Monday 26 June 2017

The Tories' Damning DUP Deal

In all the years I've been following, commenting on, criticising, and campaigning against the Conservative Party and the interests they represent there was never a time or an occasion, including the concession of the EU referendum, that sums up their decadence and short-sightedness quite like the deal finalised with the Democratic Unionists today. Where do you begin, really? In a bizarre case of projection and blow back, every insult, threat and warning spat at the Labour Party has fantastically rebounded. "There is no magic money tree" droned a succession of borg-like ministers, before a cool £1bn extra is suddenly found for Northern Ireland. "Voting Labour means a Coalition of Chaos!" ranted excitable headlines in declining newspapers. Meanwhile, the Tories are dependent on a cranky and capricious outfit that can, at any time, demand extra concessions for continued support. Smart. And need we mention the irony of attacking Jeremy Corbyn for cuddling up to terrorist sympathisers, when the DUP's links to loyalist death squads can be laid out by any pre-schooler with a rudimentary knowledge of Google?

All this is absolutely terrible for the Conservative Party. The DUP are what they are, nothing more need be said about their appalling politics. Yet you have to hand it to them: they fought hard and well in this instance for the constituencies they represent, and that billion quid extra is much needed for the North. Still, their partnership, civil or otherwise, is a bloody stupid thing for the Tories to do. Well versed in the divide and rule game that May's predecessors played with alacrity, it's bad enough from a self-imposed position of miserly cuts to throw money at a problem of parliamentary arithmetic but it adds strain to their precious union as well. If Northern Ireland can get extra cash, why not Wales? Why not the South West? The Midlands? Now a precedent of sorts is set, this leaves the government open to pressure from backbenchers and gifts Labour another attack line, which is just the tonic in the so-called "left behind" seats we retreated in at the election. Divisive politics are never smart politics in the long run.

In his lead up to 2010, Dave made a good show of taking the sting out of the Tories. They embraced social liberalism and threw over the racist and homophobic garbage. For some they looked a bit more in tune with the times, and they were duly given a punt by enough of the electorate on this basis - despite promising damaging cuts to public spending. It's true enough the Parliamentary party now has more women, BME and lesbian, bi, and gay MPs than ever before. Yet none of this will wash while that same crowd looks on aghast. It's one thing to toady after Middle Eastern countries that flog and execute gay people, but quite another to publicly parade an arrangement with their co-thinkers nearer to home. However, there is one sliver of a positive here for the Tories. That volatile UKIP vote May was able to win back might think a Tory government beholden to DUP-y social mores is just the tonic the country needs.

And so Theresa May is sacrificing future electoral fortunes and the chances of her successor for a two year crack at Brexit. We'll see how that goes.

The biggest problem, the most difficult and irresponsible turn is what the deal means for the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland. For the sake of an easier time in the Commons, May and the Tories are prepared to risk the hard work done by previous governments and province politicians in making the deal work. The UK government is positioned in the agreement as a neutral arbiter when it comes to disputes between the parties. This was and remains a constitutional fiction, but it has so far proven a successful - recent difficulties notwithstanding - arrangement. By going in with the DUP, the Tories make the fiction explicit. In all serious, as it brokers talks at sorting out power sharing how can it possibly say no to the DUP when its viability depends on their votes? It cannot, and Sinn Fein are right to call bullshit. This isn't to say the Tories are courting a return of violence in the North - there is very little appetite on either side for this, especially among the young. But it is a reckless course to take just so they can cling on to office. Another example in a roll call of infamy of putting their narrow party interest above all else.

Notwithstanding another crisis, and there are events aplenty that could blow the government off its Brexit course, it does look like the Tories may have bought enough time for themselves. But for what? I'm reminded of the fabled Oak Island Money Pit. Reputed to be the home of buried treasure, for 150 years prospectors and adventurers have poured resources into excavating shafts that have turned nothing up but a few bits of wood, tonnes of dirt, and an expensive dollop of disillusion. This Tory-DUP deal is the Conservatives' own money pit. They're digging a hole and don't care what it costs, be it political capital, reputation, competence, party unity, for the prize of handling a set of negotiations that, irrespective of outcome, is going to make Britain worse off. Come the end of the process and the Prime Minister is packed off to the knacker's yard, May can expect one of the less flattering entries in the history books and, provided Labour's rise is the shape of things to come, a generation or longer out of power cannot be ruled out.

For all this they're prepared to put the Good Friday Agreement into jeopardy. If that doesn't damn them, I don't know what will.


Ben Philliskirk said...

At least we now know that, while being opposed to most things, the DUP are very keen on prostitution.

Robert said...

Roll on a united Ireland and an end to the DUP trousering a billion pounds in exchange for propping up the Tories.