In a month of governmental backlash and own goals, Theresa May has once again come under fire from sceptics who have denounced the £1bn payment to the Democratic Unionists Party as nothing more than a ‘bung’.
The sweetener is funding that the Conservatives have promised to make available to Northern Ireland to aid the economy there; despite a general election manifesto that was once again centred around austerity for the rest of the UK.
Wales’ first minister, Carwyn Jones, believes the deal is a ‘straight bung’ that forced the DUP’s hand and ensured they ratified the Conservative’s minority government.
“Today’s deal represents a straight bung to keep a weak prime minister and a faltering government in office,” he told the BBC.
“Only last week we were told that the priority was to ‘build a more united country, strengthening the social, economic and cultural bonds between England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
“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.”
The Tory defence secretary, Michael Fallon, has gone on record to defend the deal. “I saw it described, ridiculously today, as some kind of bung to the DUP,” he told Radio 4. “The DUP is not getting this money. The money is going to invest in the people of Northern Ireland.
“Let’s be clear – we all have an interest in the future prosperity and security of the province. This is £1bn that will go to improving some investment, improving the infrastructure of the province, growing the private economy of the province, and ensuring its employment rate – which is behind Wales and Scotland – catches up.”
The latest controversy comes in the wake of a month to forget for Theresa May and the Conservatives, who have come in for staunch criticism for a perceived lack of action on UK-based terrorism and a failure to act on tower block housing conditions in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
Given the rather disturbing background of the DUP, you wonder if their grip on 10 Downing Street will wain yet further as the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn soars once more.
Kings (And Queen) of the Stone Age
There has been a largely negative reaction to the DUP since news broke of their potential coalition with the Tories, but given that they are so unknown to mainstream society why is that?
You don’t need to be a Google-using Columbo to see why. Accusations of homophobia and anti-choice – the party largely opposes same sex marriage and is anti-abortion – refuse to go away, while individual DUP politicians have been outed as climate change deniers and ‘creationists’ since the election. Those last two are not crimes of course but opinions, but they do reflect the rather fundamentalist stance that the party has become known for.
The DUP also seeks a hard Brexit – not entirely in keeping with the ‘re-visioned’ Conservatives in the wake of the election result – and so once again the Tories have been left with egg on their face in the midst of an informal coalition deal with a party that does not exactly sit well alongside their conservative ideals.
So what does all this mean for Theresa May?
Time Running Out for Theresa
She wanted a mandate, and yet he walked headlong into a disaster. How long Theresa May lasts as prime minister in the wake of her disastrous general election result remains to be seen, but as the Conservatives lurch from pillar to post like a battered boxer she will surely be the one to hit the canvas.
You might think that democracy should out and that May, and certainly the Conservatives, will govern the country for the next four years as normal. That’s not strictly the case….
The Queen’s Speech can still be voted down in the House of Commons – and this minority government lacks traction of course, in which case May would be forced to resign. Whether a General Election would be triggered in this instance remains to be seen.
The Queen’s Speech takes place after all elections, and is the point at which the new government will announce their legislative plans for the coming months. MPs have a week or so to debate the proposed laws before a vote to pass them through; any disasters here would surely end May’s short tenure.
There is a theory that disgruntled Tories may use the Queen’s Speech to oust her from power – a vote of no confidence in the DUP coalition, of sorts – although they will be desperate to avoid a snap election given Labour’s resurgence.
The Sun, of all publications, has produced a look at what might happen next, and the betting odds attached to each eventuality. It doesn’t look good for May, that’s for sure.