Theresa May Theresa May. Photo: Flickr/World Economic Forum

The Prime Minister’s deal with the DUP has significant implications, writes Chris Bambery

The £1 billion Theresa May plucked from the magic money tree in order to secure the support of the Democratic Unionist Party is something that is going to come back and haunt her throughout the short life time this government will be in office.

It will be short. The DUP deal is just for two years, which suggests they believe a general election is likely within that time span. Little wonder. Even with the support of the 10 DUP MPs, it gives May a majority of just eleven in the House of Commons. That will be whittled down by by-elections the bookies will mark her down to lose and by any rebellions among her backbenchers. Tory MPs under David Cameron, and now her, have become more and more rebellious because of their dissatisfaction with the leadership – they never forgave Cameron for not winning outright in 2010 and then taking them into coalition with the Liberal Democrats; now they will be unforgiving regarding May’s disastrous decision to call a snap general election and the pathetic campaign she ran.

But having told nurses they could not get a pay rise because there was no magic money tree, her sudden discovery that it exists and can provide £1 billion for her friends in the North of Ireland has created a new political ball game.

Addressing her DUP deal, Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones accused the Prime Minister of ”ignoring the rest of the UK… 

“It is outrageous that the Prime Minister believes she can secure her own political future by throwing money at Northern Ireland whilst completely ignoring the rest of the UK.”

He added:

“This is a short-term fix which will have far-reaching and destabilising consequences.”

He is right. Having been told there is £1 billion for infrastructure, the NHS and more in Northern Ireland but not for Wales, Scotland and England’s regions and cities, the Tory government will face the demand from all of them that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

But that’s not all. Tory backbenchers, their minds alert to the possibility of a fresh general election, will be very concerned over the performance of their local hospital or over the provision of care for the elderly. All of them will be looking for some pickings from that magic money tree.

Meanwhile the divisions over Europe still haunt the Tory Party. They can explode over whether this government pursues a hard or soft Brexit. The DUP, despite backing Leave, want a soft border with the Irish Republic but, and it is a big but, if that is achievable it opens up a Pandora’s Box.  Firstly, the Scottish government will demand the same deal. Secondly, Tory Brexiteers will not want the UK’s back door with the Irish Republic to be open to any EU citizen who wants to come through it, the Irish Republic will, as part of the EU, allow free movement to all EU citizens.

Then we have Tory grandees like John Major, Michael Heseltine and Chris Patten opposing the deal with the DUP because they rightly see it as endangering the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. They probably realise that the DUP deal also means Sinn Fein can get closer to the EU and push forward their agenda of achieving a United Ireland.

All in all Theresa May’s deal with the DUP has major ramifications. But the biggest one will be that anyone demanding extra money or an end to cuts to welfare spending or pay will reference that £1 billion. This is a government already looking shambolic over its response to the Grenfell Tower fire and in which there are clear divides at Cabinet level – with Philip Hammond making clear his differences over Brexit with May.

That’s good news for Jeremy Corbyn and good news for all of us fighting austerity.

Chris Bambery

Chris Bambery is an author, political activist and commentator, and a supporter of Rise, the radical left wing coalition in Scotland. His books include A People's History of Scotland and The Second World War: A Marxist Analysis.

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