The man who until a year ago was the DUP’s Westminster chief of staff has said that the party now doesn’t employ a single person – not even a secretary – in Westminster, despite hundreds of thousands of pounds which it could use to employ staff.
In a full-frontal assault on the party’s top brass, Christopher Montgomery denounced senior DUP figures, accusing them of “irredeemable laziness” and of presiding over “a betrayal of unionist voters in Northern Ireland” .
And he claimed that “the point of the DUP” is to pay chief executive Timothy Johnston – who was previously funded from Stormont as a Spad to the first minister – and his brother-in-law John Robinson, another former Spad who is now the party’s director of communications.
Last night the DUP said that it lost London staff in May and “new arrangements” would be in place from next month, with Northern Ireland-based DUP staff flying to London to fill in during the “short gap”.
Mr Montgomery, who along with Nigel Dodds represented the DUP on the board of Vote Leave during the EU referendum campaign, is originally from Londonderry but now lives in England.
In a series of tweets last week, he said that this parliament has been “the greatest gift since partition” to Northern Ireland unionism but that the two men “through their indolence are squandering this heaven-sent irreplaceable boon”.
He said that the party should have done more to ensure that Sinn Fein’s foreign funding was stopped at the point when the law was changed to end the secrecy around donors to Northern Ireland’s political parties.
The former journalist and committed Brexiteer went on: “It is impossible to exaggerate the inertia and absenteeism of the DUP approach to the sole point of leverage they have. Which is in SW1, in this parliament, for as long as this parliament lasts.”
He said that each of the 10 DUP MPs had staffing allowances which meant they could have more than four staff each, while the party had access to substantial Short Money and policy development grants as well as other sources of income.
He said: “How many staff have the DUP in SW1? At this moment of maximum influence – there to be exploited, if you could be bothered to make the basic effort – how many DUP staff are there in Westminster? Where the influence is, where things can actually be done for unionism ... none. Not one. No researchers, secretaries, advisors, press, nothing. Not a sausage.
“But Timothy Johnston and his brother-in-law John Robinson are, we have to assume, getting paid. Somehow. From somewhere. Which seems to be the point of the DUP. Not winning things for unionism, with the precious political opportunities which come its way, but paying Tim Johnson.”
The News Letter put the comments to the DUP and asked the party if it employed any full-time members of staff in Westminster. In response, the party said in a statement: “Mr Montgomery is a former member of staff. We do not accept his criticisms and he is wholly inaccurate in them.
“Following the departure of staff in May the DUP has completed a recruitment process for London-based staff and new arrangements will be in place in September. During this short gap period the DUP has of course continued to ensure the staffing of our Westminster office using staff from other departments who have been prepared to work in London.
“All funding received by the DUP is used in full accordance with the respective rules of the particular schemes which allocate funding.
“Mr Montgomery has no knowledge of how staff are paid and while the party does not wish to comment on the specific salary or funding arrangements for individual staff the chief executive is happy to confirm that he is not funded from Westminster Short Money.”
When contacted by the News Letter, Mr Montgomery declined to comment further.