21 Jun 2017

Conservative and DUP deal: looking weak and wobbly?

It sounds tonight as though the chances of a bumper, five year, DUP/Tory agreement may be looking a bit shakier.

Lots has gone wrong in a negotiation which started with the promising omens of two party leaders very well-disposed to the whole idea.

The Treasury has been getting fretful about the sums involved. There was confidence early in the process in some parts of Westminster. They thought that the extra money for Northern Ireland might be put in accounting columns that removed the need to balance it out with proportionate spending on other parts of the UK. That confidence has significantly declined. So the price tag attached to the deal has grown exponentially.

Another dynamic though has also been at work. The DUP have let it be known that they’ve been amazed at how chaotic the Downing Street machine has been. There have been negative comments about Theresa May’s command of the subject matter and her ability to make decisions. They are, in short, not sure Theresa May will be around that long and some are talking about being tempted to put together a short term deal at best.

This could all change. There have been many more turbulent negotiations that the DUP have been involved in over the years. Things could suddenly revert and the DUP demands could become more modest. One source said right now they are looking “greedy.” It could be hard to rein in expectations of goodies available now.

There’s an expectation that the DUP will be good for the Queen’s Speech vote, a week today. Theresa May can clear that hurdle.

But given that the Prime Minister seemed to promise a solid, five year deal with the DUP when the Queen invited her to form a government, it’s not great to fall at the first fence when some in your party were thinking you were ready to be retired soon anyway.

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