After last night’s election losses that saw Theresa May’s Tory Party denied an overall majority in the Commons, it was perhaps inevitable that they would turn to the Democratic Unionist Party to prop them up. A reminder: this is not a coalition; it is an arrangement between the party of government and another party. There is no joint programme as there would be between two parties entering a coalition. It is a formal agreement between a smaller party and the larger party to support government policies on an issue by issue basis. The Lib Dems could have chosen this option but decided to opt for government instead. Perhaps fearing a future wipeout by the Ulster Unionist Party, who are the natural allies of the Tories, the DUP picked the least worse option. By the way, there are no UUP MPs in the Commons, so the only Unionist Party that May could turn to was the DUP, who, along with Independent Unionist, Sylvia Hermon, have supported the Tories in the Commons since 2015.
So what do we know about the DUP?
The DUP is a socially conservative political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded by Dr Ian Paisley and Desmond Boal in 1971 from the remains of the Protestant Unionist Party. It was, until recently, in a power-sharing government with their mortal enemies, Sinn Féin. During its time in government, the DUP has opposed equal marriage and abortion, and are climate change deniers. This will make a few socially liberal Tories feel rather uncomfortable. If you think the Tories are stuck in the 19th century, the DUP lives in the 17th century.
As I wrote in this article from 2015, the party has links to Loyalist paramilitaries like the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando. At times, the DUP has been referred to as “political wing of the UDA”.
Why does any of this matter?
Throughout the General Election campaign, the Tories and their allies in the media accused Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and, to a lesser extent, Diane Abbott of being “IRA/terrorist sympathizers”. Their reasons for doing this were tenuous: Corbyn spoke to representatives of Sinn Féin, and not the IRA, in order to facilitate a peaceful end to the so-called ‘Troubles’. The Tories thought that by linking Corbyn et al to the IRA, they could claim he was “soft on terrorism” and put an end to his momentum. Now the Tories are in a working relationship with the DUP, whose links to Loyalist paramilitaries – terrorists, if you will – are well known. The Tories find themselves in a deliciously hypocritical position after spending much of the campaign smearing Corbyn for his “appeasement of Britain’s enemies”. The Tories can now be cast as ‘terrorist sympathizers’.
So what happens now?
We wait and see. Nowhere Towers doesn’t think the government will last 12 months. As for May herself, The Cat has heard there are moves afoot to remove her. Tory think-tank, the Bow Group, has called for leadership elections. Watch this space.