Arlene Foster said she'd prefer to focus on Brexit negotiations ahead of any election. However, she may also be conscious of the fact that her party risks losing its position as Westminster kingmakers—and several seats in Northern Irelandby Siobhán Fenton / September 3, 2019 / Leave a comment
As Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks set to plunge the UK into a fresh general election, the DUP have been among Brexit backers cheering him on. DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said he and his colleagues will vote for a new election. However, his party leader Arlene Foster has since undercut his enthusiasm with a note of caution: “We’re not afraid of elections, but we don’t believe it’s the right time.”
Foster cited a desire to focus on Brexit negotiations first. However, she may also be conscious of the fact that a general election runs the risk of her party plucked from its position of holding the balance of power at Westminster.
Not only is it unlikely that we would see a repeat of the exact mathematics of the 2017 election which enabled her party to enter a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Conservatives, but the DUP may also lose seats.
Northern Ireland is divided into 18 constituencies whose seats are currently split along the following lines: the DUP holds 10 seats, followed by Sinn Féin with 7 seats and the independent unionist politician Lady Sylvia Hermon holds the final seat. As Irish Republicans, Sinn Féin do not accept the authority of Westminster and so abstain from entering the House of Commons.
The 2017 election represented historic highs for both the DUP and Sinn Féin who managed to nudge out their more moderate counterparts in the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) respectively.
Polling published this weekend by reputable Northern Ireland polling group Lucid Talk suggests that the DUP could be at risk of losing a number of seats if a fresh election happens now. This appears to be in part because pro-Remain unionists are turning elsewhere.
Recent elections in Northern Ireland suggests that the Alliance Party, a staunchly pro-Remain and pro-backstop party which advocates liberal and anti-sectarianism views, is surging. In the May local elections, the party almost doubled its vote share from 6.7 per cent to 11.5 per cent. Later that same month, the party’s surge continued and it managed to secure its first ever MEP.
It appears the party is breaking through Northern Ireland’s traditional ‘orange’ and ‘green’ boundaries, as younger, liberal voters consider Brexit above the…