Wednesday 13 December 2017

DUP rejected Tory coalition offer and opted for looser arrangement

Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster walks with newly elected Members of Parliament in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo: Reuters
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster walks with newly elected Members of Parliament in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photo: Reuters

Rob Merrick

The confidence and supply deal struck by the Tories with the DUP yesterday was apparently the second choice for the under-fire Conservative Party.

Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson yesterday flew to Belfast to push for the 10 DUP MPs to enter into a formal coalition agreement, rather than simply propping up the Government on key votes - as in a confidence and supply deal.

May had decided she needed the strength of coalition to bolster her chances of keeping her Government alive, amid growing pressure from angry Tory MPs and members. Number 10 said the chief whip was exploring "how best they can provide support to the Government". A source last night confirmed that coalition was on the table.

However, it was thought the DUP was wary of coalition, given the miserable fate of the Liberal Democrats after entering government with the Conservatives. Later, Downing Street confirmed that the DUP agreed to the principles of an outline agreement to support the Conservatives on a confidence and supply basis.

This will mean the DUP backing Theresa May on its budget and other key votes and - crucially - preventing it being brought down by motions of no confidence.

Neil Carmichael, a former select committee chairman who failed to keep his seat last week, said: "The DUP has the potential to push the Conservative Party out to the right. On Brexit, I have argued that we need to come back to the middle, including people who voted to Remain. This has to be about where Britain goes - not just a chunk of Britain.

"And then there's Northern Ireland itself. The government is apparently brokering a return to Stormont - but how can it if it has some of the politicians in its own camp?"

Former minister Ed Vaizey highlighted the danger of any DUP tie-up, saying: "I come from the liberal wing of the Conservative party. I'm not going to support any legislation that I would regard as socially illiberal, taking this country backwards."

Sarah Wollaston, chairwoman of the health select committee, insisted that any deal with the DUP must not be allowed to influence policies on the death penalty, gay rights, education or abortion.

"I will always support the right for women to choose and access safe termination of pregnancy and will oppose any change to the legislation," she tweeted. "I will never agree to any dilution of LGBT rights. Creationism in schools? Hell no. If any of that is a condition of confidence and supply it simply won't work."

Alex Maskey, a Sinn Fein member of the Belfast Assembly, said a deal could "prove to be reckless" for Northern Ireland, adding: "The British public should have full scrutiny of the DUP and what that party represents."

Earlier, Scottish Tory Ruth Davidson, who is gay, revealed she had demanded assurances from May over gay rights should the Tories do a deal with the DUP. She again challenged her leader when she refused to say that Britain should pull out of the EU single market, as May wants.

Instead, Davidson said: "There's an awful lot of issues surrounding Brexit that need to be discussed. Clearly, there is no majority government that's come through after this election. That means we do have to listen to the other parties and that means we have to listen to others actors and agents - and that is exactly what we will do."

It will be months before we get a reliable estimate of turnout among young people from high-quality surveys.

In the meantime, we can note that the average increase in turnout was just over a point higher in constituencies with more young voters than elsewhere.

©Independent

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