Why Theresa May’s new alliance with the DUP is so controversial

The latest on the 2017 General Election results

Theresa May remains defiant despite a disastrous General Election night that ended in a hung parliament. Making a speech on the steps of Downing Street on Friday after visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace, May announced her plan to form a government in alliance with the DUP.

‘What the country needs more than ever is certainty, and having secured the largest number of votes and the greatest number of seats in the General Election it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist Party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons,’ May said.

The DUP deal is being dubbed an ‘Irish Bailout’, but who are the DUP and why should an alliance with them be a cause for concern?

Who are the DUP?

The DUP or Democratic Unionist Party is the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland. The new DUP alliance with the Tories gives May a Conservative majority of 12. However, the PM had previously claimed she would not be able to deliver Brexit without a strong majority and this new alliance will have come at a cost. DUP leader Arlene Foster has previously spoken out against a hard Brexit, something May wants to deliver, a stance that is likely to affect the PM’s Brexit negotiations. The DUP are also in favour of keeping a triple-lock on pensions, which the Tories had pledged to scrap.

Many have also expressed concern over the DUP’s historically hardline views on gay rights, abortion and climate change. Members of the party have called homosexuality ‘disgusting’ and ‘an abomination’ and in 2011 debated the return of the death penalty. The DUP are staunchly anti-abortion. It is illegal to have an abortion in Northern Ireland, even in the case of rape, incest or a fatal foetal disability. Speaking on Radio 4, former Tory minister Owen Paterson suggested the alliance could spark a parliamentary debate on reduction of the abortion cut-off time. ‘You might get a debate, I suppose, on further reduction of abortion times as medical science advances’, he said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster is already a controversial figure after coming under fire for the ill-fated ‘cash for ash’ scheme, which cost Northern Ireland’s taxpayers £490 million. But arguably one of the biggest fears of the alliance is how it could affect the Northern Ireland peace process. The government was considered to be an ‘honest broker’ between rival parties the DUP (which favours being part of Britain) and republican party Sinn Fein. Can the government maintain impartiality now that it is being effectively propped up by one side? Sinn Fein has already accused the DUP of ‘betraying Northern Ireland’ by entering into the agreement.

‘One of the most extreme political entities in the British Isles, the 8 MPs of the DUP, is to wag the tail of Mrs May’s minority Government’ tweeted Jon Snow. Author Robert Harris added that May’s reaction to the hung parliament and decision to team up with the DUP was ‘North Korean’ in its defiance. ‘No hint of apology or regret in PM’s statement’ he wrote, ‘No humility. Full North Korean mode. She won’t last long.’

 

At 7am we wrote:

It’s been a rough night for Prime Minister Theresa May. In a shock General Election result the Conservatives have lost their majority and Britain is now heading for a hung parliament.

The snap General Election, called just ten weeks ago, had been intended to shore up the Prime Minister’s Tory majority to ensure a ‘strong and stable’ government ahead of Brexit talks, which are scheduled to begin in just ten days. But as the results came in overnight, it became clear that Mrs May had lost her gamble as the Conservative result looked increasingly set to fall short of the 326-seat majority needed to form a government.

The first shock was delivered by the 10pm exit poll that predicted a hung parliament, despite polls earlier that day suggesting Theresa May would win the election by a landslide. Beginning with Labour victories in Newcastle and Sunderland, the night brought plenty of surprises, with Conservatives losing 26 seats to the Labour Party and five to the Liberal Democrats.

Brexit appears to have played a role in many of the Tory losses as seats were gained by Labour in Remain-supporting urban areas, including Bristol and London, where traditionally blue seats such as Battersea turned red. Overnight five cabinet ministers also lost their seats, including Jane Ellison (financial secretary to the Treasury), Gavin Barwell (housing minister) and James Wharton (international development minister). Other prominent politicians to lose seats were Nick Clegg, who lost his Lib Dem Sheffield Hallam seat to Labour and former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

Jeremy Corbyn and Labour did vastly better than expected, in part thanks to a surge of young voters, with a record million registered to vote in the last month and a turnout of 72% among 18 – 24 year olds. The overall voter turnout was 69% – the highest since 1997.

