP has mainly stuck to very vague commitments with regards to Brexit saying only that they want a “good deal” for Northern Ireland. One thing they have been clear on however is that they do not want to see a hardening of the border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. What we may then see is the Northern Irish dimension simply taking a more prominent position in the negotiations with Europe.

While the interests of the DUP and of Northern Ireland are certainly expected to benefit from this situation it is not likely that the DUP will provide too much pushback against the Conservatives. The idea of a Labour government with left-wing policies and increased sympathies towards nationalists is so abhorrent to the DUP that keeping the Conservatives in power will always triumph over satisfying their own demands in the minds of Northern Ireland’s largest party.

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  • Zorin001

    At minimum they will push through whatever Anti-Terror legislation May drafts, though their Brexit discussions will be interesting, protection for agriculture?

  • notimetoshine

    The DUP have to tread carefully or they risk reigniting the West Lothian question. If May (or more likely her successor) has any sense they will revert to previous British policy on NI, cash cash and more cash. If the DUP have any sense they will extract concessions on NI and maybe Brexit and leave their social conservatism at the door.

    Interestingly I wonder how the Tories will manage given the new rules brought in during the Summer in 2015 dealing with English votes for English legislation. How will they push contentious England and Wales legislation through without the DUP votes? The same would apply of course with Labour and the SNP. Minority government will impede whatever party takes power.

  • notimetoshine

    The Tories have been quite clear that they are seeking a fundamental shift in how agriculture is subsidised. There was a great countryfile episode devoted to it, and the Tory consensus seems to be a lot less cash to fewer farmers. Now will they sacrifice that for the DUP? It would certainly be popular with some of the rural conservatives.

  • William Kinmont

    Dealing with fundamentalist terrorism has to be high up on the agenda for government. Preventing radicalisation and promoting integration. Subtle intervention is needed preventing religious beliefs that can lead to the problem but now we have partners in government who want creationism to be compulsory . Will this partnership also raise the terror threat in NI?

  • Sprite

    the Conservatives have clear majority in England alone so there won’t be any problem with EVEL

  • notimetoshine

    So they do, my mistake.

  • grumpy oul man

    You left out it links to a active terror group who also run a criminal empire.
    That should interest the English.

  • Sprite

    they brought the IRA into government and everyone was happy with that

  • grumpy oul man

    They didn’t bring the IRAinto goverment. The IRA DISBANDED.
    SF recieved a mandate from the nationlist population which brought them into goverment.
    Unionist fought tooth and nail against this when they had no chioce they aceppted it with bad grace.
    Now they will have to answer to the British people why they work with terrorists and drug dealers.
    Do you henestally think shouting themmuns and waving dead cats will work with people in Britain.
    And i look forward to the secterian signage on the bonfires and the DUP tolerance ( encouragement) of these displays of secterian (and being on the 10 o’clock news.
    Already the Scottish torys have said that they will not support any deal with the DUP.

  • The Irishman

    Nice post grumpy.

  • Patrick Jones

    We could actually have direct rule with a DUP Junior Minister ………..probably not on security but some combination of the other roles.

    Not a breach of GFA so why not?

  • erasmus

    From Conor Cruise O’Brien (not noted as an Irish republican propagandist) in 1973:
    ”If the Britishness of British Ulster struck many in Britain itself as a repellent parody, the parody was likely to grate on the Tories even more than the others, because it came closer to them. Ulster Unionism was, after all, an archaic and specialized form of Toryism. Its deportment was not suited to the image that the British Tories wanted for the late twentieth century.”

    As for the early twenty-first!!

  • Zorin001

    Because there’s no way that Sinn Fein will stand for it and it will all kick off.

  • Sprite

    looking at all the evidence it seems the IRA didn’t “go away” until 2015 or thereabouts – my point was merely that British governing parties, Labour or Tory can be very pragmatic regarding Ireland when it suits them

  • Gopher

    The DUP are going to be entering a media flak storm now they are essentially the government. They are going to be facing the big boys in the media and it will resemble one hell of a kicking at times. The DUP of course dont help themselves with the equal marriage nonsense but in order to offset the impending offensive they need to produce a result. I would strongly suggest that the DUP prove the are getting something for all Northern Ireland and the UK if possibe from the get go, like Passenger duty to hold two fingers up at any attacks and prove they are working for everyone.

    The second thing I would do is offer the most favourable terms for almagamation of the UUP. Aitken, Beattie, Dobson, Swann and Kinahan are too good to wither away. The DUP having decisively won the battle of unionism now needs to become a broad church especially now they are truly a UK party.

