Why the DUP has acquired real power at Westminster (even if it cannot be overused)…

Nice piece by Jon Worth on what’s at stake here for the Tories as compared to the DUP….

…every day that drags on without a deal for May is one more win for the DUP – they are doing their job in the UK press making Northern Ireland’s issues heard.

Ultimately all the DUP has to do is keep May’s government stumbling forward, and extract concessions on a case by case basis. The first case of this could be next week – if the DUP abstains on the Queen’s Speech vote the Tories will win that vote 317 to 315, close enough to give May serious jitters.

Plus with the complicated rules to force a no confidence vote thanks to the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act it would be entirely conceivable that May’s government cannot get much of its legislative programme through the Commons, but the DUP would choose to not topple her as they would actually like a Corbyn premiership far less.

The government would be bound to a DUP-enforced stasis. While the Brexit clock is ticking.

That’s not to say that this is what the DUP want. They clearly do want delivery. And they will tell you that whatever internal fears the Tories have in terms of DUP illiberalism, instant publication of the deal would allay most of them.

The longer this ‘fight for Northern Ireland’ goes on the greater the scope the party has for getting out the tribalist bear pit in which the NI media prefer to see them trapped.

And yet a good deal also allows them to cast themselves (if they have the self-control) and unambiguously as the ones who brought home the actual bacon, whilst making themselves hard for any one government agency to push around.

Jon, again:

…the DUP might be small (in terms of MPs total) but they have the power to cause May enormous problems. They can make huge demands without any sanction if they do not see these demands achieved.

At the same time, they can play things to make sure May’s government nevertheless survives. The Tories can whinge about them but the critique washes over Arlene Foster and her band.

It washes over the DUP:

  • one, because the special enmity which they enjoy/endure with the local NI press has given them the political equivalent of a commando training;
  • two, in the present circumstances they have been gifted real (if limited) power at Westminster.

Far from endangering the peace, as the greybeards of the Peace Process™ era solemnly warn us, the DUP’s use of bona fide democratic power could help them strengthen (if not broaden) the perception they are in it for everyone after all. [Don’t hold yer breath! – Ed]

We can all see the reasons the Treasury is digging in, but whatever the hysterical reaction in GB, in Northern Ireland it’s pretty clear right now that there’s only one party using active channels of power pursue the peacetime interests of Northern Ireland.

It’s also by far the most positive story the DUP have had running for more than a couple of days at time in the NI press since their establishment. It’s narrative as action. Danny Finkelstein:

…you progress and explain who you are through action. So this idea of narrative, far from being the empty creation of public relations experts, is really about the doing and the action and transforming characters through action and not simply telling.

And as we noted back in 2003, the position which both unionist and nationalists find themselves in post-Belfast Agreement Northern Ireland is analogous to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which is…

…not a zero-sum game, where one player’s gain is necessarily the other’s loss. if total victory for one side is impossible, there are only two outcomes: both sides do well, or both sides do poorly. As a result, comparisons are deceptive. ‘Asking how well you are doing compared to how well the other player is doing is not a good standard unless your goal is to destroy the other player,’ Axelrod advises.

The problem for their countless opponents is that “the NI story” wasn’t ever supposed to take such an odd and apparently inexplicable turn. That’s largely to do with a great deal of ball watching and the consumption of far too much popcorn, apparently at the DUP’s expense.

‘In strategy, it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.’

Miyamoto Musashi

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

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