That the Tories are having trouble with their new "friends" won't come as a shock to anyone who follows Northern Irish politicsby Siobhan Fenton / June 22, 2017 / Leave a comment
After the general election yielded a surprise minority government, panic ensued in London as the previously obscure Democratic Unionist Party’s 10 MPs unexpectedly held the balance of power at Westminster.
Attempts by the Conservatives to court the DUP’s support for a pact which would prop up their minority government began immediately. The morning after the election result, Theresa May appeared bleary-eyed but determined on the steps of Downing Street, referring to the DUP as “friends and allies.”
At the time, many Tories breathed a sigh of relief. They may not have secured a majority government, but the DUP’s support seemed all but signed off, and that would be enough for May to cling to power and keep Labour out of Downing Street.
One week on, however, and the friendship is looking decidedly more strained. A pact has still to be formally agreed, and signs suggest tensions between the parties are growing.
Unconfirmed claims have emerged that the DUP has asked for £2bn of public money to be allocated to Northern Ireland in exchange for their support, but that the Conservatives have refused, fearing backlash from other parts of the UK at this apparent special treatment.
DUP sources have since briefed journalists in Westminster that they are not happy at how they are being treated by their new Tory colleagues, many of whom have been outspoken about the DUP’s policy of blocking marriage equality in Northern Ireland and supporting the region’s abortion ban. One told the Guardian that Conservative backbench MPs need to “stop whinging” and “show us some respect.”
Today, government sources told the Daily Telegraph that the DUP refused to answer any phone calls from the Conservatives delegation for 36 hours.
The marriage of convenience appears to be at risk of unravelling.
Anyone familiar with Northern Irish politics will be unsurprised at the DUP’s behaviour. While many in England have perceived the party as provincial country bumpkins who would jump at the chance of wielding power in Westminster—and take any deal offered to them—in reality the DUP are shrewd and highly skilled negotiators.
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