  • Zorin001

    I’m hoping that the national exposure might help push the more moderate wing (Hamilton, Pengelly) to the fore, they are far more polished and effective than some of the old soldiers like Sammy Wilson and Gregory.

    They are going to get a beasting over their social views, it’s already starting to pick up on social media so the MSM can’t be far behind.

  • grumpy oul man

    Whats”all the evidence” really pragmatic.
    Do you really think that Theresa’s opponents are just going to ignore the DUPs very unsavory

  • grumpy oul man

    Thank you.

  • Gopher

    They honestly dont know what is going to hit them

    “When the storm bursts they will look back to the days of RHI as a man caught in the blasts of a hurricane will look back to the gentle zephyrs of last summer”

    ( shamelessly plagiarizing Harris)

    Which is why they need to broaden, Sammy and Gregory are good at what they do and SF well deserve them but that wont do across the UK. They need to come out of that first round with May with something to prove they are entirely correct for going into national government in all but name. They also really need to use that victory to demonstrate to the electorate working the system brings rewards and they because they are a/ elected and b/ take their seats they bring home the rewards so voting for the other numpties is just plain stupid.

  • BERZERKERMG

    They are not capable of the type of negotiation you are talking about.

    Regardless of what concessions they win for NI they will never appeal to nationalists so this is an internal unionist joust. All the DUP propping up a Tory government bringing more austerity and Brexit will do is galvanize nationalist opinion against them.

    Which is why absorbing the Ulster Unionists doesn’t make sense. The only people they can compete with now are the Ulster Unionists. This is true for the nationalist parties too. All they have to compete with is each other. We’re locked into two parallel systems.

    The rivalries between the parties within each system are the real battles because it is impossible to beat the other system.

    At the next election expect a resurgence of the SDLP and the UUP. That is the only dynamic left that is possible.

    Could the DUP in theory work on behalf of all NI and work to guarantee a soft Brexit and a soft border? In theory, yes, but in reality, no. They will bend over backwards to appease the Tories and the Tories will steamroller over them. Just being seen to be relevant to the UK at large rather than their wee province is reward enough for the DUP supporters so their demands will be low. It’s all symbolism, no substance.

    They are going to be shown to be hopelessly out of their league Irish provincials very soon. But because they don’t stand in the mainland and will be unaffected by the flak they will get there, in a few years they will return to their parallel dimension in NI unscathed. It’s the best of both worlds – British as British gets and away in their own world at the same time.

  • Reader

    Zorin001: Because there’s no way that Sinn Fein will stand for it and it will all kick off.
    You think they might bring down the executive or something?
    (The DUP won’t get a NI junior ministry, of course! However, SF might prefer to put the Assembly tent back up again so that the DUP can be pulled back inside.)

  • Superfluous

    Read this earlier; “The DUP’s “price” for propping up a new Tory government will include a promise that there will be no separate post-Brexit status for Northern Ireland, the party’s leader in Westminster has confirmed.”

    It genuinely amazes me how utterly unimaginative the leaders of Unionism can be at times. If you want Northern Ireland to survive as an entity then it needs to become an entity worth saving – it needs to carve out its own niche within the United Kingdom – it needs to convince a growing percentage of its population that there is an economic benefit (other than state subsidies) in remaining in the Union.

    A half-in-half-out approach towards the EU could be a transformative niche for the Northern Irish economy to position itself in. Yet political Unionism is more interested in some puerile game of ‘don’t treat us any different from the mainland in case anyone thinks we’re less British’

  • Gopher

    Its a simple negotiation really and it goes something like this. We understand you have been embarrassed and we dont want to add to that, we dont want any positions or power or be bothered by the day to day running but we do require A, B and C to reflect our electoral success and our unqualified support. These are all a fraction of the HS2 cost and we would kinda like A right now to show we are nice people and our supporters it was worth voting for us in a monsoon. Those voters incidently saved your ass and they might do so again provided they are happy voters. Keep us up to speed on anything relating to the Border with regards brexit and good luck.

    Now if the DUP get A B and C and for arguements sake they are Passenger Duty, A New motorway and a Hospital, I salute your commitment if your a nationalist who bothers to vote in the next election. I cant stand them but lets be honest who cares if the earth is only 3000 years old if your on a new dual carriageway.

  • BERZERKERMG

    You’re right, they will demand very little to consolidate the unionist vote and get it, but I don’t see it affecting the nationalist vote at all. More than likely they will ask for things to antagonize nationalists, such as immunity for soldiers implicated in the Troubles, etc. That I think would be their form, not hospitals for nationalists.

  • Sprite

    I recently was at a talk on Brexit given by an academic from QUB. He was saying that the problem with half-in half-out is that over time the UK and EU regulatory requirements may diverge meaning that businesses here would have to work to two sets of regs, increasing costs on business.
    The UK staying in the single market or achieving free trade with the EU seems like the best outcome for everyone including the Republic.