Will Theresa May resign?

After a disastrous night for the Tories, doubts are now being raised about May’s position as leader of the Conservatives. ‘It was a dreadful campaign’ Conservative MP Anna Soubry told BBC news, while former Chancellor George Osborne said May’s manifesto was the ‘worst in history.’ If May does resign as Prime Minister she will become the shortest-lived incumbent since Bonar Law in 1922. May’s decision to call an election to secure a stronger majority is now being called ‘arrogant’ and political pundits have suggested her resignation is likely.

We have a hung parliament. What happens now?

Now the Conservatives have lost their majority Britain is faced with a hung parliament. As leader of the ruling party, provided she doesn’t step down immediately then Theresa May will remain in Downing Street for now and be given the first opportunity to form a government. If she fails and resigns then Jeremy Corbyn would be the next in line. A hung parliament does not necessarily mean Britain will be run by a coalition government, as it was in 2010. The PM could instead rely on something called ‘a confidence-and-supply’ deal, drawing support from smaller allies in return for policy agreements.

Either way, there will be intensive rounds of negotiations between the various parties to hammer out a deal. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP has previously ruled out working with the Conservatives completely, while Tim Farron of the Lib Dems has said the Labour and Conservative pledges to take the UK out of the single market would be a deal breaker.

On 5th June, we wrote…

What is the General Election definition?

The UK parliament website defines a General Election as ‘an opportunity for people in every part of the UK to choose their MP – the person who will represent their local area (constituency) in the House of Commons for up to five years’, adding, ‘usually the political party that wins the most seats in the House of Commons forms the Government.’

When is the General Election 2017?

The General Election 2017 will take place on Thursday 8th June. To vote you must be 18 years of age or over on polling day, a UK resident with an address in the UK or a UK citizen living abroad who has been registered to vote in the last 15 years.

What are the General Election Polls saying?

Polling companies claim 95% accuracy so their predictions aren’t always on the money – most predicted a Remain vote in last year’s EU Referendum. The overall prediction is of a Conservative win, but a less comfortable one than the Tories might have predicted a month ago thanks to a surge of young people registering to vote and an apparent surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Results vary depending on the polling company: Survation puts Labour just one point behind the Tories in the election battle, YouGov results show a four-point lead for the Tories, while ICM and ComRes give a Conservative lead of twelve points.

General Election 2017

General Election 2017: Theresa May on the campaign trail

When will we find out the General Election results?

Polling stations across the country will be open from 7am to 10pm this Thursday 8th June for the General Election 2017. Find out where your local polling station is by entering your postcode here. After the polling stations close the votes will be counted, with the earliest results announced at 12am from the North-East, including Durham and Sunderland. Jeremy Corbyn’s Islington North constituency results will come in at 2.30am, Theresa May’s constituency of Maidenhead in Berkshire should declare by 4am, followed by Tim Farron at 6am. Tradition dictates that the leader of the losing party must concede victory to the winning party before they officially declare their victory. We should get a clear idea of who has won by 7am, though this could vary depending on how close the result is.

What happens if there’s a hung parliament?

The Conservatives – our current ruling party – hold 330 seats in Parliament. In a General Election the victorious party must win at least 326 seats to hold a majority, but if no party manages to do so then we’ll have what’s known as a hung parliament. This happened in the 2010 General Election, when no party managed to secure a majority (the seat breakdown was 306 for the Conservatives, 258 for Labour and 57 for Lib Dems) and the Tory leader David Cameron struck a deal with the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg that formed a coalition government.

General Election 2017

General Election 2017: Could we see a hung parliament, as we did in 2010?

How have political party leaders reacted to the question of a hung parliament? Theresa May has said there will be a ‘coalition of chaos’ if her party doesn’t secure a majority, while Jeremy Corbyn claimed his answer to a coalition question, if it arises, will only come on 9th June. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP has ruled out working with Conservatives completely – even though the SNP-Con seat numbers are predicted to make them the most obvious coalition duo – while Tim Farron of the Lib Dems has said the Labour and Conservative pledges to take the UK out of the single market would be a deal breaker.

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