Confidence and supply deal is the best way forward

Morning View
Morning View

It appeared last night that the Conservative Party and the DUP were on track for an agreement that would enable Theresa May to continue as prime minister.

The so-called confidence and supply arrangement is not the same as a formal coalition, but a set-up in which the DUP will retain its independence from the Tory whip but will support it in key confidence and budget votes. This seems the most sensible way to proceed at the moment.

In one respect, the new government ought to be relatively stable, given that with DUP votes it has a slim but clear overall majority. The absence of Sinn Fein’s seven seats from Westminster makes the margin a little bigger still.

In theory it could last the full five years. But no-one should be under any illusions that the situation in Westminster is extraordinarily precarious. There are Conservative-supporting commentators who are calling for a leadership contest and a fresh election after that matter is resolved.

Even if such a radical course is not pursued, it is almost likely that Tory rebellions or seat losses from deaths or other reasons could see the government toppled within two years.

The DUP will know that it should proceed on the assumption that another election could come at any point.

Jeremy Corbyn was a mere 2% behind the Tories in votes, and could win another contest.

Meanwhile, whatever the Conservatives might say, Theresa May’s authority is badly damaged in the Brexit talks. These are momentous and uncertain times.

Also, the Stormont talks deadline looms. Unionists must not be panicked by James Brokenshire’s rigid date. If Sinn Fein has even a single red line, direct rule is preferable.

Nationalist complaints about a Tory government, propped up the DUP, implementing such rule are hypocritical nonsense. Sinn Fein might soon be in government in Dublin and republicans would not for five seconds accept that as an impediment to SF’s role on either side of the border.