  • grumpy oul man

    “Truly a UK party” lol how many seats on the big island will they run in next time round ,
    History tell us that everytime that unionist do a deal with the tories unionists get shafted .
    And the equal marriage thing is bed but the linked to terrorists thing will be worse for them.
    How long will the day in the sun last, already the gay leader of the Scottish conservatives has said that they wont work with the DUP.

  • grumpy oul man

    And from the tories largesse to the DUP arises. the west lothian question, never far away from the sizeable little Englander section of the tory party.
    Such fun .

  • Gopher

    So if the DUP are bringing home the bacon with Hospitals, Roads and Tax Relief your prepared to vote to end that?

  • Gopher

    Maybe it keeps you awake wondering what an Englishman does but me if he keeps writing the cheques he can knock himself out. One would also have to point out that is one advantage of being an abstentionist MP, absolutely no risk.

  • Gopher

    History tells us AE 2017 is in the past and GE2017 is the only game in town and whether or not they mess it up you actually have to give them credit for being in that game. What spin is Connelly House putting on the election? SF defeating the SDLP sounds more and more like mugging a granny.

  • Sprite

    You want sectarian hospitals? Can we not at least agree on access to medical care for everyone ?

  • grumpy oul man

    The DUP took two UUP seats but no Nationalist seat,
    SF took two seats of the SDLP and a unionist seat.
    I would imagine that SF is happy with the result.
    The DUP done a bit of granny mugging but they only mugged their own granny.
    There is now one more nationlist seat and one less unionist seat and you claim this as some sort of victory.
    I wish unionism many many such victorys in the future.

  • Gopher

    Sorry who was MP in South Belfast? Or does that not count?

  • grumpy oul man

    A lot of tories don’t want to write those cheques, and may needs their votes as well.
    But you are right about “no risk” a) the shinners need to do is wait till things get worse ant they can blame it on the DUP and the Tories.
    No mugs the shinners.

  • BERZERKERMG

    i’m not from the North so it makes no odds to me. But they won’t bring home the bacon. They will be cowed by their English superiors as all Irish provincials are and come home with very little. Every advantage they get will be negated if not outdone by the Tories Brexit policies which will skewer NI. Perhaps after a few years of being treated like crap by the English government and media the DUP will start to see the benefits of a united Ireland. 🙂 I doubt it because logic has long flown from that province but you never know. My only prediction for NI is that joint authority is the inevitable next step and the DUP’s charade with the Conservatives will not prevent that.

  • Gopher

    They did not say that, they stated that they would not tolerarate any interference of LGBT rights in the Mainland. I really think the DUP have enough on their plate with denial of LGBT rights in Northern ireland without trying to export that nonsense. LGBT rights remains a devolved issue and as there is no assembly there is nothing anybody can do about it presently.

    It also must be noted that since SF (and SDLP) turned LGBT rights and other issues into a Border Poll in AE 2017 we got a backlash fromthe DUP in GE2017 so what we need now is a reform of the petition of concern and an Assembly for a decent crack at getting them rather than just constantly using them as a weapon when there was a great chance of delivery

  • Gravychipplease
  • Gopher

    Sitting around doing nothing, now thats a plan.

  • Gopher

    Thanks for the positivity and the predictions. Unfortunately the One true Republics pockets are not that deep so I’ll surf the creationists, Tories and who ever else occupies Number 10 for a while yet as is my right in a parliamentary democracy. The bonus is the host nation has a great history and tradition so you dont actually feel like a mercenary.

  • BERZERKERMG

    You’re welcome, dude. That’s the great thing about compromise. The Brits will be paying half the bill as the tricolour is flying above Stormont. Win-win, as they say in Amerikay. Once it comes to 50-50, it really doesn’t matter whose pockets are the deeper.

  • james

    “Truly a UK party” lol how many seats on the big island will they run in next time round”

    You do know that Northern Ireland is in the UK, don’t you?

  • james

    Pretty sound analysis!

  • james

    ‘Kick off’?

    You mean they’d become terrorists again, basically?

  • grumpy oul man

    Am i goiing to have to start putting ” read this twice” after our exhanges.
    Go back and read Gophers post even you might notice he was the one who said they were NOW a truly uk party.

  • William Kinmont

    I agree with your analysis except for the last point. I find the daily infliction of religious propaganda on my children at school much more annoying than any bumpy road. A shiny new hospital here or motorway their may look great but who’s going to fund the maintainance once the coalition falls and the next administration says you have had too big a slice of cake last time have a wafer this time. Meanwhile we have perpetuated the acceptance of religious and tribal indoctrination into another batch of our youth the cost and damage of which will be well beyond any road.
    Perhaps they can negotiate some sort of Hoover dam type project that would give a perpetual return that would be hard to take away. Difficult to see what this would be in reality .
    In all probabiity the Torys already know what the Dup value their 40 pieces of silver at probably about 2 Presbyterian mutuals or one RHI.

  • grumpy oul man

    Within hours sa senior tory warn the PM about working with the DUP
    And yes it is a devolved matter but you are the ones claiming to be the same as hackney.
    This is only the start, be ready to be in a short popular goverment run by a tactician nearly as bad as Arlene.

  • grumpy oul man

    How does history tell us this ?

  • William Kinmont

    Tories will already know what Dup value their 40 pieces of silver at these days . It will be in the region of 2 presbiterian m utuals or one RHI.

  • Gopher

    Well if we get direct rule we are. The nature of the beast means means the DUP are only there when the Conservatives need a vote which might be 3 times a year or never. True the media will throw the kitchen sink at the DUP but that did not really harm Corbyn though with the BBC its always Labour good Consevatives bad. If the DUP produce results on passenger duty or the triple lock folks wont really care. At the end of the day the DUP did something that SF and Gerry in specifically hates, they stole all the headlines. The rational will see the DUP pound of flesh is much less than Scottish nationalists.

  • grumpy oul man

    I doubt they are sitting about doing nothing.
    The DUP will take the risks and as all junior members of coalition get shafted.
    The Shinner will play the noble opposition.
    Now thats a plan.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    When life gives you lemons make lemonade. While horrified and embarrassed that anyone could think the DUP represent me this could be taken as an opportunity along the line of “Englands (Tory’s) weakness is(N) Ireland’s opportunity” to misquote.

    If DUPers were to sell their support in exchange for building new economies in NI rather that wasting it in pork-barrel handouts such as roads, schools, hospitals and
    bloody flags then the next five-odd years could be a chance for us to create something for the future.

  • grumpy oul man

    Oh dear trolling again.
    But unionists such as yourself support terrorists.
    Afterall you support a party that is BFF with the UDA.
    No dont worry the Shinners are too smart to do something silly like the Flegs for example.
    But keep those dead cats coming the Brits are going to love them.

  • grumpy oul man

    Yep they certainly stole the headlined.
    Homophobes, links to terrorists, creationists.anti choice.
    The British papers are digging into them as we speak.
    Good headlines there.
    ” BBC Labour good Conseritive bad”
    You must have missed the BBC coverage of the election.
    Very few goverments in Mats positon rarely last long enough to actally do anything and only leave a very bad taste behind them.
    But get the begging bowl out.lets see how the west lothian bunch like more money going to NI and not being spent in thier consistency.
    This should be interesting.
    Whataboutry and mopery, the traditional debating tools of unionisn will have as little effect on the British as it does with the nationlist community.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    Does this mean that Brussels will be talking with the Conservative and Unionist Negotiating Team?

  • Gopher

    One thing Arlene could do to really wind up the Shinners is arrange a meeting with the Irish Prime Minister to talk about Brexit and keep him brief about their governmental position. It would demonstrate the paucity of SF strategy with regards relations on these Islands. I think this should be high on Arlenes to do list.

  • lizmcneill

    NI would be disproportionately affected by Tory policy. Again.

  • BERZERKERMG

    Perhaps she can bring Ian Paisley Jnr along to tell him he’s repulsive and harming himself and society.

  • Reader

    I think GOM is just implying that the SDLP aren’t nationalists; so that means he has probably gone over to the Shinners.

  • Reader

    lizmcneill: NI would be disproportionately affected by Tory policy. Again.
    Hey, I have a cunning plan to fix the problem. The issue is that currently a small fraction of the UK contributions to the EU are returned to the UK as e.g. farming subsidies and regional subsidies, right? While it’s a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things, it’s very important to the recipients.
    So, suppose the British government group the regional totals as per the snapshot right now and assign them to the regions in addition to the sums from the Barnett formula? Then e.g. EVEL could fix English agriculture, while the Northern Ireland Assembly could decide whether to continue to subsidise NI farming to the existing extent or to put some of the money towards paying DLA in perpetuity to the current recipients. And the Assembly Finance Minister gets a bigger car and a better SpAd to go with his/her increased budget.
    Meanwhile, the UK Government still gets to decide what to do with the Net contribution of 10 billion per year.

  • Gopher

    I’m sure in the present situation there will be a lot of introspection and politics in its purest form would breakout.

  • BERZERKERMG

    One can hope!

  • Paul Marshall

    🙂